What Are Precious Stones and Gems?

Updated on May 23, 2016
The five cardinal gems of antiquity. Clockwise from top: Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, Diamond.
The five cardinal gems of antiquity. Clockwise from top: Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, Diamond. | Source

When most people think of precious gems or stones they usually think of Diamonds, Emeralds, Sapphires and Rubies.

These gemstones are commonly referred to in the jewelry industry as "The Big Four".

Other gemstones that many consider precious are Alexandrite, Topaz, Opal or Tanzanite.

What makes these gemstones precious gemstone verses semi-precious gemstones or just plain old rocks?

Common Misconseptions About Precious Gems

There are a number of common misconceptions about precious gems or gemstones, especially the Big Four.

Rarity

One of the most common misconceptions about Diamonds, Rubies, Sapphires and Emeralds is that they are the rarest gemstones in the world.

All gemstones are rare to some degree. Whether it be Tanzanite from Africa or Rubies from Sir Lonka.

The special circumstances that are required to create a gemstone, pressures, heat, combinations of unique minerals, all come together to form a gem or gemstone.

When we look however, at how rare one gemstone is compared to another, there are many gemstones that are much rarer than the gemstones that are known as the "Big Four"; Rubies, Emeralds, Diamonds and Sapphires.

For example, Red Beryl is much more rare than any of the so called precious gemstones commanding a hefty price of nearly $10,000.00 per Carat.

Value

Many believe that the "Big Four" are the most valuable and expensive gemstones in the world.

There are many examples of gemstones that are much more valuable than any of the "Big Four" gemstones.

High quality Jadeite can exceed the price per carat of the most costly diamonds with a hefty price of nearly $3,000,000.00 per carat.

Factors Affecting the Value of Gemstones

People often refer to the "Four C's" when referring to the value of a diamond. These same characteristics can apply to many other gemstones as well.

The "Four C's" are:

  • Cut
  • Clarity
  • Carat Size
  • Color

Color

The color is also a factor in the value of a gemstone. In the case of sapphires for example, a specific color of red commands a higher price than does many of the other colors of sapphire. The specific color of red sapphire is called a Ruby.

Clarity

Clarity refers to the flaws or inclusions that are in the gemstone. It can also refer to any external imperfections that the gemstone may have.

Clarity can have a tremendous effect on the value of a gemstone. Finding a "perfect" natural gemstone in certain types of gems such as Emerald can be almost impossible thereby increasing their value incredibly.

Some gemstones however are very commonly "eye clean" such as Aquamarine and are expected to appear nearly perfect in appearance if they are gemstone quality.

Carat Weight

An enormous factor affecting a gemstone's value is the size of the gemstone. Many gemstones are very rare in large sizes and command substantially higher prices the larger the stone is.

Cut

The way a gemstone is cut can greatly affect the way it looks when it is finished. Each type of gemstone has specific properties that must be considered when the gemstone is cut.

Poorly cut gemstones are considerably less valuable.

Treatments

The term "natural gemstone" is used to describe a gemstone that has come from the Earth. Even though the gemstone is labeled "natural" it may have had a man made treatment to help enhance its beauty. Treatments are a standard for some gemstones like emerald, while others are almost never treated.

Rarity and Demand

Rarity in combination with demand is the biggest factor in determining a gemstones value. This is one of the reasons that larger gemstones can command a much higher price than smaller gemstones.

On the other hand, a gemstone could be extremely rare but if there is no demand for it the price may be considerably lower than more common gemstones.

Common Gemstone Treatments

Gemstone
Treatment
Effect
Citrine
Heating
Changes purple Amythist to yellow, orange or gold
Tanzanite
Heating
Change color to violet or blue
Pink Topaz
Heating
Change color to pink
Ruby
Heating
Improve clarity and color
Sapphire
Heating
Improve clarity and color
Sapphire
Diffusion
Intensify Color
Aquamarine
Heating
Deepens color and turns more blue
Tourmaline
Heating
Lighten dark shades
Apatite
Heating
Creates bright neon colors
Blue Zircon
Heating
Alter color
Colorless Zircon
Heating
Alter color
Kunzite
Heating
Improve color
Morganite
Heating
Changes color from orange to pinkish
Emerald
Oiling
Hides imperfections and enhances colors
Emerald
Filling
Heal / Hide Fractures
Lapis
Oiling
Improve color
Topaz
Irradiation
Turn Topaz blue
Tourmaline
Irradiation
Intensify color
Diamond
Irradiation
Intensify color
Diamond
Lasering
Remove inclusions
Pearls
Bleaching
Lighten Color
Ivory
Bleaching
Lighten Color
Coral
Bleaching
Lighten Color
Turquoise
Stabilization
Protect and enhance color
Black Onyx
Dyeing
Color

So What is a Precious Gemstone?

Technically there really is no such thing as precious or semi-precious gemstones.

The American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) has added the following language to their Code of Ethics: "Members should avoid the use of the term 'semi-precious' in describing gemstones."

In addition to the code of ethics statement by the AGTA, the US Federal Trade Commission periodically considers banning the use of the terms to reduce consumer confusion.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    • newusedcarssacram profile image

      newusedcarssacram 

      5 years ago from Sacramento, CA, U.S.A

      Thanks for the detailed information. It is not easy to recognize a precious stone by general people.

    • Neelum Waqar profile image

      Neelum Waqar 

      5 years ago from Pakistan

      I love gemstones! I would like to know

      more about other gemstones apart

      from the usual diamonds and sapphires.

      Very interesting hub.

    • idigwebsites profile image

      idigwebsites 

      5 years ago from United States

      I love gemstones! I would like to know more about other gemstones apart from the usual diamonds and sapphires. Very interesting hub. Voted up and useful/interesting/awesome/beautiful. :)

    • talfonso profile image

      talfonso 

      5 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      Wow - I was floored when you noted that alexandrite is one of the precious stones and gems. It's my birthstone besides pearl. Good thing I paid for a class ring with that stone for less!

      Thanks for writing this Hub!

    • flash167 profile imageAUTHOR

      Marty Andersen 

      5 years ago from Salina, Utah

      Paraiba Tourmaline is a fabulous gemstone. Like so many gemstones it is much more rare than diamond in fact they are among the rarest gemstones on earth. Similar gemstones have been found in Mozambique and Nigeria. Paraiba Tourmaline can sell for over $5,000 per carat with gemstones over 3 carats going for over $10,000 per carat.

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 

      5 years ago from Malaysia

      Congrats on HOTD. Another gemstone that was not listed, but considered rare and expensive is Paraiba Tourmaline. It has a beautiful neon blue color and is relatively a new gemstone. It was discovered in the late 80's in Paraiba, Brazil.

    • profile image

      Minbani 

      5 years ago

      My favourite is Moonstone. I have been collecting it for a few years now and still find the 'running of the colours' soothing yet inspiring. -a weird combination. The other thing I find so useful as a jewelry piece, is that I can wear it with anything in my wardrobe as the colours adapt and compliment my outfit.

      Be warned though that there is definitely some very inferior and very low quality 'moonstone' being sold on the Internet.

      A quality stone is quite heavy and has the colours of a tropical aquarium running through it when you turn the stone around. And never buy a stone that has the back covered so that you can't see the flaws.

      A well written informative article so thank you and congratulations on getting Hub of the day ~ Well done :-)

    • Maralexa profile image

      Marilyn Alexander 

      5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

      Very interesting hub on gemstones. I believe I love the amethyst best of all.

    • TheKatsMeow profile image

      TheKatsMeow 

      5 years ago from Canada

      I always enjoy your Hubs, they have so much information! Congratulations getting Hub of the day!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      5 years ago from Nepal

      My father knows a lot about gems, (Sadly I don't know anything). He usually associate the stone with astrology.

      Congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      I love gemstones - they are so pretty. I didn't realize they heated, bleached, and even dyed certain stones to improve on color and appearance. Congratulations on HOTD!

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      5 years ago from Germany

      Congratulation on the HOTD! This is a very informative hub and well written, too. I love these precious stones. Thanks for sharing.

    • Asp52 profile image

      Andrew Stewart 

      5 years ago from England

      Very interesting introduction and overview of the world of precious gems. I find their creation deep within the Earth very interesting and also value we put on them. Keep up the good work, voted up and Thank you.

    • profile image

      Proud Foot 

      5 years ago

      As a child I was a huge lover of gemstones. That disappeared. But this wonderful hub has unlocked the love again. Thank you for sharing and congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 

      5 years ago from Chennai, India

      A well-written & detailed hub! You explained this topic very clearly. I am an aspiring jewelry-designer and have a guidebook about 130 gemstones of the world. Congrats on the Hub of the Day award! Well-done!

      Thanks for SHARING. Useful & Interesting. Voted up & pinned

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      You would think being a woman I would know about gemstones, but I didn't. This hub was very informative and I love the pictures, especially the Super Swiss Topaz! Amazing.

      Voted up, useful, and very interesting.

    • wabash annie profile image

      wabash annie 

      5 years ago from Colorado Front Range

      Thanks for writing about gemstones ... they are absolutely beautiful!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, bellatory.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://bellatory.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)