Gemstones are pieces of mineral crystal that are used to decorate jewelry and other objects. Some rocks and organic materials that are not minerals are also sometimes used and treated as gemstones. These gemstone materials are chosen for use in jewelry making and other decorations due to their outstanding beauty, rarity, and durability. However, the faceted gems you see in fine jewelry are usually cut, polished, and sometimes treated to enhance their look. Thus, they often look very different from mined natural stones.

Common Gems

Gemstones come in a variety of colors. In fact, the names of many precious stones are also used as adjectives for a particular color. For example, emerald, turquoise, and aquamarine all refer to a particular shade of green or blue. Gemstones also vary in terms of their physical properties and resistance to scratching, which is measured on the Mohs scale for mineral hardness. The scale runs from 1 to 10, with 1 representing the softest mineral and 10 the hardest mineral. While most precious stones are hard, others are so soft and delicate that they cannot be used to make jewelry. Instead, these soft gems are sometimes displayed in museums or collected by precious stone collectors.


Although diamonds are often considered a separate category of popular gemstones, in reality, diamonds are a type of precious gemstone. Uniquely strong and brilliant, diamonds symbolize eternal love and are the most popular gemstone for engagement rings. The word “diamond” derives from the ancient Greek word “Adamas”, which is used to describe something that is unbreakable or invincible.


Most of the diamonds available in the market are white diamonds, which are prized for their shine. However, black diamonds are gradually becoming more popular. Other colored diamonds, such as yellow diamonds, also appear in gemstone jewelry from time to time, although these are extremely rare. 


Emerald is a type of beryl that belongs to the mineral species of colored gemstones similar to aquamarine. Thus, the color range for emeralds is not limited to green as gemstones exhibiting a greenish-blue hue are also considered acceptable. However, color is the most important factor in evaluating an emerald, and the more intense and vibrant the color, the higher the value of the gemstone.


Emeralds are also one of the most unusual gemstones as they rarely clear the eye and almost always have visible inclusions. The presence of these imperfections generally reduces the value of any other gemstone but for emeralds their polished appearance is considered acceptable.


Known as the “King of Gems”, Ruby has been known as a gemstone for centuries. As a variety of corundum mineral species, ruby can fetch the highest price per carat compared to all other colored gemstones.


The color of ruby ranges from red to orange-red or purple-red. As a result, rubies are often treated with heat to deepen the ruby’s color and improve its clarity. Even in incandescent light, they appear dark red. 


With a name that comes from the Greek word for blue (“sapphiros”), you may be surprised to learn that sapphires are available in a variety of rainbow colors. Apart from blue, popular colors of sapphire stone include pink, yellow, and white.


Known as the stone of truth and fidelity, blue sapphire is one of the most popular gemstones for engagement rings. Princess Diana was one of the most famous people to wear a sapphire engagement ring. This is the same ring now worn by the Duchess of Cambridge. Like other popular gemstones such as rubies, sapphires are often heat-treated to enhance their color and clarity.


Amethyst is the most valuable variety of the mineral quartz, found in a variety of purple shades. Throughout history, this semi-precious gemstone has been considered a stone of restraint (Ancient Greece), love (Middle Ages), and wisdom (Renaissance). It is believed that St. Valentine wore a sapphire ring with the image of Cupid.


Before the discovery of large sapphire deposits in the 19th century, this purple gemstone was considered one of the rarest gems and was worth as much as a ruby. 


Topaz is one of the popular gemstones used in jewelry making. It exists in various shades of brown, yellow, green, blue, red, pink, orange, and purple. Colorless specimens are also quite common and are sometimes mistaken for diamonds.


Blue, the most popular color for topaz, is actually the rarest. The blue color is the result of radiation and heat treatment in the laboratory. These treatments turn colorless or pale gemstones into beautiful shades of blue, such as Swiss (light blue) and London blue (deep blue, almost navy blue).


Garnets come in a wide range of colors, but among the different varieties red garnet is the most famous. Fiery and intense, this stone has been popular for thousands of years. We know this because archaeologists have discovered garnets in jewelry more than 5,000 years old. Garnet stones are also shrouded in myth and were once believed to protect travelers from harm.


Non-red varieties of garnet gemstones include green Russian demantoid (first discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia and the rarest and most valuable of the January birthstones), African tsavorite, pink and purple rhododendron, orange or reddish-brown Contains spessartite and hessonite.


Onyx is a banded variation of the mineral chalcedony. The ancient Romans and Greeks often used it to make cameos and wax seals because of its ideal texture for carving.


Today, most onyx used in jewelry comes in many shades of black, white, or red, in which case it is called “sardonyx”. Most black onyx is the result of chemical treatment, a common practice used for thousands of years. A technique used in ancient times, described by the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder in the first century, involved soaking the gem in sugar water. The dazzling noir style of the beautiful black onyx is perfect for Art Deco-style designs or used to contrast white diamonds.




A lot of beautiful gemstones are commonly used in jewelry. Whether you are looking for a specific color or simply want to know which gemstone is suitable for daily use and abuse, a list of gemstones and their characteristics is a useful tool for you.

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