Adorned by kings and queens alike, precious and semi-precious stones, also known as gemstones have been a source of pride since time immemorial. Used in ornaments, jewellery, display pieces as well as being used to adorn monuments, these stones have been a part of our history. The monument of love, 'Taj Mahal' had innumerable such gemstones embedded in its interiors and exteriors when it was first made. Scores of myths and legends surrounding precious stones further add to their appeal and mystery.
Gemstones are primarily classified into two--Precious Stones and Semi-Precious Stones. Precious stones are Emerald, Rub, Sapphire and Diamond. Their rarity, beauty, and the method by which they are produced all add to the allure of these precious stones. The main distinction between precious and semi-precious stones is the rarity and quality of the gemstone.
From the bright green of the Emerald, the deep red richness of the Ruby, the blue hues of the Sapphire to the colorless clarity of the Diamond, precious stones are the proud possessions of the rich and the wealthy. Created from rocks and minerals, all precious stones are translucent and are valued based on the richness of their color, except for diamond, which has a higher value based on being colorless. Given here is a rundown on some of the main precious stones used in jewellery nowadays:
Emerald, popularly known as Panna, in India is a bright green gemstone and a variety of the mineral Beryl. Owning its green color to traces of Chromium and sometimes Vanadium, Emeralds can also have blue or yellow undertones and may lose all color when subjected to high heat. Color is by far the most important criterion when grading ‘colored gemstones’ However, in the grading of emeralds, clarity is equally important.
Famed for bringing good luck to the wearer, Ruby is one of the most sought after gems of all. It is a pink to blood-red colored gemstone, a variety of the mineral Corundum (aluminum oxide), also responsible for its color. It derives its name from rubber, which is Latin for red. The brighter the color and the clearer the gem, the more would be its value. Large Transparent rubies are even rarer than diamonds. Ruby is the traditional birthstone for July.
Sapphire or Neelam is a bright blue gemstone deriving its name from a Greek word which literally means Blue Stone. It is a variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminum oxide. Impurities can give sapphires different hues like yellow, purple, orange or green. Sapphires have many legends attached to them and are one of the most coveted of all gemstones. Although blue is their most well-known color, sapphires may also be colorless and they are also found in many different colors with the most prominent ones being:
The authenticity of Blue sapphires is based upon the purity of their primary hue. The purer the color, the costlier the stone! An intense, velvety-blue colored sapphire is termed Cornflower Blue Sapphire. Blue sapphires are also called Kashmir Sapphires.
Popularly known as Pukhraj, yellow sapphires are quite popular among jewellery buyers. Yellow in color, these gemstones are also called Golden or Lemon Sapphires.
Natural Pink Sapphire or Padparadscha (pinkish orange) sapphires often draw higher prices than the finest blue sapphires. These gems owe their pink color to traces of chromium.
Last but certainly not the least, the diamond needs no introduction. It is the hardest mineral known to mankind and is the purest form of carbon. Known as a ‘Girls Best Friend’, diamonds are extremely desirable and valuable. Graded on the four C’s namely Color, Cut, Clarity and Carat, diamonds are the most popular and most coveted gemstones on earth.
Semi- Precious stones are made out of part mineral and part organic resources. Although not as expensive as precious stones, they are just as beautiful and valuable in their own right. Some of the most popular semi-precious stones are:
Amethyst is a purple variety of quartz. It has a vibrant purple color that ranges from light pinkish violet to a deep purple. Amethysts receive their purple color from aluminum and iron impurities.. Believed to prevent intoxication, it is the traditional birthstone for February.
Prehnite is typically semi-transparent to translucent and often appears cloudy or velvety. Its color is usually a mild green, which is unique to Prehnite, but the gem stone can also occur in rarer colors including yellow, orange and blue. Due its lack of full transparency it is usually cut into beads or small ornamental objects such as flowers.
Citrine is a vibrant yellow-orange variety of Quartz. The naturally occurring citrine is rare and most of the citrines available in the market are the result of heat treatment of amethyst which changes it color to the attractive yellow we see. The Citrine is said to be a joyful stone with bright energy and is also known ‘Success Stone’.
Peridots have the unique characteristic of being found in only one color, which is a vibrant green. This stone is a part of the olivine group. The most valued color is a dark olive-green. Gem quality peridots are rather rare, as a result of which, it is considered to be precious. The Peridot is known to help in efforts at learning new skills and for improving concentration, and is therefore known as the “Study Stone”.
The moonstone’s name is derived from its incredible white and bluish shimmer that almost looks like its own magical moonshine. Moonstones have been used in jewellery for centuries, even in the ancient civilizations of Greeks and Romans. The Moonstone is also known as a “Traveller’s Stone” and is said to be particularly looking above those who travel when the moon is out at night time.
The internal structure of opal makes it diffract light. Depending upon the conditions under which it was formed, the opal can take on many colors .black opals are the rarest, whereas white and green ones are the most common. Opals vary in optical density from opaque to semitransparent. More than any other gem, each opal is unique. Each opal is markedly separable more than any other gemstone. It is known as a Healing Stone and is the birthstone for October.
Iolite is a gem created out of the mineral Cordierite. Iolite ranges from light to deep blue, with a purplish tinge. Deeper colored stones are costlier. Iolites can be used as a substitute for more expensive blue gemstones such as sapphires because of their durability. The Iolite is strongly pleochroic, i.e. it exhibits a different color when viewed at different angles, gemstone cutters take special care to fashion Iolites such that their intense blue or violet color is visible at the top.
Corals are residing marine organisms developing on rocky sea bottoms with low sedimentation, more commonly in dark environments. Aside from lovely solid colors, corals may additionally have color zones or swirls, with white, crimson, orange, and purple being essentially the most time-honored. Coral are naturally dull and require sharpening. As a result of environmental security laws global, production of Coral for the gemstone exchange is on the decline.
Chalcedony is a variety of the silica mineral quartz. It has a waxy luster and seems semi-transparent or translucent. It comes in a high-quality sort of colors, types and patterns and is a popular gemstone. Exceptional types of Chalcedony are named in step with the color they have. Agate, essentially the most general type of this gemstone, is multicolored and well recognized for its distinctive banding patterns. Panorama Agate is Chalcedony with a number of extraordinary mineral impurities making the stone resemble landscapes. Others include intensely colored Chrysoprase and an opaque type known as Jasper.
Carnelian is a translucent red – orange variety of Chalcedony. Carnelians have been used as a gemstone since ancient times but it is significance has reduced over the years. Similar to Carnelian is Sard, which is generally harder and darker. The two names are often used interchangeably, though it is accepted that Carnelians are redder and Sards are more brown.
Spinel is a magnesium aluminum member of the larger spinel group of minerals. This rich and regal gemstone may be colorless, but usually appears in various shades of red, blue, green, yellow, brown, or black. Spinels are never treated in any way. Some spinels are among the most famous gemstones. The transparent red spinels were called spinel-rubies or Balas Rubies. In fact, the spinel has been known as an imposter in the world of gemstones as many of the Rubies in the British Crown Jewels are Spinels. The black spinel is one of the rarest spinels. Spinels are associated with positive energy, reducing stress and relieving depression.
Topaz is a silicate mineral of aluminum and fluorine. Pure topaz are colorless and transparent but are usually tinted by impurities which give them many colors like wine red, yellow, pink, gold, pale gray, reddish-orange, or blue brown. The three most popular forms of this stone are:
Naturally acquiring blue topaz is relatively rare. The Blue Topaz is known to bring cheerfulness and calmness.
The Smoky Topaz almost always transparent to translucent and are found in colors from light greyish-brown to deep black.
Also known as Imperial Topaz, this stone is yellow with a hint of pink. Many brown or pale topazes are treated to make them bright yellow, gold, pink or violet. Some imperial topaz stones can fade when exposed to sunlight for an extended period of time.
Onyx is a banded variety of the silicate mineral chalcedony and has parallel bands. Commonly, specimens of onyx contain bands of black and/or white. Onyx was known to the Ancient Greeks and Romans and is even mentioned in the Holy Bible. Different Types of Onyxes include:
Onyxes that are blue in color is called Blue Onyx. Uses for Blue Onyx include treating glaucoma, epilepsy, and heart trouble, hearing problems, ulcers and cell damage.
Green Onyx is the most popular Onyx in the Indian sub-continent; majorly used to carve decorative pieces and ornaments. This stone is believed to have great benefits during hard or stressful times.
The second most abundant mineral after feldspar is Quartz. There are different varieties of quartz, most of which are semi-precious gemstones, with prominent ones being citrine, amethyst, onyx and chalcedony. Throughout history varieties of quartz have been used in place of more expensive gems like yellow sapphires, yellow diamonds and even jade. Different varieties of quartz are:
Rose Quartz is a type of quartz which exhibits a pale pink to rose red hue caused due to little traces of titanium, iron, or manganese. The most appealing color typically occurs in larger sizes.
Smoky Quartz is a grey, translucent version of quartz. It ranges in clarity from almost complete transparency to almost opaque. Some can also be black.
Lemon Quartz is light citrus in color, thus the name Lemon. It is a very sunny and bright stone. It is very fashionable and much in demand.
Black Quartz is the brown variety of quartz. It ranges in color from light greyish-brown to deep black. Black Quartz can be opaque.
Since most Quartz stones are heated to enhance their color, these gemstones should not be exposed to strong light or heat.