June 28, 2021 10 min read
Gemstones are pieces of nature’s beauty captured and kept. There’s something about a sparking stone that stops us in our tracks and compels us to claim it. For over 10,000 years, humans have collected and worn gems. Gemstones were once considered little pieces of heaven on earth--either specks of starlight or teardrops of a god--with names inspired by the solar system. They still hold symbolic significance today. Whether you’re looking to add a stunning statement to your gem collection,find your birthstone, invest in an heirloom, or purchase a nugget of wisdom, we’ve created a guide with pictures to help you recognize the stones and their color variations, and understand the meaning and value behind some of the most popular gemstones and their colors.
A gemstone is a precious or semi-precious rock, mineral, or organic material selected for its beauty, cut, and collected or worn. Gemstones are difficult to define since the term is more descriptive than scientific. Not to mention, no two gems are alike. A gemstone must be beautiful, but beauty is subjective and may be determined by trends or the buyer’s preference. Certain qualities, like vibrancy or uniqueness, however, are timeless. Ancient gemstones were treasured as a symbol of status or wealth or used in healing. Today, gemstones are more accessible and limited in their medicinal use, so they’re often selected based on personal significance.
Stones, crystals, and jewels are other names for gemstones but with slight variations.
Many, but not all, gems are crystals since they’re made up of a crystalline structure of atoms and molecules. A cut and polished crystal is a gem. Gems are fashioned to enhance their beauty and desirability, but crystals are left in their natural form. That doesn’t make them less beautiful, just less like a gemstone and less valuable in the gem market.
A jewel is an individual gemstone within a piece of jewelry or fashioned to fit in jewelry. There’s not much difference between a gem and a jewel, and the terms can be used interchangeably. However, you would not call a polished but uncut gemstone a jewel.
A stone can refer to different solids from the earth in different contexts (i.e., landscaping), but in the context of gemology, “stone” is just a shortened form of “gemstone.”
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