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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What is a Gemstone?

A gemstone or gem is also called by several other names such as precious or semi-precious stones or even jewels. These stones when cut and polished are used to make jewelry or other adornments used for decorations on the human body. Most gemstones are minerals but there are certain rocks such as lapis lazuli that are rocks. Other gemstones are made of organic matter such as amber, jet, coral or pearls even though they are not minerals they are still used in the manufacture of jewelry. Because of this use they are still considered to be gemstones. For the most part gemstones are usually hard, but occasionally some soft materials find their way into jewelry because of certain characteristics that are found attractive. In the past gemstones were also used to create major luxury art forms. The carvings made by the Russian lapidariest Carl Faberge were the last significant works that were made during the 19th century of this type.

A collection of uncut gemstones.
In the West the traditional classification of gemstones goes back to the ancient Greeks. This classification was split between the precious and semi precious stones; this distinction was also made in many cultures around the world.

In our modern world these are the stones that are considered precious diamond, ruby, sapphire and emerald. Some experts include the natural pearl on this list. The list of precious stones is not particularly scientific it rather tells of the rarity of these stones during ancient times. There are many stones that have as high a value as the so-called precious stones that are only considered to be semi precious. An outstanding example of this is the Alexanderite a variety of crysoberyl the changes from red to green tea pending on the type of light it is exposed too.

A faceted blue tourmaline
Most of these gemstones grade from transparent to translucent displaying fine color when they are pure and with no inclusions, and are very hard. The diamond is the hardest of all with a hardness on the Mohs scale of 10. Generally to be an acceptable gemstone asset have a hardness of at least 8 on the Mohs scale. A slight amount of tolerance however is allowed for some gems as soft as 5 on the Mohs scale to be used in jewelry providing it is not exposed to wear such as an approach or pendant.

The words precious or semi precious used in the context of commercial gemstones is often misleading because it implies certain gemstones are intrinsically more valuable than others when it is just not true.

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