Gemstones have been used since ancient times as amulets, symbols of power and magic, energy and healing sources, and as adornments for utilitarian objects. Later, jewelry in general took on different meanings. A ring for example is used as the symbol of a married couple. For most people, however, wearing jewelry is a show of wealth.
Gemstones used in jewelry are mineral crystals which have been cut, polished, refined and set in metals to decorate the body. Gemstones are classified into 4 types, semi-precious and precious gems and rock and organic materials.
These are gemstones cut from a mineral and then refined or shaped and then set in metal to create jewelry. There really is no significant difference between semi-precious and precious gems except in their market value. Pure forms of semi-precious gems fetch high prices that rival those of precious gems too. Some examples of semi-precious stones include amethyst, turquoise, garnet, tourmaline, and tanzanite.
Precious gems are considered more valuable in most cultures and are often used in unique and expensive pieces. The precious gems are diamond, sapphire, ruby and emerald. That means all the others are semi-precious gems. How are they different from semi-precious stones? Precious gems are valued for their translucent quality especially when they are in pure form. That is why even if the colorless diamonds aren’t rare like other gemstones, they are coveted by a lot of people because they sparkle. Some jewelers, however, claim that the categories are based only on commercial value.
Minerals are formed from cooled lava and then they turn into crystals through chemical, pressure and temperature changes. Rocks on the other hand are a combination of these minerals so they don’t have a specific structure like the crystals. An example of a rock that is considered a gemstone is the lapis lazuli. Others which some jewelers don’t consider organic gems like coral and amber are sometimes classified as rocks.
Sometimes amber and coral are classified as organic gemstones. Organic gems were part of living organisms like animals and plants. Other organic gems include pearls, ivory, and jet. A sub-type of organic gems are mineralized organic materials such as opal, fossil coral, chalcedony, petrified wood, pyrite, aragonite, and even dinosaur bone. They came from or were produced by living things.
Some of the common metals used for gemstone jewelry are gold, silver and platinum. Platinum is used for most diamond jewelry. There is also a distinction between the types of metals used for. The precious or noble metals which fetch high prices are platinum, gold and silver while all the rest are considered semi-precious or base metals. The combination of the gemstones and metals will affect the price of the jewelry you will purchase.