Understanding Gemstones

To the uninitiated the price variation, appearance and mythological symbolism of gemstones can seem daunting at first. Our simply gemstone guide will help you understand which gemstone to buy and also serves as a great resource if you’re out of gift ideas.

What is a gemstone?

A gemstone is just a naturally occurring piece of mineral. The varying properties of the minerals, its chemical composition, rarity and other properties produce different gemstones. Rare minerals with a high luster are typically more expensive and valued in jewelry while common minerals are less expensive. To describe a gemstone we look at a number of its characteristics such as hardness, refractive index, luminescence and specific gravity. We won’t go into each of those properties in this article; you just don’t need to know each specific property unless you’re a gemologist. For jewelry fans we’ll tell you how rare the gemstone is, what type of jewelry its suitable for, how durable it is and the associated symbolism of the gemstone.

What is Luster?

The luster of a particular gemstone refers to the way it reflects light. When the luster is described as waxy, greasy, glassy you can easily visualize the appearance of the stone.

Understanding Hardness

Hardness is rated on a scale of 1 – 10 with 1 being quite delicate and easily scratched while 10 being next to impossible to scratch and extremely hard. Jewelry created from hard gemstones is more desirable simply because it’s more durable and will obviously last longer. While you can expect to pay a premium for extremely hard gemstones keep in mind it will also last many lifetimes if the setting and gemstone is properly cared for.

Agate

Luster: Waxy
Hardness: 7
First used by Egyptians for wedding ceremonies Agate is formed by minerals being deposited in layers. This formation creates the beautiful variation in color found in most agate stones. Agate is very hard and will last a very long time making it suitable for jewelry. Ancient cultures utilized agate to ward off bad storms and fevers.

Alexandrite

Luster: Vitreous
Hardness: 8.5
Discovered only 190 years ago Alexandrite is extremely rare, expensive but among the most beautiful and precious gemstone available. It is almost luminous in appearance and will change color depending upon the amount of light available. Alexandrite is said to be able to improve your emotional well being by improving self confidence and happiness. Expect to pay a premium for this gemstone though with the most sought after colors costing up to 100 thousand dollars a carat!

Amber

Luster: Resinous
Hardness: 1-3
Strictly speaking Amber is not a gemstone because it is actually fossilized tree sap! Do not think it is not beautiful and cannot be extremely expensive though! For thousands of years Amber has held strong symbolism with the sun and is thus thought to bring warmth, life and vitality. Amber is often given to the sick and weak as a charm of health and well being. Amber is a relatively soft gemstone and so care should be taken to avoid hard chemicals and scratching.

Amethyst

Luster: Glossy
Hardness: 7 or lower
Finding it difficult resisting the temptations of a seducer? Amethyst is useful in protecting against the temptation of seducers. In addition to protection from temptation the Greeks would carve goblets from Amethyst believing it would help prevent drunkenness. Amethyst is reasonable hard, producers a beautiful violet color and due to a number of new deposits is now quite affordable.

Ametrine

Luster: Vitreous
Hardness: 7
Ametrine is a gemstone which consists of Amethyst and Citrine minerals together. Until approximately 30 years ago Ametrine was both extremely rare and expensive, during this time a number of large deposits were discovered. Ametrine has been used to awaken the genius and creativity ability within its wearer. For this reason Ametrine is often given to students undertaking exams. Ametrine is quite hard has a beautiful colorful glassy appearance and is a great gemstone for Jewelry.

Aquamarine

Luster: Vitreous
Hardness: 8
From a delicate pale blue to a deep sea blue Aquamarine is a modern favorite of many. Since its discovery aqua marine has had a close association with the sea. Sailors would wear Aqua marine charms given to them by their wives in hopes of returning safely. This theme has evolved and aqua marine is now worn by those looking to strengthen the emotions of a relationship. It is thought if both partners wear aquamarine the binding emotions of the relationship will be intensified.

Carnelian

Luster: Flat Vitreous
Hardness: 6
Carnelian is considered the ‘flesh’ gemstone because its color and luster reflect the properties of our flesh. Do not be dissuaded by this, the gemstone has a beautiful and deep maroon/red color which is quite unlike any other type of gemstone. First worn by ancient Egyptians Carnelian was often carried to help protect against physical sickness and even left in the tombs of many to protect the body after death.

Citrine

Luster: Glossy
Hardness: 7 and lower
Clear in color if high grade but is most commonly a lemon/yellow appearance. 400-500 hundred years ago Citrine became known as the merchant’s stone and is thought to bring abundance and prosperity to those wearing it. Citrine was also known for its ability to ward off negative emotions and energy such as sadness and jealousy. Suitable for jewelry due to its hardness and now availability, citrine is also the most affordable gemstone with a yellow appearance.

Diamond

Luster: Adamantine
Hardness: 10
The hardest of all gemstones and considered by many to be the Earths most prized mineral. Since the discovery of diamonds over 6000 years ago they have held a very special place in just about every culture. There a simply too many properties of jewelry too mention, from healing sickness, bringing longevity, promoting spirituality, physical strength, clarity of mind and the list goes on. Perhaps the single greatest reason for our long and enduring love affair with diamonds is their natural beauty. Nothing is as durable, beautiful or as long lasting as diamond jewelry.

Emerald

Luster: Vitreous
Hardness: 7.5-8
A high grade Emerald gemstone will have an intense green color and appear transparent. Emerald has long been known as a stone of love and romance. Emerald was worn by those looking to improve their relationship by promoting trust, honesty and commitment. Emerald rings were also created to bring singles new romance and improve seductive abilities. Religious leaders believed Emerald would improve your relationship with god by improving your faith and commitment. The gemstone is quite hard and also quite valuable so jewelry made from Emerald is highly prized and desirable.