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Gemstones: Elizabeth Taylor's Best Friends

Jun 2, 2008
Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but other gemstones such as rubies, sapphires and emeralds are definitely within the inner circle. Gemstones have always been valued for their beauty and rarity and have served as investments, adornments, and status symbols in nearly every culture. Gemstones are generally broken to two categories; precious and semi-precious, but the determination of which of these two categories an individual gemstone falls into is often determined by fashion and can change over time.

White diamonds have enjoyed the longest run as the world's favorite gemstone and are a staple of fine jewelry. In the 1940s, an advertising team from NW Ayer launched a campaign using the slogan "A Diamond is Forever."' This immortalized the diamond as the ultimate gift of love. Because of the elevated position of the white diamond in the gemstone world, it remains the only gemstone to have an internationally accepted grading system introduced in the 1950s by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). All other gemstones are still graded by eye rather than using a powerful microscope, though many gemstones are rarer and held by gemologists to be more valuable than diamonds.

Among colored gemstones, rubies are considered king; in fact the Sanskrit word for ruby means "king of gemstones."' The deep color, outstanding brilliance and rarity of rubies make them one of the most valuable gemstones. Until the 19th century, red garnets and spinels were also thought to be rubies and it was only after the difference in the chemical makeup of these gemstones was discovered that it was understood how truly rare and valuable rubies of large size actually are. It is because of this historical misunderstanding the "Black Ruby" and the "Timur Ruby," two of the British Crown Jewels, were so named when they are not rubies at all, but spinels.

Sapphires also rank as one of the most sought after gemstones, desirable for their cool brilliance and color. In earlier times, some cultures believed that the universe was an enormous blue sapphire in which the Earth was embedded. This image captures the many shades of blue found in sapphires and expresses the awe that a perfect gemstone inspires. Unlike rubies, which have come to symbolize heat and passion, sapphires exude tranquility and constancy.

Emeralds are another gemstone that, in top quality, are more valuable than diamonds. Long ago the people of India believed that the intense green gemstones held healing properties, promised good luck and enhanced well-being. Emeralds have retained some of that ancient mystique and many people still associate emerald green with good luck. Emeralds have come to symbolize life and love of nature.

All gemstones are unique and express vitality and energy through vivid color and brilliance. Ralf Waldo Emerson said, "If eyes were made for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for being." If that is true, then gemstones, though they serve no real practical purpose, will always be highly valued for the pleasure their exquisite beauty bring to all who see them.
About the Author
Africa Gems (http://www.africagems.com) offers a vast array of strait cut gemstones and other jewelry online. The owner, Mark Sarosi, is a professional who has gone on many gem safaris and speaks from experiences that come, literally, from the trenches. The author, Art Gib, is a freelance writer.
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