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A Quick Guide to Popular and Precious Gemstones

Dec 13, 2007
Alexandrite - this is a beautiful gemstone named after a Russian czar. The gemstone is a basic crysoberyl type, and is best noted for it's color changing properties depending on the shade of light it is exposed to. Alexandrite shifts between greenish to blue, to purple and even crimson hues. It is this very color-changing property that makes it one of the most valuable gemstones around.

Amber - formed from fossilized tree sap, amber is best known for it's soft yellow golden hue, which is distinctly different from other yellow-colored gem stones because it diffuses light into a much softer shade of gold than other yellow gemstones, which tend to intensify and sparkle instead. The fact that it is fossilized liquid makes finding unflawed pieces with no bubbles or cracks in the gemstone much rarer and more valuable.

Amethyst - the most famous type of purple gemstone, amethyst's color is a very light shade of purple that captures light inside the gem's facets. The color of amethyst is often semi-transparent as opposed to other purple gemstones which are darker and more opaque. It is this crystalline clarity and beauty which makes amethysts sought after by certain collectors.

Chalcedony - also known as agate, chalcedony is a form of quartz crystal which is composed of several different strains of quartz fused together in parallel layers. This tends to make the gems multi-colored, and the effect is like looking at a rainbow if the different layers of quartz are of varied colors and types. Quartz mines which hold different deposits of quartz types are ideal places to dig for this, and it is the rarest form of quartz gemstone around.

Diamond - composed mostly of superheated and compressed carbon, diamond is the hardest known substance in nature, and it's basic color once polished and cut is completely transparent. Diamonds are perhaps the most famous and valuable of the different types of gemstones because of its pure clarity and the enduring quality of the gemstones. Much romanticism surrounds diamonds because of these features and they are most sought after for wedding rings as a symbol of love's eternity.

Emerald - this is the most well known type of green colored gem stone. They are beryllium-based in chemical composition, sharing this element with several equally well known gemstones like rubies and sapphires. An emerald's shade of green is unique and quite a few ancient civilizations regard this as a holy or mythic stone. More often than not, emerald gemstones are cut into simple square or circular shapes, with few variations.

Garnet - this is a stone whose basic color is red. The most famous red gemstone remains the ruby, yet the garnet's distinguishing factor is that it's shade of red actually approaches crimson. For this reason, some people refer to it as a "bloodstone". A very rare type of garnet however is the "fire garnet", whose color is a brighter orange instead of a deep crimson. This is more expensive than regular garnets.

Jadeite - this is a form of jade that is rarer than the more common form, nephrite. While both are green colored, jadeite is semi transparent, making it more closely resemble "regular" gemstones than it's cousin nephrite. The purity of jadeite is higher than nephrite, and it's crystal density is higher, but it tends to naturally form in smaller pieces as a result and is much harder to work with than nephrite, which can be carved like stone.

Lapis Lazuli - this is a relatively soft type of gemstone which can be carved into a variety of shapes. What makes this particular gemstone unique is that it's color is a deep night-sky blue, but the gemstones are always flecked with small fool's-gold (pyrite) traces which gives the gem the appearance of a night sky dotted with golden stars.

Moonstone - this gemstone's fame comes mostly from it's mysticism and it's decidedly "feminine" gearing. As gemstones go, it's actual worth isn't very high, but it remains popular nonetheless. Moonstones are opaque, white-silver stones that under moonlight appear exactly the same shade as the moon in the sky. Naturally, this feature is what gave rise to it's historic popularity.

Nephrite - when people refer to jade, they often mean nephrite. This material is a bright opaque green, and it's physical quality compared to another form of jade, jadeite, is softer and more malleable. Large pieces of nephrite are easier to find than jadeite, and aside from jewelry this gemstone occurs naturally in pieces large enough to carve into small figurines and statues. Smaller pieces are carved into entire pieces of jewelry like bracelets and brooches.

Opal - these are completely opaque quartz crystals which, like chalcedony, displays a multitude of colors at the same time. The biggest difference between the two is that chalcedony's color patterns are often set parallel to each other, and chalcedony stones themselves are semi transparent. Opals are completely opaque, and the splash of colors are random and haphazard throughout the surface of the gem.

Pearl - these are organic gems which naturally occur in oysters. They are often rendered in an opaque whitish sheen that refracts light, making small rainbows play across the surface of a well-cut and polished pearl. Tons of myths surround pearls, and being reaped from the sea they figure prominently in almost every sea-faring culture's stories. Especially pirates. I don't know why, but pirates ALWAYS hoard them in stories. Go figure...

Peridot - this gemstone is perhaps best known for only one thing: simplicity. Unlike other gemstones, which can come in quite a variety of colors, peridots are uniformly a green-gold shade. Period. They are silicate-based gemstones, and traces of iron in the gems give it a gold hue. There are NO variations of opacity, color traces, or shade variations in peridots no matter what part of the world they come from.

Ruby - along with the emerald and sapphire, this red stone is one of the oldest and most famous types of gemstone for collectors. It's shade of red is actually rather bright and the stone itself is semi transparent instead of opaque. It is a type of gemstone called corundum, and is second only to the diamond in toughness among the world's gemstones. Next to diamond, it is also perhaps the most expensive type of gemstone around.

Sapphire - like the ruby, this is a corundum type of gem, making it much harder and more enduring than other types of gems. Traditionally, sapphires are best known for being a vivid crystalline blue in color, though what few people know is that sapphires can come in a variety of colors including green, yellow, and orange. The real definition behind this is that corundums will almost always be RUBIES if they're red, and sapphires if they're any other color. Strange logic there, but that's how it's defined by a lot of gem collectors.

Turquoise - this stone can easily be likened to nephrite for two things: one, it's considerably softer than other gemstones, making it easier to work with, and two, it is opaque. Turquoise come in shades of sky blue with just a hint of green, and while it technically is a stone the colors actually come from metals in the mineral - namely copper and iron traces. These metallic traces are the main reason for the stone's opacity and malleability.

Topaz - this gemstone is an aluminum silicate based gemstone and is primarily a rich yellow gold in color. The stone is semi transparent and is one of the harder and more enduring gemstones around. If the ruby "defines" red, the sapphire "defines" blue, and the emerald "defines" green for other gemstones, the topaz is the gemstone that sets the standards followed by other yellow colored gemstones.
About the Author
Allen Jesson writes for several sites that specialize in Vintage Engagement Rings. and Antique Engagement Rings, Providing you with product reviews, information and guides that are essential when purchasing any type of Engagement Ring. .
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