What Are Gemstones?

The word gemstone could mean a variety of things. I have seen fossilized marine life called a gemstone. A plain rock of copper and iron with pretty colors could also be considered a gemstone. As we can see, it is difficult to have any objective consensus of what exactly is a gemstone.

In this article, I will attempt to give the reader an objective identity of just what a gemstone is.

Again the question, how do you identify a gemstone. Definitions can vary as I have already mentioned. But most real gemstones have very strict guidelines on what qualities a stone must have to qualify within the meaning of “gemstone”. For instance, most gemstones require a hardness factor of at least 7 on the “Mohs Scale”. They must be somewhat transparent. The higher the light refraction, the better. The stone must have a luster. It must be a mineral. Finally, it needs to be rare enough to have a high monetary value. Sometimes this can include limited organic material. An example would be, “amber”.

Another way of asking the question, “What are Gems?”. Some have defined a gem as a mineral that has been enhanced in some manner, which usually includes cutting, polishing, and/or altering it’s original shape. As I mentioned earlier the majority of natural gemstones are rare minerals which have crystallized deep in the earth’s crust over millions of years. When these minerals are cut and polished they have an exclusive beauty & durability and then qualify for the term “gemstone”. An example of mineral gemstones would most commonly include, rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

Gemstones have been around since ancient times. Humans have been gathering materials, both natural and artificial, and setting what commonly would be called, “rocks” in jewelry and other precious objects. But over the centuries, the term “gemstone” has become universally recognized to mean a naturally occurring mineral that upon altering it’s shape, cutting and polishing becomes very desirable for it’s beauty, value in it’s rarity and durable enough to provide lasting pleasure.

But to answer the question, “What is a Gemstone?”, we have to remember they are minerals that formed in a variety of environments deep within the earth. They have a definite chemical composition & have an ordered atomic arrangement that makes their physical and optical properties constant. These properties, like density and refraction, must be able to be measured accurately to be used as a way to identify a mineral as a gemstone.

This article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the queen of gems, the “Diamond”. It is unique among gems by being composed of a single chemical element “carbon”, and like all gemstones comes from deep within the earth, formed over millions of years by heat and pressure. If it weren’t for volcanic eruptions, these rarest of gemstones would never have been brought to the surface of the earth.

Basically to answer our question, “What are Gemstones?”. It has been said that a gemstone involves the study of mineralogical fundamentals such as formations, genesis physical properties, structural crystallographic, chemical and physical characteristics. In plain language, most of us would agree that a gemstone is prized for it’s great beauty & perfection. Appearance is almost the most important attribute of gemstones. When we look at a gemstone, we are drawn to the brilliance, luster, fire and the clarity or deepness of color in our determination of the beauty in a gemstone.

From reading this article, you can see the exact definition for a gemstone can be a major challenge, but in the end a gemstone is any precious or semi-precious stone used for jewelry or adornment.

Michael Ortiz

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