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(Redirected from Gem)
"Gem" and "Jewels" redirect here. For other uses, see Gem (disambiguation) and J
ewels (disambiguation).
"Precious Stone" redirects here. For the James Bond character, see Hurricane Gol
For other uses, see Gemstone (disambiguation).
Group of precious and semiprecious stones both uncut and faceted including (clockw
ise from top left) diamond, uncut synthetic sapphire, ruby, uncut emerald, and a
methyst crystal cluster.
A gemstone (also called a gem, fine gem, jewel, precious stone or semi-precious
stone) is a piece of mineral crystal which, in cut and polished form, is used to
make jewelry or other adornments.[1][2] However, certain rocks (such as lapis l
azuli) or organic materials that are not minerals (such as amber, jet, and pearl
) are also used for jewelry and are therefore often considered to be gemstones a
s well. Most gemstones are hard, but some soft minerals are used in jewelry beca
use of their luster or other physical properties that have aesthetic value. Rari
ty is another characteristic that lends value to a gemstone. Apart from jewelry,
from earliest antiquity engraved gems and hardstone carvings, such as cups, wer
e major luxury art forms. A gem maker is called a lapidary or gemcutter; a diamo
nd worker is a diamantaire.
The carvings of Carl Faberg are significant works in this tradition.
Contents [hide]
1 Characteristics and classification
2 Value
3 Grading
4 Cutting and polishing
5 Color
6 Treatment
6.1 Heat
6.2 Radiation
6.3 Waxing/oiling
6.4 Fracture filling
7 Synthetic and artificial gemstones
8 See also
9 Notes
10 External links
Characteristics and classification[edit]
A selection of gemstone pebbles made by tumbling rough rock with abrasive grit,
in a rotating drum. The biggest pebble here is 40 mm (1.6 in) long.
The traditional classification in the West, which goes back to the ancient Greek
s, begins with a distinction between precious and semi-precious; similar distinc
tions are made in other cultures. In modern usage the precious stones are diamon
d, ruby, sapphire, and emerald, with all other gemstones being semi-precious.[3]
This distinction reflects the rarity of the respective stones in ancient times,
as well as their quality: all are translucent with fine color in their purest f
orms, except for the colorless diamond, and very hard, with hardnesses of 8 to 1
0 on the Mohs scale. Other stones are classified by their color, translucency an
d hardness. The traditional distinction does not necessarily reflect modern valu
es, for example, while garnets are relatively inexpensive, a green garnet called
tsavorite can be far more valuable than a mid-quality emerald.[4] Another unsci
entific term for semi-precious gemstones used in art history and archaeology is
hardstone. Use of the terms 'precious' and 'semi-precious' in a commercial conte
xt is, arguably, misleading in that it deceptively implies certain stones are in
trinsically more valuable than others, which is not necessarily the case.
In modern times gemstones are identified by gemologists, who describe gems and t
heir characteristics using technical terminology specific to the field of gemolo
gy. The first characteristic a gemologist uses to identify a gemstone is its che
mical composition. For example, diamonds are made of carbon (C) and rubies of al
uminium oxide (Al
3). Next, many gems are crystals which are classified by their crystal system su
ch as cubic or trigonal or monoclinic. Another term used is habit, the form the
gem is usually found in. For example, diamonds, which have a cubic crystal syste
m, are often found as octahedrons.
Gemstones are classified into different groups, species, and varieties. For exam
ple, ruby is the red variety of the species corundum, while any other color of c
orundum is considered sapphire. Other examples are the Emerald (green), aquamari
ne (blue), red beryl (red), goshenite (colorless), heliodor (yellow), and morgan
ite (pink), which are all varieties of the mineral species beryl.
Gems are characterized in terms of refractive index, dispersion, specific gravit
y, hardness, cleavage, fracture, and luster. They may exhibit pleochroism or dou
ble refraction. They may have luminescence and a distinctive absorption spectrum
Material or flaws within a stone may be present as inclusions.
Gemstones may also be classified in terms of their "water". This is a recognized
grading of the gem's luster, transparency, or "brilliance".[5] Very transparent
gems are considered "first water", while "second" or "third water" gems are tho
se of a lesser transparency.[6]
Spanish emerald and gold pendant at Victoria and Albert Museum
Enamelled gold, amethyst and pearl pendant, about 1880, Pasquale Novissimo (1844 1
914), V&A Museum number M.36-1928
There is no universally accepted grading system for gemstones. Diamonds are grad
ed using a system developed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in the
early 1950s. Historically, all gemstones were graded using the naked eye. The G
IA system included a major innovation: the introduction of 10x magnification as
the standard for grading clarity. Other gemstones are still graded using the nak
ed eye (assuming 20/20 vision).[7]
A mnemonic device, the "four Cs" (color, cut, clarity and carats), has been intr
oduced to help the consumer understand the factors used to grade a diamond.[8] W
ith modification, these categories can be useful in understanding the grading of
all gemstones. The four criteria carry different weight depending upon whether
they are applied to colored gemstones or to colorless diamonds. In diamonds, cut
is the primary determinant of value, followed by clarity and color. Diamonds ar
e meant to sparkle, to break down light into its constituent rainbow colors (dis
persion), chop it up into bright little pieces (scintillation), and deliver it t
o the eye (brilliance). In its rough crystalline form, a diamond will do none of
these things; it requires proper fashioning and this is called "cut". In gemsto
nes that have color, including colored diamonds, it is the purity and beauty of
that color that is the primary determinant of quality.
Physical characteristics that make a colored stone valuable are color, clarity t
o a lesser extent (emeralds will always have a number of inclusions), cut, unusu
al optical phenomena within the stone such as color zoning (the uneven distribut
ion of coloring within a gem) and asteria (star effects). The Greeks, for exampl
e, greatly valued asteria gemstones, which were regarded as powerful love charms
, and Helen of Troy was known to have worn star-corundum.[9]
Aside from the diamond, the ruby, sapphire, emerald, pearl (not, strictly speaki
ng, a gemstone), and opal[10] have also been considered to be precious. Up to th
e discoveries of bulk amethyst in Brazil in the 19th century, amethyst was consi
dered a precious stone as well, going back to ancient Greece. Even in the last c
entury certain stones such as aquamarine, peridot and cat's eye (cymophane) have
been popular and hence been regarded as precious.
Today such a distinction is no longer made by the gemstone trade.[11] Many gemst
ones are used in even the most expensive jewelry, depending on the brand name of
the designer, fashion trends, market supply, treatments, etc. Nevertheless, dia
monds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds still have a reputation that exceeds thos
e of other gemstones.[12]
Rare or unusual gemstones, generally meant to include those gemstones which occu
r so infrequently in gem quality that they are scarcely known except to connoiss
eurs, include andalusite, axinite, cassiterite, clinohumite and red beryl.
Gem prices can fluctuate heavily (such as those of tanzanite over the years) or
can be quite stable (such as those of diamonds). In general per carat prices of
larger stones are higher than those of smaller stones, but popularity of certain
sizes of stone can affect prices. Typically prices can range from US$1/carat fo
r a normal amethyst to US$20,000 50,000 for a collector's three carat pigeon-blood
almost "perfect" ruby.
There are a number of[11] laboratories which grade and provide reports on gemsto
Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the main provider of education services
and diamond grading reports. And also Colourstone reports.
International Gemological Institute (IGI), independent laboratory for grading an
d evaluation of diamonds, jewelry and colored stones.
Hoge Raad voor Diamant (HRD Antwerp), The Diamond High Council, Belgium is one o
f Europe's oldest laboratories. Its main stakeholder is the Antwerp World Diamon
d Centre.
American Gemological Society (AGS) is not as widely recognized nor as old as the
American Gem Trade Laboratory which is part of the American Gem Trade Associatio
n (AGTA), a trade organization of jewelers and dealers of colored stones.
American Gemological Laboratories (AGL), owned by Christopher P. Smith.
European Gemological Laboratory (EGL), founded in 1974 by Guy Margel in Belgium.
Gemmological Association of All Japan (GAAJ-ZENHOKYO), Zenhokyo, Japan, active i
n gemological research.
The Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand (Public Organization) or GIT, the Thai
land's national institute for gemological research and gem testing, Bangkok
Gemmology Institute of Southern Africa, Africa's premium gem laboratory.
Asian Institute of Gemmological Sciences (AIGS), the oldest gemological institut
e in South East Asia, involved in gemological education and gem testing.
Swiss Gemmological Institute (SSEF), founded by Henry Hnni, focusing on colored g
emstones and the identification of natural pearls.
Gbelin Gem Lab, the traditional Swiss lab founded by Eduard Gbelin.
Each laboratory has its own methodology to evaluate gemstones. A stone can be ca
lled "pink" by one lab while another lab calls it "padparadscha". One lab can co
nclude a stone is untreated, while another lab might conclude that it is heat-tr
eated.[11] To minimise such differences, seven of the most respected labs, AGTA-
GTL (New York), CISGEM (Milano), GAAJ-ZENHOKYO (Tokyo), GIA (Carlsbad), GIT (Ban
gkok), Gbelin (Lucerne) and SSEF (Basel), have established the Laboratory Manual
Harmonisation Committee (LMHC), for the standardization of wording reports, prom
otion of certain analytical methods and interpretation of results. Country of or
igin has sometimes been difficult to determine, due to the constant discovery of
new source locations. Determining a "country of origin" is thus much more diffi
cult than determining other aspects of a gem (such as cut, clarity, etc.).[13]
Gem dealers are aware of the differences between gem laboratories and will make
use of the discrepancies to obtain the best possible certificate.[11]
Cutting and polishing[edit]
Raw gemstones
A diamond cutter in Amsterdam in the Netherlands in 2012
A few gemstones are used as gems in the crystal or other form in which they are
found. Most however, are cut and polished for usage as jewelry. The picture to t
he left is of a rural, commercial cutting operation in Thailand. This small fact
ory cuts thousands of carats of sapphire annually. The two main classifications
are stones cut as smooth, dome shaped stones called cabochons, and stones which
are cut with a faceting machine by polishing small flat windows called facets at
regular intervals at exact angles.
Stones which are opaque or semi-opaque such as opal, turquoise, variscite, etc.
are commonly cut as cabochons. These gems are designed to show the stone's color
or surface properties as in opal and star sapphires. Grinding wheels and polish
ing agents are used to grind, shape and polish the smooth dome shape of the ston
Gems which are transparent are normally faceted, a method which shows the optica
l properties of the stone's interior to its best advantage by maximizing reflect
ed light which is perceived by the viewer as sparkle. There are many commonly us
ed shapes for faceted stones. The facets must be cut at the proper angles, which
varies depending on the optical properties of the gem. If the angles are too st
eep or too shallow, the light will pass through and not be reflected back toward
the viewer. The faceting machine is used to hold the stone onto a flat lap for
cutting and polishing the flat facets.[15] Rarely, some cutters use special curv
ed laps to cut and polish curved facets.
Nearly 300 variations of diamond color exhibited at the Aurora display at the Na
tural History Museum in London.
The color of any material is due to the nature of light itself. Daylight, often
called white light, is actually all of the colors of the spectrum combined. When
light strikes a material, most of the light is absorbed while a smaller amount
of a particular frequency or wavelength is reflected. The part that is reflected
reaches the eye as the perceived color. A ruby appears red because it absorbs a
ll the other colors of white light (green and blue), while reflecting the red.
A material which is mostly the same can exhibit different colors. For example, r
uby and sapphire have the same primary chemical composition (both are corundum)
but exhibit different colors because of impurities. Even the same named gemstone
can occur in many different colors: sapphires show different shades of blue and
pink and "fancy sapphires" exhibit a whole range of other colors from yellow to
orange-pink, the latter called "padparadscha sapphire".
This difference in color is based on the atomic structure of the stone. Although
the different stones formally have the same chemical composition and structure,
they are not exactly the same. Every now and then an atom is replaced by a comp
letely different atom, sometimes as few as one in a million atoms. These so-call
ed impurities are sufficient to absorb certain colors and leave the other colors
For example, beryl, which is colorless in its pure mineral form, becomes emerald
with chromium impurities. If manganese is added instead of chromium, beryl beco
mes pink morganite. With iron, it becomes aquamarine.
Some gemstone treatments make use of the fact that these impurities can be "mani
pulated", thus changing the color of the gem.
Gemstones are often treated to enhance the color or clarity of the stone. Depend
ing on the type and extent of treatment, they can affect the value of the stone.
Some treatments are used widely because the resulting gem is stable, while othe
rs are not accepted most commonly because the gem color is unstable and may reve
rt to the original tone.[16]
Heat can improve gemstone color or clarity. The heating process has been well kn
own to gem miners and cutters for centuries, and in many stone types heating is
a common practice. Most citrine is made by heating amethyst, and partial heating
with a strong gradient results in ametrine a stone partly amethyst and partly cit
rine. Much aquamarine is heated to remove yellow tones and change the green colo
r into the more desirable blue or enhance its existing blue color to a purer blu
Nearly all tanzanite is heated at low temperatures to remove brown undertones an
d give a more desirable blue/purple color.[18] A considerable portion of all sap
phire and ruby is treated with a variety of heat treatments to improve both colo
r and clarity.
When jewelry containing diamonds is heated (for repairs) the diamond should be p
rotected with boric acid; otherwise the diamond (which is pure carbon) could be
burned on the surface or even burned completely up. When jewelry containing sapp
hires or rubies is heated, it should not be coated with boracic acid or any othe
r substance, as this can etch the surface; they do not have to be "protected" li
ke a diamond.
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ng citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and remov
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Virtually all blue topaz, both the lighter and the darker blue shades such as "L
ondon" blue, has been irradiated to change the color from white to blue. Most gr
eened quartz (Oro Verde) is also irradiated to achieve the yellow-green color. D
iamonds are irradiated to produce fancy-color diamonds (which occur naturally, t
hough rarely in gem quality).
Emeralds containing natural fissures are sometimes filled with wax or oil to dis
guise them. This wax or oil is also colored to make the emerald appear of better
color as well as clarity. Turquoise is also commonly treated in a similar manne
Fracture filling[edit]
Fracture filling has been in use with different gemstones such as diamonds, emer
alds and sapphires. In 2006 "glass filled rubies" received publicity. Rubies ove
r 10 carats (2 g) with large fractures were filled with lead glass, thus dramati
cally improving the appearance (of larger rubies in particular). Such treatments
are fairly easy to detect.
Synthetic and artificial gemstones[edit]
It is important to distinguish between synthetic gemstones, and imitation or sim
ulated gems.
Synthetic gems are physically, optically and chemically identical to the natural
stone, but are created in controlled conditions in a laboratory. Imitation or s
imulated stones are chemically different than the natural stone but may be optic
ally similar to it; they can be glass, plastic, resins or other compounds.
Examples of simulated or imitation stones include cubic zirconia, composed of zi
rconium oxide and simulated moissanite, which are both diamond simulants. The im
itations copy the look and color of the real stone but possess neither their che
mical nor physical characteristics. Moissanite actually has a higher refractive
index than diamond and when presented beside an equivalently sized and cut diamo
nd will have more "fire" than the diamond.
Synthetic, cultured or lab-created gemstones are not imitations. For example, di
amonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds have been manufactured in labs to possess
identical chemical and physical characteristics to the naturally occurring vari
ety. Synthetic (lab created) corundum, including ruby and sapphire, is very comm
on and costs much less than the natural stones. Smaller synthetic diamonds have
been manufactured in large quantities as industrial abrasives, although larger g
em-quality synthetic diamonds are becoming available in multiple carats.[19]
Whether a gemstone is a natural stone or lab-created (synthetic), the physical c
haracteristics are the same. Lab-created stones tend to have a more vivid color
to them, as impurities are not present in a lab and do not modify the clarity or
color of the stone, unless added intentionally for a specific purpose.[citation
See also[edit]
Book icon
Book: Gemstones
icon Gemology and Jewelry portal
List of gemstones
List of gemstone species
Jump up ^ The Oxford Dictionary Online and Webster Online Dictionary
Jump up ^ Alden, Nancy (2009). Simply Gemstones: Designs for Creating Beaded Gem
stone Jewelry. New York, NY: Random House. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-307-45135-4. Retri
eved November 3, 2010.
Jump up ^ Precious Stones, Max Bauer, p 2
Jump up ^ Wise, R. W., 2006, Secrets Of The Gem Trade, The Connoisseur's Guide T
o Precious Gemstones, Brunswick House Pr, pp. 3 8 ISBN 0-9728223-8-0
Jump up ^ AskOxford.com Concise Oxford English dictionary online.
Jump up ^ Desirable diamonds: The world's most famous gem. by Sarah Todd.
Jump up ^ Wise, R. W., 2006, Secrets of The Gem Trade, The Connoisseur's Guide T
o Precious Gemstones, Brunswick House Pr, p.36 ISBN 0-9728223-8-0
Jump up ^ Wise, R. W., 2006, Secrets Of The Gem Trade, The Connoisseur's Guide T
o Precious Gemstones, Brunswick House Pr, p. 15
Jump up ^ Burnham, S.M. (1868). Precious Stones in Nature, Art and Literature. B
radlee Whidden. Page 251 URL: Helen of Troy and star corundum
Jump up ^ Church, A.H. (Professor at Royal Academy of Arts in London) (1905). Pr
ecious Stones considered in their scientific and artistic relations. His Majesty
's Stationery Office, Wyman & Sons. Chapter 1, Page 9: Definition of Precious St
ones URL: Definition of Precious Stones
^ Jump up to: a b c d Secrets of the Gem Trade; The Connoisseur's Guide to Preci
ous Gemstones, Richard W Wise, Brunswick House Press, Lenox, Massachusetts., 200
Jump up ^ "HowStuffWorks"http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/outdoor-activities/c
Jump up ^ "Rapaport report of ICA Gemstone Conference in Dubai". Diamonds.net. 2
007-05-16. Retrieved 2010-07-30.
Jump up ^ Introduction to Lapidary by Pansy D. Kraus
Jump up ^ Faceting For Amateurs by Glen and Martha Vargas
Jump up ^ Gemstone Enhancement: History, Science and State of the Art by Kurt Na
Jump up ^ Nassau, Kurt (1994). Gem Enhancements. Butterworth Heineman.
Jump up ^ Tanzanite Heating - The Science
Jump up ^ "New Process Promises Bigger, Better Diamond Crystals". Carnegie Insti
tution for Science. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
External links[edit]
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gemstones.
Farlang online library of gemological books
[show] v t e
[show] v t e
Gemmological Classifiactions by E. Ya. Kievlenko, 1980, updated
Authority control
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Categories: GemstonesJewellery componentsMaterialsMineralogyMineralsStone object
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