The 7 Precious Stones: Gemstone Guide

Diamonds are the best-selling gemstone, holding about 80% of the revenue from gemstone sales. However, there are plenty of other gemstones that are popular and stunning. These are stones that shine on their own, work as the centerpiece of jewelry, and complement many different wardrobes. 

The most popular and sought-after are the seven precious stones. These are stones that are familiar to most and desired by many. Let’s look at these seven stones and discover why they have the title of precious stones.

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What Are Gemstones?

Gemstones are usually natural minerals that are prized for their beauty. Once cut and polished, they can be used for ornamental purposes. Their high value stems from their beauty, rarity, or other characteristics.

Some gemstones don’t have mineral origins. They can be hardened organic substances, such as amber or pearl. 

Precious vs. Semi-Precious Stones

Gemstones are broken down into precious and semi-precious categories. This distinction was made in the past based on the stone’s presumed value. Their modern value, price, and rarity are not as applicable, leading many professional jewelers to no longer use these terms. 

Many semi-precious stones aren’t any less valuable or rare than precious stones. For example, Jadeite gems can cost over $3 million per carat, outpricing many diamonds.

However, the terms precious and semi-precious stones remain in our everyday vocabulary.

The big four precious stones are diamond, ruby, emerald, and sapphire. Oriental cat’s eye, pearl, and alexandrite are also precious stones. Meanwhile, popular semi-precious stones include opal, amber, amethyst, and aquamarine, though there are more. 

1. Diamond

Diamonds are the most valued and famous precious gemstones. They have been symbols of eternal love and purity since ancient times. This has led to their traditional role as the centerpiece of an engagement ring. 

Their value stems from their rarity and physical properties, which are unique among gemstones. This makes them more valuable as time goes on.

One unique property of diamonds is their hardness. Diamonds are the hardest material on earth, ranking a ten on the Mohs hardness scale. This precious stone will not wear down or break from everyday wear. 

2. Ruby

Rubies are also highly valued due to their red color and hardness. They are just behind diamonds at a nine on the Mohs scale.

Rubies are a variety of corundum, a crystalline form of aluminum oxide. They can be distinguished from other corundum by their red color. This color comes from chromium atoms replacing aluminum atoms. 

Rubies can range in color from red-purple to red-orange. However, a shade called “Pigeon Blood” is the most valuable and rare. Another valuable property in rubies is when they are fluorescent. This allows them to shine brightly in the sunlight.

When it comes to colored gemstones, the GIA ranks them as grossing the highest amount per carat.

Related: Garnet Vs. Ruby: What Are The Differences?


Sapphire engagement ring


3. Sapphire


Sapphires are also a version of corundum. This gives them a durable 9 rating on the Mohs scale. However, they contain trace elements of magnesium and titanium iron. These are the elements that give sapphires their traditionally striking blue color. This color led to their name, which comes from the Latin word for blue, “saphirues.”

However, sapphires are available in various colors, including pink, yellow, green, purple, and reddish orange. These are sometimes known as fancy sapphires. Some even appear to change between blue and purple in different lighting. This wide range of colors gives anyone interested in sapphires plenty of options to choose from.


Emerald and diamond necklace


4. Emerald

Emeralds are a valuable commodity known for their beautiful green color. They are part of the beryl family and include iron, vanadium, and chromium, which gives them their characteristic hue.

There are a lot of myths, beliefs, and traditions behind emeralds. Many cultures believed these stones to hold healing and other mystical powers. In the modern era, they are now representative of the 25th and 35th wedding anniversaries and May’s birthstone.

Looking to add a beautiful pearl necklace, earrings, or another piece to your jewelry collection? Check out our pearl bestsellers

5. Pearl

Natural pearls are not mineral gemstones. While most gemstones are formed from geological processes deep within the earth, pearls are formed from biological processes within a sea creature. 

This happens when irritants, such as a piece of sand, get into a mollusk like an oyster. When this happens, the creature starts to form a pearl as a response. The mollusk coats it with layers and fluid secretion to defend itself from the irritant. These layers slowly build up and eventually harden, which creates a pearl.

There are five types of pearls: Tahitian, freshwater, Akoya, South Sea, and Sea of Cortez. Freshwater pearls are the most common. The environment and conditions behind the pearl’s creation impact its appearance. For example, Tahitian pearls are prized for their dark grey or black colors.

6. Oriental Cat’s Eye

You may hear Oriental cat’s eye also called cymophane, Cat’s Eye chrysoberyl, or chatoyant chrysoberyl. It comes in various colors, including honey brown, yellow-brown, and green. When light hits it the right way, it forms a shadow effect. 

While there are other forms of cat’s eye, the Oriental cat’s eye includes fine silk inclusions that set it apart.

Oriental cat’s eye is incredibly rare. Because of this, some people attempt to pass off fake stones as the real thing. Always ensure you get a reliable certificate of authenticity if you purchase cat’s eye.

7. Alexandrite


Alexandrite is known for its color-changing abilities that have given it the moniker “nature’s magic trick.” This quality allows the rare stone to range from ruby to emerald hues depending on the light. In incandescent light, it usually shows purplish red shades. Meanwhile, sunlight and fluorescent lights give it a green color.

The exact degree of the color shift will vary from stone to stone. Some pieces of alexandrite completely change colors, while others simply shift along the color spectrum, retaining some semblance of their starting color. Ones that more completely change color are rarer than their counterparts. 

Alexandrite’s scarcity makes it one of the more expensive gems in the world. Their exact cost depends on normal factors, like size and quality. However, it also depends on the degree of color shift they experience, as the ones that shift color completely are more expensive, while the ones that only shift slightly are less expensive. 

Related: How To Wear A Pearl Necklace: Styling Tips To Know

Understand Your Options for Precious Stones

Many precious stones are the most sought-after gemstones in the world. Their beauty and rarity have made them timeless classics that make lovely additions to any jewelry collection. If you are considering purchasing a precious stone, it’s always essential to make sure you understand what you are choosing and that you are choosing a genuine, high-quality stone.

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