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Loose gemstones are generally precious gemstones or semi-precious stones sold loose and not set in pieces of jewelry. Sometimes loose stones are are used as an investment, but many consumers and gemstone dealers obtain loose gemstones at reasonable or discount prices and have them set into pieces of jewelry, including rings, bracelets, and necklaces. Precious stones include diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. Loose gemstones may also include aquamarine stones, opals, and tourmalines, to name a few.
It is typical for loose gemstones to vary in cost and value, according to classification and grade. Flaws such as chips or scratches will typically depreciate the value of loose gemstones, especially diamonds. Gemstones are classified by chemical composition and crystal structure, as well as durability.
Colored gemstones may be natural or synthetic. Some natural gemstones are enhanced chemically to infuse a desired color. Synthetic gemstones, also known as man-made, are chemically enhanced to replicate natural gems. In most cases, the synthetic or "fake" stones may be significantly less expensive than genuine stones. Inexperienced people generally have difficulty distinguishing these, unless they use a microscope.
Some of the less common loose gemstones, either genuine or man-made, are alexandrite, garnet, and topaz. A popular type of topaz is the blue topaz, which is also the birthstone for December. Many gemstones are designated as birthstones. For example, garnet is January's birthstone, amethyst is February's, and ruby is the birthstone for July.
Peridot, quartz, and kunzite may be found as loose gemstones. Types of quartz are smokey and rose quartz. Pearl, coral, and iolite are other gemstones that may be found loose. Citrine and amber are other types of loose gemstones commonly set into rings.
A popular gemstone, occurring naturally and reproduced in laboratory settings, is the emerald. Deep-green emeralds are found naturally in regions of south Africa, including Zambia. This gemstone belongs to the mineral family known as beryl.
Rubies are most desirable when the color is a rich, deep red, rather than a paler pinkish-red. Aluminum oxide is the mineral from which a ruby is derived from. Loose rubies are often bought and sold to set into extravagant jewelry pieces.