What are Some Different Types of Gemstones?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

There are many different ways to categorize types of gemstones. Sometimes they are identified by category. Alternately types of gemstones may be classed by how they are made. Another way to classify gems is by describing them as precious, semi-precious or organic.

Feldspar.
Feldspar.

When gemstones are identified by category, the following categories may apply:

Gemstones.
Gemstones.
  • Diamonds — considered the most precious stone in the world.
  • Corundum — contains gemstones like sapphires and rubies.
  • Chrysoberyl — alexandrite and cat’s eyes are two common stones of this type.
  • Quartzamethyst, onyx, citrine, and carnelian are part of this group.
  • Beryl — related to quartz and contains stones like emeralds and aquamarines.
Diamonds.
Diamonds.
jade
Rubies are a precious stone.
Rubies are a precious stone.
feldspar
Promise rings often feature gems such as amethyst.
Promise rings often feature gems such as amethyst.

Sometimes gemstones are identified by the way they’re made. Categories may be broken into three groups of genuine, created and synthetic. These groups help to determine price and rarity of stones.

Pearls are a popular gemstone, especially in jewelry-making.
Pearls are a popular gemstone, especially in jewelry-making.

Genuine stones are those made by nature and taken out of the earth. This can include stones made by organic means. Pearls and amber, for instance, are genuine stones in this classification.

Turquoise, a popular gemstone, is used to make jewelry.
Turquoise, a popular gemstone, is used to make jewelry.

Created stones refer to lab created copies of genuine stones, and they are real chemical copies. They’re just not obtained through collection or mining. These stones usually don’t cost as much, as genuine stones, and may lack the imperfections of mined stones.

Sapphires and diamonds are considered precious stones.
Sapphires and diamonds are considered precious stones.

The third group, synthetic stones mean they do not share the same chemical composition or crystallization of genuine or created stones. Synthetic doesn’t refer to one material. Different synthetic materials include crystal, glass, and even plastic. High quality synthetics can still be pretty and ideal for use in certain types of jewelry.

Quartz is a common type of gemstone.
Quartz is a common type of gemstone.

An alternate classification of gemstones is precious, semi-precious and organic. Precious stones include the following: diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and sometimes pearls (even though these are also organic). Semi-precious stones are many in number and a few popular ones are tourmaline, peridot, garnet, aquamarine, jade, and amethyst. Organic stones are typically pearls, jet, coral, and amber.

There are other ways to evaluate types of gemstones. People may classify them by hardness on the Mohs scale, by color, by rarity, or by popularity. What is really most important in considering different types is how they appeal and how well they will hold up when used in certain ways. For instance, emeralds can be very beautiful, but are somewhat soft. They may not be ideal for rings that are worn constantly, especially if people perform a lot of heavy work while wearing them.

Diamonds are traditionally given as an engagement ring during a marriage proposal.
Diamonds are traditionally given as an engagement ring during a marriage proposal.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

browncoat

I don't know why, but I just love looking at pictures of jewelry. I don't ever buy expensive gemstone jewelry, but some of the pieces, particularly Art Nouveau jewelry is so lovely.

I almost wish that they were made with cheap colored gemstones, so that I could afford to buy them. To me, the beauty comes not from the stones themselves, but from the artistry that arranges them into such lovely forms.

lluviaporos

@pastanaga - Yeah, the same sort of thing happened when they developed the way to make synthetic gemstones in the lab. It's cheaper and much less environmentally hazardous than digging them out of the ground, but because they aren't "genuine" gemstones, people don't value them as much.

Never mind that they are more flawless and can be made with almost anything, so, in theory, could have more sentimental value (for example, you could have a diamond made from a lock of your sweetheart's hair).

pastanaga

I just find it so ironic that diamonds are considered to be one of the most precious gem stones in the world. I've heard people try to justify it by saying that it's because they are the hardest mineral, but that's not the real reason. They also aren't very rare. Many other precious gemstones are much more rare than diamonds.

It's because all (or almost all) the diamond mines in the world are owned by one company and they basically keep them in a warehouse to keep the prices up. That's the only reason they are expensive.

It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it's not. Diamonds should be as common and cheap as, say, semi precious gemstones like amethyst, but they are made artificially rare, so they are more expensive for no real reason.

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