Everything you need to know about gemstones
A gemstone is piece of mineral crystal or rock which has been cut or faceted and then polished to be used for jewellery.
They are commonly separated into two categories, precious and semi-precious stones.
Gemstones are valued highly, not only for their beauty but also for their hardiness and rarity.
The most infamous and coveted example of this is the diamond, which throughout the years has remained the most popular choice for jewellery.
In this article, we explore everything you should know about gemstones, including our top tips on how to care for them and how they are valued!
What is the difference between precious and semi-precious stones?
Gemstones are separated into two categories:
- Precious stones, such as diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, etc.
- Semi-precious stones, such as garnets, topaz, citrine, onyx, etc.
These classifications traditionally would dictate the value of the stone and were based on the rarity and colour of the stones.
The differences between gemstones were categorised when gemological equipment was not as advanced as it is today, which led to many misidentifications, for example spinel was often mistaken for ruby because of its colour.
Many jewellers agree that this classification system is outdated and incorrect, as many precious gemstones are now more available than semi-precious stones, such as sapphires being more abundant than tanzanite!
Sapphires are the second most popular choice for engagement rings after diamonds, and are classified as precious stones. Tanzanite however, is extremely rare because it can only be mined from one location in Tanzania, and yet it is still only considered semi-precious and undervalued in comparison.
While this system is still used to categorise gemstones, there are currently no strict guidelines to determine whether a gemstone is precious or semi-precious.
How are precious stones valued?
Most jewellers craft their pieces using stones that have been assessed according to the grading system created by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America).
The grading system is based on the the 4Cs, which are cut, clarity, colour and carat.
Each of these four classifications contribute to the overall appearance and quality of the gemstone and determine its value.
A stone that has been graded low on this scale can be expected to have visible imperfections or cut poorly so that the qualities of the stone are not presented to the best they could be.
In comparison, a stone that has a high GIA certification will either be flawless (or close to) when inspected by the naked eye.
How to care for gemstones
Whether your jewellery is an investment piece or holds sentimental value, you want to take care of it the best you can. Our experts have put together some basic tips to help you care for your jewellery.
Check for loose gemstones and clasps
With daily wear it’s possible that your favourite pieces may become damaged, especially rings, as they come into contact with everything you touch. It’s often the case that as well-worn jewellery ages, prongs and fasteners may loosen.
It is better to be aware of potential damage than to look down one day to discover that you have lost one of your stones.
We recommend regularly checking your jewellery for weakened links. Do this by shaking or lightly tapping it to listen for loose stones (it will rattle if it’s loose, you’ll know it when you hear it!).
Take jewellery off at night
While you may think that your jewellery is durable and safe to wear while you sleep, frequent contact with other materials can scratch and cause gradual wear.
Not only this, but the oils on your skin will tarnish the metal over time, so it’s best that you remove and carefully store your jewellery at night.
From your wedding rings to your necklaces, your jewellery is with you always, so it’s natural that dirt and grime will build up on your pieces over time. Unfortunately, this can tarnish or dull the sparkle of your gemstones.
Even the products that we use day-to-day such as hand soaps, perfumes and sun cream can cause damage by loosening gemstones from their settings.
Make sure to clean your jewellery regularly and make sure to remove items whenever washing with or handling chemical products.
Where can I purchase precious and semi-precious gemstone jewellery?
Diamonds are the most widely available stone and can be found in most jewellers.
Emeralds, rubies and sapphire jewellery is also commonly sold as coloured stones are popular options for necklaces, earrings and even engagement rings.
When it comes to semi-precious gems however, it depends entirely on the type of stone. There are so many types of gemstones that they may not be stocked due to rarity or lack of demand.
While it might be difficult to find a wide range of semi-precious gemstones, there are options available from high street jewellers.
Morganite has steadily gained in popularity since 2010 as its delicate, rose-pink colour makes a great option for engagement rings, and tanzanite has become a popular alternative to sapphires, because of its vivid, blue-violet colour and its rarity.
Depending on the size of the jewellers, the store may also stock semi-precious gemstones such as amethyst, garnet and opal, which create stunning pieces and add variety for customers to choose from.
Stunning custom pieces from Mitchel & Co.
At Mitchel & Co. we believe there is a gemstone for everyone.
From band to stone, our team are here to work closely with you to create the perfect custom piece, to make your dream piece of jewellery a reality.
We’ll take the time to get to know you (or the lucky person you’re buying for!), before making custom recommendations, designs and the final product, ensuring that the end product is absolutely perfect for you.
If you have any further questions about gemstones, or need any further advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our specialists, or swing by our store here in the Jewellery Quarter. We’re always happy to talk gemstones, so give us a shout!