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A beautiful gemstone can liven a wardrobe, brighten a room, and even bring you inner peace. With each gemstone comes its own uniqueness, beauty, significance and value. Gemstone jewelry such as pendants, rings, and earrings are often treasured possessions that are passed down for generations to enjoy.
This guide covers the meaning, value, and special characteristics of each gemstone. We also share tips for buying gemstones, including the best online gemstone vendors to shop with.
A gemstone is a jewel made of mineral crystal that is cut and polished for jewelry. Gemstones often have a vibrant color and are also known as precious stones, semi-precious stones, or fine gems. Sapphires, emeralds, and amethysts are examples of gemstones, though there are dozens of types of gemstones that are used in rings and other types of jewelry.
Some gemstones are not made of minerals but are rocks or made of organic materials, such as opals and pearls.
“Gemstones have long been believed to carry healing, protective and even magical properties. Today, gemstones are enjoyed for their beauty in jewelry and if, by chance, they carry some mysterious qualities that repel insects, heal illnesses, protect travelers or attract love…why not accept a bit of chance good fortune?” Gemological Institute of America (GIA)
Many myths and legends detail the healing power and therapeutic nature of gemstones. According to these legends, each stone carries its own significance and energy.
Alexandrite symbolizes love and good luck. It often appears purplish red under incandescent light and green in sunlight. The photo below shows an example of round cut Alexandrite stud earrings from Amazon. Alexandrite is a June birthstone.
Amethysts represent strength and peace and are thought to bring a balanced mindset to those who wear them. Amethysts are a type of quartz and range in color from pinkish lilac to deep violet. It’s a February birthstone. For people who love purple, amethyst engagement rings can be a great alternative to the classic diamond look. But they look great in any type of jewelry. The below gorgeous Duo Amethyst ring from James Allen is a perfect example.
Aquamarine symbolizes tranquility, healing and relaxation. The blue-green colors of the gem evoke the beauty of a calm sea. Aquamarine comes from the beryl mineral family, made of aluminum silicate and beryllium. This very pretty Aquamarine and Diamond Halo Pendant from James Allen is a perfect example to showcase the beautiful blue color. Aqumarine is a March birthstone.
”Bloodstone is a type of chalcedony. The amount of chlorite particles affects how green the stone is. The red spots—which resemble blood—come from iron oxide. Gemstones can have a luster that is glassy or waxy.” American Gem Society (AGS)
Bloodstones signify health and are thought to bring healing powers. Their color ranges from light to dark green with splashes of rusty red. They are often use for less expensive jewelry. See the example of a sterling silver bloodstone ring from Amazon below. Bloodstone is also also a birthstone of March and is a variety of quartz.
Citrine symbolizes serenity, comfort and new beginnings. The stones range in color from light yellow to brownish orange, based on trace amounts of iron in certain quartz crystals. The Round Rope bracelet from Blue Nile below shows a typical Citrine color. Citrine is a November birthstone.
Diamonds have long represented strength, victory, wealth and abundance. Most diamonds are white and colorless, but diamonds come in a range of other colors including green, yellow, blue, purple, pink and red. Diamonds are made of pure carbon and form over billions of years. For example, this Signature Quadex cut from Brian Gavin shows the quniqness of diamonds perfectly. A white diamond is the April birthstone.
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Emeralds symbolize longevity, rebirth and truth. They are beautiful green gemstones, ranging from light hues to dark forest green. Emeralds are May’s birthstone and belong to the beryl mineral family, getting its color from small amounts of chromium. The darker the hue, the more rare and valuable an emerald tends to be. These emerald and diamond halo earrings from James Allen will add elegance to anyone’s everyday style.
Garnet gemstones symbolize power and are thought to bring good fortune and truth. This stone made of silicate materials resembles the rich red color of pomegranate seeds. heck out this cute Bolo Garnet bracelet from Blue Nile for the beautiful color. Garnet is the January birthstone.
Moissanite gemstones are thought to bring luck and love into your life. They can also bring strength, better health and mental clarity. Moissanite is a near-colorless gemstone that’s composed of silicon carbide. While they often look like a diamond at first glance, moissanite is quite different from a diamond in appearance and composition.
Moonstones symbolize wisdom, fertility and love. They are multi-colored gemstones that range from blues to oranges. Moonstones are a secondary birthstone for June and can look particularly geogeous in rings, such as this beautiful White moonstone Cabochon ring from Blue Nile.
Morganite represents the healing of your heart and mind. It is known to help create a sense of peace and calmness. The stone is usually a soft pink, but can also contain purple and orange hues. Morganite engagement rings are fantastic for a romantic soul or someone who wants to be a bit different, like with this solitaire oval cut Morganite ring from Blue Nile.
Opals have long symbolized good luck and fortune. The opals used in jewelry are usually black or white and showcase a kaleidoscope effect that radiates all the colors of the rainbow – check out this graduaded Opal necklace from James Allen. As a lovely and cheaper alterantive to diamonds, opal engagement rings are getting more and more popular. Opals are an October birthstone.
Pearls symbolize purity, wisdom and good health. These gemstones range in size and shape depending on how they’re cultured and farmed. Pearls are usually white, but come in other colors such as blue, pink, cream, gold, green and black. Pearls are the June birthstone.
Periodot gemstones represent calmness and serenity. They are thought to offer protection from nightmares and negative emotions. Peridots are green gems ranging from yellowish green to brownish green, and are an August birthstone. Made of magnesium-rich mineral olivine, trace amounts of iron present in the stone’s composition dictate the hue. Peridots look fantastic in all types of jewelry, as shown in this beautiful yellow gold peridot ring from James Allen.
Quartz symbolizes love, energ, and spiritual growth. Quartz ranges in color from purple and white to black and yellow, though rose quartz is the most common in jewelry (look at these pear shape Quartz earrings on Amazon). Its delicate color offers grace and unique beauty to any piece of jewelry.
The ruby is a symbol of courage, passion and protection. These gemstones are made of the red variation of mineral corundum or aluminum oxide. Rubies are often royal red, but range in color from pink to dark red. They look amazing in any type of jewelry, like in these inside out hoop earrings from James Allen. The July birthstone is a ruby.
Sapphire symbolizes nobility, wisdom and enlightenment. Sapphires naturally occur in any color of the rainbow including green, pink, white and yellow, but the most common color is blue as shown in the tennis bracelet from Blue Nile below. Sapphires are a member of the corundum family of minerals and contain small amounts of iron, titanium, copper, magnesium and chromium. Sapphire is the September birthstone.
Sardonyx are known to bring strength, protection and courage. They range in color from a yellow-tinted red to a reddish brown, depending on how much iron oxide is present. Sardonyx features a unique composition of layers of sard and onyx, and is an August birthstone.
Spinel is thought to bring devotion and healing energies. It can even foster a revitalization or a mending of a relationship. Spinel is usually red in jewelry but comes in a range of colors such as blue, green, violet and orange. The ring from Blue Nile shown below comes with a dark purple Spinel center cushion stone.
Tanzanite symbolizes truth and wisdom. It is a vivid blue gem that normally includes shades of purple and lavender. These tanzanite studs from James Allen have a halo fo small diamonds for even a bigger bling. Tanzanite is a December birthstone.
Topaz represents healing and protection. Topaz is available in a range of colors, including green, red, orange and pink, but is most popular as a blue gemstone. This necklace in yellow gold from James Allen shows just how breathtaking the blue color can be. The stone is made of the mineral silicate of aluminum and fluorine. Topaz crystallizes within lava flow or rocks that have solidified from lava. Topaz is a birthstone for November.
Tourmaline is thought to bring empathy, sympathy and understanding to others. It helps to resolve emotional pain and calm disruptive feelings. Tourmaline gemstones range from pink to purple to green and blue. Small amounts of certain elements dictate the color of a tourmaline stone. A pink Tourmaline stone looks fantastic in a necklace. It’s an October birthstone.
Turquoise is a symbol of wealth, health and good luck. This gemstone ranges in color from soft to darker greenish blues and is a December birthstone. This yellow gold locket is a perfect gift for someone special.
Zircon represents prosperity, wisdom and confidence. It comes in a range of colors, but the blue variety is the most common and a secondary December birthstone.
Based on their composition and characteristics, gemstones can fall into different categories or groups.
A gemstone’s characteristics help gemologists place them into varieties or species. The chemical composition of a gemstone is a key characteristic that dictates what family a gemstone belongs to. For example, diamonds are made of carbon, while aquamarine, emerald and morganite are all a part of the mineral species beryl. Rubies and sapphires fall into the corundum species.
Gemologists also classify stones by features such as their crystal system, refractive index and other technical aspects.
Gemstones are often classified as precious or semi-precious. Precious stones include rubies, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds. All other gemstones are semi-precious, such as peridot, garnet, amethyst and tanzanite. Precious gems are rarer and tend to be higher quality, though that isn’t always the case. The value and beauty of a specific gemstone depend on its color and quality, not just if it’s a precious or semi-precious stone.
Gemstones are also classified by their hardness, color, and translucency. For example, an emerald with a richer hue is considered more beautiful and valuable than a pale emerald.
Gemstones can be categorized based on key characteristics such as their color, composition or purpose.
While gemstones are often mineral crystals, they can also be made of organic materials or be rocks.
MINERAL GEMSTONES are inorganic crystals and include sapphires, emeralds, rubies, aquamarine and peridot, among many others.
ORGANIC GEMSTONES are formed from an organic substance or organism such as a pearl or opal.
ROCK GEMSTONES are cut and polished to form jewels and include lapis lazuli.
Gemstones are graded for hardness on the Mohs scale (1-10). Precious gemstones tend to be the hardest and most durable. Diamonds top the Mohs scale with a score of 10, with ruby and sapphire both ranking a 9. Emeralds range from 7.5 to 8.
The next hardest gemstones are semi-precious stones. Garnet, amethyst, quartz, aquamarine, moonstone, peridot, sardonyx, tourmaline, citrine, topaz, tanzanite, zircon and turquoise all rank between 6 and 8 on the Mohs scale.
The softest gemstones are made of organic materials and include pearls (2.5 to 4.5) and opals (5.5 to 6).
A gemstone’s value depends on its rarity and color quality, as well as consumer demand. Diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds are some of the rarest gemstones, and thus have the highest prices.
When diamonds became a staple for engagement rings in the 1950s, the demand for diamonds increased, as did their price. The demand for sapphires is less than diamonds, so while the blue gemstones are rarer than diamonds, they tend to cost less.
Gemstones are often grouped by their color. A certain gemstone variety can range from light to dark hues but a stone may also contain secondary colors and undertones that provide depth and uniqueness. The most popular colored gemstones used in jewelry are:
Gemstones serve a variety of purposes, though most people choose to place their gemstones in jewelry.
Jewelry: Pendants, earrings, rings and bracelets are all popular jewelry pieces for gemstones. You might also place gemstones in accessories such as cufflinks or in special decor items such as ornaments and vases.
Collectibles: Some people may collect certain types of gemstones such as Kashmir blue sapphires.
Astrological: Some people choose to have gemstones for their astrological significance. For example, in Indian astrology, rubies represent the sun. Someone might collect rubies to help harness the sun’s energy in their life.
Healing: Some gemstones and crystals can help cure the mind, body and soul. For example, spinel or moonstone might bring healing to your life.
|Gemstone||Most Common Color||Other Colors||Composition||Hardness (Mohs Scale)|
|Alexandrite||Green (in sunlight), Red (in incandescent light)||Purple undertone||Chrysoberyl||8.5|
|Amethyst||Purple||Pink undertone||Silicate materials (Quartz)||7|
|Bloodstone||Red and Green||Brown||Chalcedony||6.5-7|
|Citrine||Yellow||Orange, Brown||Silicate materials (Quartz)||7|
|Diamond||White||Virtually all other colors||Carbon||10|
|Garnet||Red||Virtually all other colors, but blue is rare||Silicate materials||6.5-7.5|
|Moissanite||White||Virtually all other colors||Silicon carbide||9.25|
|Moonstone||White with rainbow undertones||Virtually all other colors||Sodium potassium aluminium silicate (feldspar group)||6-6.5|
|Opal||White or Black||Virtually all other colors||Silicate materials||5.5-6|
|Pearl||White||Virtually all other colors, but black, cream and pink are most common||Aragonite, Conchiolin||2.5-4.5|
|Peridot||Green||Yellow||Olivine and silicate materials||6.5-7|
|Quartz||Rose (for jewelry)||Virtually all other colors||Silicate materials||7|
|Sapphire||Blue||Virtually all other colors||Corundum||9|
|Sardonyx||Red, Brown, Orange||Brown, Black, White||Microcrystalline quartz, chalcedony||6.5-7|
|Spinel||Red||Virtually all other colors||Magnesium/aluminum member of spinel group||8|
|Tanzanite||Blue and Purple||–||Zoisite (epidote mineral group)||6.5-7|
|Topaz||Blue||Virtually all other colors, but orange is most common||Silicate materials||8|
|Tourmaline||Pink||Virtually all other colors||Silicate materials||7-7.5|
|Turquoise||Blue Green||–||Hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminium||5-6|
|Zircon||Blue||Virtually all other colors||Nesosilicates||7.5|
Birthstones are special gemstones that represent the month a person was born. Most months have one primary birthstone and some have one or two secondary birthstones as well. Birthstones are often worn in jewelry and can carry special meaning for the wearer.
It’s believed that birthstones were first mentioned in the Bible. In the book of Exodus, Aaron’s breastplate includes twelve gems to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Over the years, various cultures and time periods have adapted their version of birthstones.
|Month||Modern Birthstone||Ancient Birthstone|
Gemstones are primarily used for jewelry, but some people collect certain types of gemstones or keep gemstones for their healing powers or astrological significance.
Gemstones are worth anywhere from $0 to $83 million, depending on the type of gemstone, rarity, carat weight, color and other key characteristics. Gemstones fluctuate in price based on rarity and consumer demand. You can have a gemstone appraised by an appraiser or talk with one of our jewelry experts to determine its value.
You can buy gemstones online from reputable vendors such as James Allen, Leibish & Co. and Blue Nile. These reputable jewelers have a large selection of high-quality gemstones and beautifully crafted jewelry.
Precious gemstones tend to be rarer and higher quality than semi-precious stones. Precious gemstones include emeralds, sapphires, rubies and diamonds. Semi-precious gemstones include amethyst, garnet and peridot.
Sapphire is a precious gemstone made of corundum mineral. Sapphires are most popular in a vivid blue color, though sapphires come in almost all other colors. Sapphire engagement rings are a striking alternative to the traditional diamond engagement ring.
A sapphire can cost anywhere from $25 per carat to over $11,000 per carat. The color, luster, saturation and geographical region where it was mined all impact the cost.
Buying a gemstone is far less technical than buying a diamond, but there are a few key things to keep in mind. In the end, you want a gemstone that’s rich with color, beauty and value.
The main reason people choose and enjoy gemstones is for their striking colors or soft hues that add character to a piece of jewelry. That’s why it’s critical to focus mostly on color when shopping for a gemstone. Cut quality, clarity and even carat weight are less important when buying a gemstone.
From lighter hues to dark rich tones, compare various stones to determine what color, saturation and secondary undertones you like best. Rich, vibrant gemstones tend to sell for more, but that doesn’t mean you need to buy a deep-colored gem to have a beautiful stone.
A wide range of colors and saturations exist for a variety of budgets. You might even prefer a lighter gemstone or a gem with a secondary hue, such as a pale emerald with a hint of blue.
Not only do you want to ensure your gemstone is stunning, but the jewelry itself is high-quality. A reputable jewelry vendor like Leibish & Co. or James Allen offer hundreds of well-crafted pieces to choose from. And because color is so important in a gemstone, be sure the vendor offers high-quality images of their gems. James Allen and Leibish & Co. have high-res photographs or videos of each gemstone, allowing you to see the stone’s true appearance.
Some gemstones, such as sapphires, can be treated for their color. But treatments can impact the quality and price of a gemstone. Untreated gemstones command the highest price, so be sure to avoid paying a high price for a heavily treated stone. Look at the details of the stone before buying.
You want to avoid any visible inclusions when buying a diamond. But with colored gemstones, slight flaws are quite common and can even enhance the character of your stone. It’s important to focus more on color than clarity with gems.
Choosing a special stone – whether for an engagement ring or necklace – is a careful process. If you’re not sure which gemstone to choose, contact our experts for a second opinion. They’ll help ensure you’re getting the best color and value for your budget.
From our decades of experience in the jewelry industry, we’ve found three online vendors to stand above the rest when it comes to gemstones. These vendors are reliable and trustworthy, and our readers have found stunning gemstones and high-quality jewelry at competitive prices.
James Allen is one of the best places to shop for fine jewelry online. Their products are of superior quality and they maintain a large inventory of gemstones that you can inspect in high-quality 360-degree images.
Leibish & Co. is a reputable online vendor that specializes in rare, high-quality gemstones and jewelry. They have some of the most beautiful gemstones and colored diamond jewelry in the world. Their site features high-res photos so you can see gemstones in detail before purchase.
Blue Nile offers a collection of stunning gemstone jewelry options. They don’t sell loose gemstones, but you can find fine jewelry pieces such as earrings and pendants with beautiful colored stones.
Gemstones are a powerful and eye-catching choice for any jewelry — and are bound to be a treasured piece in your collection. They can also symbolize healing, love and other positive emotions in your life.
By selecting a gemstone rich in color, you can create a special keepsake for years to come. Choose a reputable online vendor that provides high-quality images to ensure you get the gemstone of your dreams. You can also email our experts to ask a question or get an opinion on a gemstone.
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