Folklore tells us that natural and precious gemstones have been revered and honoured for centuries in all cultures; such is the fascination for gemstones! But what really are natural gemstones ?
A gemstone is a mineral, rock, such in the case of lapis lazuli, an organic material, such as amber, or petrified material that when cut or faceted and polished is collectible or can be used in jewelry. The word natural is used when the gemstone is mined, acquired from the earth naturally. The gem stones that are prepared or manufactured in the laboratories by humans are called as synthetic gemstone, man made gemstones, laboratory gemstone or lab stones.
There are over 2000 minerals or list of gemstones in the world, and of which approximately 90 are classified as gem material, and only a half or so, are used in the jewelry trade. To be classified, as a gem sotne the material will have certain characteristics, amongst which BEAUTY would certainly be one. Other factors include DURABILITY, RARITY, DEMAND, TRADITION and PORTABILITY, which also help establish value.
Gemstones - the word itself brings to ones mind an extravagant range of colourful stones. Some of us only relate gemstones to the nine-navagraha stones and for some other it may mean only diamond, ruby, sapphire and emerald. However, gemstones are much more than just a few stones that we frequently come across. Gemstones are found in all hues that the human eye can think of. So what are these gem stones made of? How are they produced? Where are they found? What exactly makes a gemstone a gem? Are all the stones that are found in nature be qualifies as a gem material? Or all the material that is used in jewellery like bones, seeds, wood etc. also is qualified as gem material? Where are these natural and precious gem stones found ?
Most of the gem material is found in nature and each stone take million s and millions of years to form. The low cooling of the earth’s molten lava and chemicals gives birth to a natural gemstone. It requires a combination of prefect chemical composition, temperature and pressure to be formed into a crystal. Most gem roughs are a part of a crystal. A regular arrangement of atoms in a defined order results in a framework of atoms, this is the basic form of a crystal. These are mostly minerals or rocks that are hidden in the earths crust which come to the earth’s surface over a period of time or need to be mined in order to be obtained. These are called inorganic gemstone for e.g. Diamond, ruby, sapphire, emeralds etc. The other type of gemstone is the organic gems that mostly come from plants and animals and don’t have a definite crystal structure and are called amorphous gems for e.g. Pearls, amber, coral, ivory, jet etc.What make a mineral a valuable gem ?
There are certain qualities that a gem must possess to be called as a gemstone. Most of the gem materials are minerals and are formed in the earths crust. However some of the gem materials like coral, amber, ivory, turtle shell, pearls etc. are organic substances that is they come from plants and animal origin. The three attributes that make these organic and inorganic gem material valuable are its beauty, rarity and durability.
Beauty : " Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder", then how cone we define what is beautiful. It is indeed difficult to define beauty but we can defiantly have certain parameters that can get us closer and on a similar platform. These parameters again are not perfect and could vary from stone to stone as no two gemstones can ever e similar. The parameters are colour, symmetry (cut) and surface appearance (clarity). Colour of course is the first thing that one may notice in a coloured gem. A fine colour is one of the most important factors that would decide the price of the gem.
Symmetry : Symmetry will be how well the gemstone is cut. Sometimes gemstones are cut in a particular manner to enhance its colour and appearance. A gem would good very appealing when its shape and proportion are well balanced.
Clarity : The clarity of the gem will help enhance its colour and over appearance. Most of the gem stones appear attractive when they are transparent like ruby, emerald, sapphire etc. However, some gems like opal and jadeite look beautiful even when they are opaque.
Rarity : Rarity again is not very easy to define when it comes to gemstones. Some gems are so rare that they are only collector’s items for eg. Red beryl that is found in the Wah Wah Mountains of Utah in The United States. This gem is only found in these mountains and most of the people are not even aware of it. On the other hand there are gems like the pink spinel that are found in plenty but does not have a popular demand. Some other organic gems like amber and jet where very highly valued in the past but now most of the people are not even aware of these gems. Thus one could say that rarity and demand of the gem are interrelated and together affect the pricing of the gems.
Durability : Durability has a few more factors to it like hardness, toughness and stability. Durability is the ability of the gemstone to withstand wear, heat and chemicals. Hardness is the ability of the gemstones to resist scratches. Toughness is the ability of the gemstone to resist breakage and chipping. Stability is the ability of the gemstone to resist the effect of light, heat and chemicals. Thus these are three main factors that make a mineral or rock a valuable and much sort after gem material.
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