A gemstone is the name given to a piece of mineral (or other rock or organic material) that after it has been cut and polished has been made into a piece of jewelry or another accessory. Although gemstones are commonly made from minerals, material such as jet or amber or rocks like lapis lazuli can also be utilized in the creation of gemstones. The majority of gemstones will be hard to the touch but depending on the piece of jewelry that is being created, some soft minerals are also utilized. Take a look at Moh’s Scale of Hardness to find out more about this.
Rarity is another characteristic that lends value to a gemstone. Apart from jewelry, from earliest antiquity engraved gems and hardstone carvings, such as cups, were major luxury art forms. A gem maker is called a lapidary or gemcutter; a diamond worker is a diamantaire.
Types Of Gemstones :
- Precious Gemstones
- Semi – Precious Gemstones
In modern times gemstones are identified by gemologists, who describe gems and their characteristics using technical terminology specific to the field of gemology. The first characteristic a gemologist uses to identify a gemstone is its chemical composition. For example, diamonds are made of carbon (C) and rubies of aluminium oxide (Al2O3). Next, many gems are crystals which are classified by their crystal system such as cubic or trigonal or monoclinic. Another term used is habit, the form the gem is usually found in. For example, diamonds, which have a cubic crystal system, are often found as octahedrons.
Gemstones are classified into different groups, species, and varieties. For example, ruby is the red variety of the species corundum, while any other color of corundum is considered sapphire. Other examples are the Emerald (green), aquamarine (blue), red beryl (red), goshenite (colorless), heliodor (yellow), and morganite (pink), which are all varieties of the mineral species beryl.
Gems are characterized in terms of refractive index, dispersion, specific gravity, hardness, cleavage, fracture, and luster. They may exhibit pleochroism or double refraction. They may have luminescence and a distinctive absorption spectrum.
Material or flaws within a stone may be present as inclusions.
Gemstones may also be classified in terms of their “water”. This is a recognized grading of the gem’s luster, transparency, or “brilliance”. Very transparent gems are considered “first water”, while “second” or “third water” gems are those of a lesser transparency.
In the next article we will discuss about Precious Gemstones.