Precious and Semi-Precious Stones: What are the Differences?

23 April 2020

Stones that are used to make pieces of jewellery or other embellishments are known as gemstones. These stones are cut and polished before putting them into a piece of jewellery. Most of these stones are hard. However, there are a few soft minerals that are being used in jewellery since they have great aesthetic value. 

In the past, people would normally group gemstones into two categories: precious and semi-precious. One key difference between the two is their value differentiation before. However, this specific difference has started to diminish over time since value does not necessarily dictate the overall property of a stone. The quality, rarity, and provenance of these stones must be considered in identifying their distinct properties and differences if there are any.

Truth behind Gemstones Classification

Gemstones are truly labelled based on their chemical arrangement. This specific classification is used by a gemmologist or a person who identifies and studies gemstones, to determine the basic properties of a gemstone. For instance, gemmologists know that diamonds are made of carbon, while rubies are made from a variety of mineral corundum or aluminium oxide. 

Aside from chemical arrangement, gemstones can also be identified through numerous properties. These properties include crystalline formation, colour, dispersion, specific gravity, lustre, hardness, cleavage, fracture, and refractive index. While these properties can be used in grouping gemstones into precious or semi-precious ones, they are still inadequate to prove any defining differences between the two classifications. 

Four Primary Precious Stones 

Four main stones that are part of the precious category include diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. These stones are considered to be the most expensive and sought-after stones in the jewellery industry right now. 

Diamond is formed from pure carbon with a crystalline formation that is usually clear and colourless. This stone is also identified as the hardest natural substance on Earth since it ranks the highest on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness o 10. Emerald, on the other hand, is composed of the mineral beryl. Its greenish physical appearance comes from trace chromium and vanadium. Emerald is rated between 7.5 and 8.0 on the Mohs scale.

Sharing the same Mohs scale rating of 9.0 are rubies and sapphires. Ruby has varying shades of pale rose to purple or even dark crimson. The mineral corundum of ruby enables it to have red colouration. Alternatively, sapphire is a precious gemstone that is typically blue in colour. However, it can also acquire the colours of green, purple, yellow, and orange.

Worthy Semi-Precious Stones 

Contrary to popular belief, semi-precious stones today are believed to have equal footing with precious stones. They are now valuable since some of them are being sold at a higher price compared to precious stones. These stones may even provide better physical appearance, aesthetic value, and overall properties than their counterpart. Some precious stones are also more difficult to find, mine, and produce than precious gemstones. 

The list of gemstones under the semi-precious category can be stretched from A to Z. The total number of stones under this category may fall around 200 different types, which is a huge number compared to precious stones. Some examples of semi-precious stones include amethyst, aquamarine, black onyx, blue topaz, garnet, moonstone, opal, pearl, peridot, rose quartz, tanzanite, tourmaline, turquoise, and zircon.

Getting to know the truth behind the classification of gemstones can help you select the most valuable gemstone for you. You do not have to worry about not obtaining precious stones since some semi-precious stones can also offer the same or even better qualities than the former. If you have more questions about gemstones, just contact us at Ken Ross Jewellers. 

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