Discover the World of Gemstones
“Is that sapphire ring set with a natural sapphire, a treated sapphire, or a sapphire made in a laboratory? Are your opal earrings made entirely with opal, or are they fashioned from thin slices of opal pasted onto another (cheaper) material to make them look like the real thing? There’s a lot to consider before you buy gems and precious metals, but don’t worry — we’ll help you sort it out.”
-Carly Wickell About.com- Professional Jewelry Adviser
What is a Gemstone?
Natural gemstones are found in nature. Laboratory-created stones, as the name implies, are made in a laboratory. These stones, which also are referred to as laboratory-grown, manufacturer-created, or synthetic, have essentially the same chemical, physical, optical, and visual properties as natural gemstones. Laboratory- created stones do not have the rarity or value of natural colored gemstones. By contrast, imitation stones look like natural stones in appearance only, and may be a manmade or natural stone. Laboratory-created and imitation stones should be clearly identified as such.
A gemstone is the naturally occurring crystalline form of a mineral, which is desirable for its beauty, valuable in its rarity and durable enough to be enjoyed for generations. There are more than 40 popular gem varieties and many more rare collector gemstones. Although some gemstone varieties have been treasured since before history began and others were only discovered recently, they are nature’s gifts to us.
Gemstone treatments or enhancements refer to the way some gems are treated to improve their appearance or durability, or even change their color. Many gemstones are treated in some way. The effects of some treatments may lessen or change over time and some treated stones may require special care. Some enhancements also affect the value of a stone, when measured against a comparable untreated stone.
Laboratory-created gemstones, as the name implies, are made in a laboratory.
Gemstones may be measured by weight, size, or both. Like with diamonds, the basic unit for weighing other gemstones is the carat, which is equal to one-fifth (1/5th) of a gram. Carats are divided into 100 units, called points. For example, a half-carat gemstone would weigh .50 carats or 50 points. When gemstones are measured by dimensions, the size is expressed in millimeters (for example, 7×5 millimeters).
SHIMMERING BEAUTY HAS ITS PRICE.
But different varieties have different price ranges. This is where the prejudice comes in. Some varieties are lower in price because they are readily available, some because the color is not very popular, some because the material is relatively soft, and some because …they have all the right stuff but no one knows it. There are plenty of examples of beautiful rare gemstones that cost less than gems that are less rare because they have a funny name, or people get them confused with an inexpensive variety or no one has ever heard of them.
The price ranges of the different gem varieties can be divided into five basic categories: traditional gemstones, new classics, connoisseur gems, collector gemstones, and affordable gems. These categories have basic price ranges, but, again lower quality stones or stones with less popular colors may cost less and stones with particularly fine quality or color may cost more. These price ranges are extremely variable but provide a general idea of the relationship of prices between different kinds of gemstones.
Most familiar, are the traditional gemstones of ruby, emerald and blue sapphire. Because of their lasting appeal and distinguished history, ruby, emerald and sapphire are more valuable than other colored gemstones. Generally, ruby and emerald are also priced higher than a comparable quality sapphire due to rarity. For a one-carat stone of average to good quality in the varieties in this category, you can expect to pay between $250 and $10,000 per carat. Of course truly fine gems will cost more.
The new classics are gemstones that are the rising stars of gemstone jewelry: tanzanite, tourmaline, aquamarine, imperial topaz, and tsavorite garnet. These gemstones are sometimes available in standardized sizes but you really should look at some fine larger single stones to see why they have so many fans. Gems in this category range between $50 to $1,000 per carat for an average to good quality one-carat stone, with a good example of tsavorite easily reaching $3,000 per carat.
Connoisseur gems are gemstones that have a more specialized market because they are more rare. These gemstones include black opal, jadeite, pink topaz, chrysoberyl cat’s-eye, fancy colored sapphires, and rare stones like demantoid garnet and alexandrite. These gemstones are highly prized and prices range from $250 to $5,000 per carat, although alexandrite with a good color change will command at least $10,000 even in a one-carat size.
Collector’s gems are not available in quantity to be marketed effectively so you get a lot of beauty for the money. This category includes spinel, zircon, moonstone, morganite and other beryls, and many rare gemstones. Red and hot pink spinels can command a few thousand per carat but most of the gems in this category will sell for hundreds not thousands.
Then there are the affordable gemstones, which combine great color with a surprisingly reasonable price and good availability. These gems include some old favorites and some new gems: amethyst, white opal, citrine, ametrine, peridot, rhodolite garnet, blue topaz, iolite, chrome diopside, kunzite, andalusite, and many ornamental gemstones such as lapis lazuli, turquoise, onyx, chrysoprase, nephrite jade, and amber. Prices for these gemstones can start below $100 per carat for a one-carat stone.
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