Precious vs Semi Precious Gems: What Are the 7 Precious Stones? 

 January 31, 2022

By  Clark Pawners & Jewelers

Gemstones have fascinated mankind for thousands of years. Their beauty is evident in the intricate designs and vivid colors of jewelry, artifacts, and architecture from civilizations throughout history.

Even today, gemstones are among the most popular items in jewelry stores. They are transformed into symbols of love (wedding rings and engagement rings), family (heirloom jewelry) and religious belief. They have been seen as magical items, symbols of wealth and power, talismans for protection from evil, sources of inspiration to poets and writers… the list goes on.

But out of 300+ currently documented gemstones, a handful stand out as the centerpiece of beauty and intrigue.

They are called the precious gemstones.

What are the 7 precious stones?

Strictly speaking, there are only seven rare gemstones identified as precious stones. These are:

  1. Diamond
  2. Ruby
  3. Emerald
  4. Sapphire
  5. Pearl
  6. Oriental Catseye
  7. Alexandrite

Before we look at each gem quality in detail, let’s define gemstones first.

What are gemstones?

A gemstone are natural minerals l that have been cut and polished for ornamental use (e.g. jewelry). However, not all gemstones have a mineral origin. Others, like amber and pearl, are actually hardened organic substances.

What they all have in common is that the material they are made of has a high value both on the market or on an estimation because of their beauty, rarity and other characteristics.

The 7 Precious Stones of the World

Out of all the gems in the world, the diamond, ruby, emerald, sapphire, pearl, oriental cat’s eye, and alexandrite are the only ones considered precious stones:

1. Diamond

The most famous of all precious stones, diamonds have been treasured since ancient times as symbols of purity and eternal love. The word “diamond” comes from the Greek word ‘adamas,’ meaning indestructible and unconquerable.

At 10 the Mohs scale of hardness, diamonds are the hardest mineral and precious stone known to man. This means they don’t wear down or break easily. The most famous of all diamonds is the legendary Koh-i-Noor, which weighs at a magnificent 105.6 carat and the most expensive diamond on earth. Experts believe it to have been mined in the 1300s in India.

What makes it special: A diamond’s value comes mostly from its rarity (it takes billions of years to make even one) and its hardness (cleaving through anything like butter), but also from its physical properties and the fact that it only becomes more valuable over time.

In fact, diamonds are the most popular precious stone we get here at Clark Pawners and Jewelers. They are the centerpiece of many pieces of jewelry, from engagement rings to wedding rings, to pendants, class rings, necklaces, and so many more.

Not sure if your diamond jewelry is authentic? Learn how to use a flashlight to check if a diamond is real.

2. Ruby

Rubies are another ancient gemstone that have been prized for their rich red color. They are the red variety of corundum, which is a crystalline form of aluminum oxide. The color of ruby comes from the replacement of some aluminum atoms by chromium.

They score a 9 on the Mohs hardness scale, just right after diamond (10) which makes rubies one of the strongest substances in the world.

They come in a variety of deep red hues, from red-purple to red-orange. Of all, the red shade known as “Pigeon Blood” is considered the most rare and valuable. Some rubies are also fluorescent, which makes them shine more brilliantly under sunlight. This is another sought-after property in rubies.

The ancient Chinese believed that rubies were drops of sun blood fallen to earth, while ancient Hindus believed they were incarnations of the god Krishna. Over time, these gemstones became popular with Egyptian pharaohs, Mogul emperors and European monarchs as well as commoners.

This makes rubies a popular alternative gemstone for diamond engagement rings or other settings calling for more colorful jewels. Among all colored gemstones, rubies gross the highest per-carat according to the GIA.

Did you know? Sapphires and rubies are both corundum, so they’re exactly the same, only with different trace elements in the crystal structure which make it blue instead of red.

3. Emerald

The emerald has long been known as the most beautiful of the green gems and is now recognized as one of the world’s most valuable commodities. The word emerald derives from the Greek word “smaragdus,” which is an ancient term for green.

As a mineral, the emerald belongs to the beryl family. It’s formed when iron, vanadium, and chromium are present in beryl. The varying presence of these three elements gives the emerald its range of color, from yellowish green to greenish blue. Iron gives it a bluish tint, while vanadium and chromium make a rich, intense green color that resembles the lushest forests..

Like diamonds, many cultures believe emeralds hold mystical and healing powers. Kings, queens, conquerors, and countless cultures and traditions throughout history have cherished emeralds for their stone’s strength, beauty, and power. They were thought to attract wealth, health, wisdom, and long life.

Today, emeralds are a staple in jewelry design. Whether it’s a ring, earrings, or a necklace, emeralds are often the most prized stone on the piece. They’re also the birthstone for May and represent 25th and 35th wedding anniversaries.

4. Oriental Cat’s Eye

Aka cymophane, Cat’s Eye chrysoberyl or chatoyant chrysoberyl, this breathtaking gem is exceedingly rare. It’s one of the most fascinating stones on this list and it looks exactly as it sounds: the beautiful eyes of a cat.

The name cymophane borrows from the Greek word which means “appearing like a wave.” This refers to the hazy, opalescent waves that appear in these gemstones. However, the Oriental cat’s eye has the sharpest eye of all cat’s eyes thanks to fine silk inclusions.

This stone comes in several colors such as green, yellowish brown, and honey brown (the optimum color). When light strikes this gem obliquely, it creates a shadow effect within the stone. You’ll see rich browns on the side away from the light and a yellowish white on the opposite side. For stones at 20 carats, this effect translates into expensive values.

Buyer beware: Because this stone is rarely found, fake cat’s eyes have been frequently sold as the real thing. If you’re looking to buy this stone, never purchase it without a reliable certificate of authenticity. Feel free to drop by the Clark Pawners shop if you’d like a reliable appraisal.

5. Sapphire

Like rubies, sapphires come from the mineral corundum. Trace elements like titanium iron, and magnesium give it the trademark blue hue. The name comes from “saphirues,” the Latin word for blue.

Despite this, sapphires come in a rainbow of colors. Aka fancy sapphires, they come in a variety of colors including green, purple, pink, reddish orange and yellow. Some sapphires exhibit color changing, a phenomenon that changes them from blue to purple depending on the lighting.

Sapphires are found in a variety of locations around the world including India, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. The Kashmir region on the border of Pakistan and India is especially famous for the velvety and intense colors of its sapphires.

Jewelry designers love the riot of colors brought on by fancy sapphires. Sapphires are especially durable (9 on the Mohs scale), making them perfect for earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.

6. Pearl

Natural earls are a curious addition to this list. Unlike other gemstones, pearls are not made from minerals. Instead, they’re formed when irritants like a piece of sand work their way into an oyster or other mollusk.

To defend itself against the irritant, the mollusk will coat it with layer after layer of its fluid secretion. Eventually, this process creates a lustrous pearl. In other words, the origin of pearls are organic, not geological.

Despite this, pearls are still considered one of the 7 precious stones. They were previously reserved for royalty, but today, their rarity and beauty make them a jeweler’s favorite.

Pearls come in four types: Akoya, South Sea, Tahitian and freshwater. Akoya pearls come from the saltwater oyster and are usually white or cream colors with a pearly luster. South Sea pearls are more rare and come in gold, yellow, and champagne in addition to the usual cream.

Akoya pearls are considered the definitive examples of pearls with its soft cream or white color, luminous pink and silver tones, and its perfectly round shape.

Finally, we have the Tahitian pearls, considered the rarest of the four. Tahitian pearls come from the black-lipped oyster in French Polynesia. Unlike most pearls which are white, Tahitian pearls come in a gorgeous black. They have a velvety luster and range from light grey to dark black, with some exhibiting an iconic silvery “rainbow” over the surface.

If you’re looking to fill your jewelry box with something truly show-stopping, pearls are a great pick.

7. Alexandrite

Fondly called “nature’s magic trick,” Alexandrite is a color-changing chrysoberyl. Due to its ultra-rare color-changing qualities, this stone holds a place of honor among the seven precious stones.

The colors of this chameleon gemstone changes from emerald to ruby hues depending on the light source. Hold it near an incandescent light source, such as a candle or a lamp, and an alexandrite will radiate purplish reds. Hold it up to the sunlight or fluorescent lights, and it shines in a beautiful green.

Alexandrites are not the only gems that exhibit color changes, but this precious stone has the most striking color change of them all.

The scarcity of alexandrite has made it one of the most expensive gems in the world. Yet, if you’ve got serious money to spare, this gem will make an unforgettable addition to your jewelry box.

And there you have it – the seven precious stones! Rare, stunning, and most of all, beautiful. These stones can’t fail to impress with their spellbinding beauty.

Beyond these seven, however, there are many other gemstones that deserve a place of honor in your collection. These are called semi precious stones.

What are Semi Precious Stones?

A semi precious stone is any gemstone that’s not classified as precious. So that pretty much covers every other gemstone out there. Some of the most well-known semi precious stones are:

  • Amber
  • Amethyst
  • Agate
  • Lapis Lazuli
  • Onyx
  • Red beryl
  • Aquamarine
  • Rose quartz
  • Tourmaline
  • Jade
  • Black opal
  • Zircon
  • Opal

Despite their classification, most semi precious stones are no less valuable or rare than precious stones.

Gem Classification: Precious Stones vs. Semi Precious Stones

In the past, gems were generally classified as precious and semi precious stones, based on their presumed value.

Under precious stones were the “Big Four,” which are diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. Under the category of semi precious stones was a larger selection of gemstones that include amethyst, topaz, garnet, beryl, and more.

Today, however, professional jewelers do not use the terms semi precious stones and precious stones. They are not an indicator of price, value, or rarity anymore.

For example, garnet gems are considered semi precious stones, but they can sell at thousands of dollars more than some diamonds, which have always been classified as precious gemstones.

In fact, some of the most expensive gemstones in the world are not precious stones at all. For instance, Musgravite can fetch as much as $35, 000 per carat. Some Jadeite gems are priced at $3 million per carat. Both are considered semi precious stones but fetch some of the highest prices in modern times.

Diamonds and Colored Stones

You’ll also find sub-categories even within the precious gemstones themselves. For example, gem dealers and cutters divide gemstones into diamonds and colored stones.

Colored stones are simply everything that isn’t a diamond.

There are two main reasons for this classification:

Gem Cutting Tools

The first reason is practical. Gem cutters use specialized tools when working with diamonds, which are the hardest natural substance on the planet. With very few exceptions, diamond-cutting tools are not suitable for use with other precious stones and semi precious stones. Therefore, gem cutters coined the distinction to identify which tools they would need for any given project.

Mining and Distribution

The second reason is more complex. Did you know that diamonds are one of the very few precious gemstones with a consistent supply? In fact, there are several colored gemstones and semi precious gemstones that are much more rare than diamonds.

But through monopoly, controlled distribution, and marketing, the diamond industry has cultivated the narrative that diamonds are some of the rarest stones in the world. This is why diamonds can be worth so much more than colored gemstones and semi precious gemstones at the retail level.

Under the diamonds vs. colored stones classification, even fancy-colored diamonds such as the pink star diamond are considered diamonds.

Similarly, even colorless semi precious gemstones such as colorless sapphires and topaz fall under colored stone. They are also graded as such.

In other words, this distinction between different gemstones is not actually based on color, but on the gem industry at large.

How to Determine the Value of Your Precious Stone or Semi Precious Gemstones

Knowing how to determine the value of a gemstone jewelry can help you decide if the deal is a good one, to negotiate a better price, or to cancel the deal altogether if they turn out to be synthetic gemstones instead.

When evaluating a semi precious stone or a precious gemstone, there are several factors that come into play. These include:

The Clarity of the Stone

This is probably the most important factor that determines the value of a precious stone or semi precious stones. It’s also the easiest to explain.

The higher clarity grade a stone has, the more valuable it will be. Stones with high clarity grades appear clean and free of inclusions or blemishes. The less visible they are, the closer their color and brilliance — and by extension, their value — is to an ideal gemstone: perfectly clear and flawless.

Inclusions, on the other hand, can cause many stones to lose value. Small ones may not be very noticeable and do not impact a stone’s value too much. However, larger or many inclusions can produce a different type of blemish called a “feather,” which reduces the clarity grade of popular gemstones. Common minerals with many inclusions are less valuable — sometimes, by a wide margin.

The Rarity of the Stone

This factor also determines the achieved importance and value of gemstones. Gems that are more rare will generally be worth more than so called common gemstones, even if they have lower clarity grades or fewer facets. Rarity is based on how often the stone appears naturally and its distribution across the world versus other gems.

The Carat Weight of the Stone

This is one of the most straightforward factors that determines gemstone value. The larger a stone, the more valuable it will be. This holds true for many gems. Determining whether or not to buy a large stone or multiple stones depends on your preference and budget.

The Color of the Stone

Whereas clarity grades are based on how clean a stone appears, color grades are measured according to their hue. Colors also have multiple shades within them that can affect gemstone value.

Generally speaking, the more vivid and bright a stone’s color is, the higher its value will be. This holds true for almost all colored gemstones, except for the colorless diamonds.

The Cut of the Stone

This factor determines how well a stone has been cut. It also contributes to its brilliance, which is affected mainly by its clarity grade and color grade.

Stones that have not been cut with precision have less sparkle than those that have. However, this does not affect their value too much unless the cutting damage is very visible.

Finally, the best way to determine the value of a colored gemstone is to consult an expert. Keep in mind that the value of gemstones keep changing due to market fluctuations, so don’t rely on generic price guides or online calculators alone.

Get an Honest and Professional Gem Appraisal in Chicago

Walk into Clark Pawners and Jewelers today and get a free appraisal for your gemstone jewelry. Every appraisal can help you determine the fair market value of your gemstone.

As one of the oldest and most trusted pawn shops in Chicago, we buy and sell all types of fine jewelry, including diamonds, gold, and more. We pride ourselves on offering fair prices to our customers and an excellent experience. See if your item is on this list, and if not, call or visit us to check!

Need fast cash in Chicago? We also accept a wide range of items, from fine jewelry and watches to musical instruments and electronics. Cash loans are available too.

Finally, we also offer beautiful, authentic pieces at amazing deals. Explore our collection of designer’s items, engagement rings, pre-owned Rolex watches, and electronics such as laptops, TVs, and professional audio equipment.

Learn more about Clark Pawners & Jewelers by checking out the rest of our website or calling us today at 847-485-1964.

Clark Pawners & Jewelers is your trusted pawn shop in Chicago. We buy and sell jewelry, diamonds, gold and more, aside from offering cash loans.

Clark Pawners & Jewelers

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