Gemstones are a blend of elegance, durability and style created by Mother Nature. They capture our imaginations with their signature colours, sparkle, beauty and rarity. Gemstone jewellery is the main use of gemstones and I am delighted to be able to create wonderful designs for my customers with these wonders of nature. This blog post introduces you to gemstones and their different types. It explains my reasons for making gemstone jewellery and briefly presents gemstones included in my collections.
Definition of Gemstones
Minerals and rocks used in jewellery or as ornaments are known as gemstones and are highly prized for their beauty, durability, and rarity. For centuries people used them as religious symbols, decorative ornaments, amulets and even good luck charms. The main requirement to be considered a gemstone is its beauty, durability and rarity. Features like colour, pattern and lustre make it truly special.
There are more than 2000 identified natural minerals. Around 100 are used as gemstones and only 16 are important. These are beryl, chrysoberyl, corundum, diamond, feldspar, garnet, jade, lazurite, olivine, opal, quartz, spinel, topaz, tourmaline, turquoise and zircon.
Pearls, red coral and amber make the classification as gemstones even though they are of organic origin.
Gemstones must be beautiful to be considered gemstones. They are diverse in their beauty; many are available in stunning shades, colours and unique patterns. No two are the same making each piece special. Gemstone jewellery allows us to be closer to nature by wearing precious and semi-precious stones. This type of jewellery is versatile, fits perfectly with many outfits and can be found in many colours.
Gemstones have to be durable to last daily wear and tear, heat, light and chemicals. They have different properties, giving them different tolerance to these factors. Hardness, toughness and stability are important when determining gemstones’ durability.
Gemstones’ hardness shows how well they can resist scratches and abrasions. The Mohs scale ranks them on a relative scale based on their scratch hardness. Gemstones’ toughness measures their resistance to breaking and chipping which depends on the way the atoms bond together. Stability refers to how well gemstones can withstand exposure to chemicals, light and changes in temperature or humidity.
Many factors contribute to the value of a gemstone. The important one is a rarity, since the rarer the material, the higher its price. On the other hand, some minerals are very common in nature but are sufficiently lovely to be in high demand like semi-precious stones.
My Fascination with Gemstones
Semi-precious stones spark my creativity. The range of sizes, cuts, colours, textures and shapes is endless. It is highly inspiring to design and make versatile jewellery, from delicate to bold, and work with such a variety of semi-precious stones.
It is a wonderful feeling when my customers can effortlessly achieve a multitude of stylish looks while wearing something Mother Nature created.
Sustainability is so important in today’s modern world and the semi-precious stones, sterling silver and vermeil I use in my designs are natural materials that have a long life span.
Jewellery is often given as a gift to mark important rites of passage in people’s lives. The abundant world of gemstones can make these choices easier. I am delighted to make designs for my customers to mark important occasions.
The captivating world of gemstones’ meanings and symbolism offers us emotional and mental support in important moments. By wearing them we carry our intentions at all times and are constantly reminded of our purpose. Crystals can boost our energy, bring calm, enhance our intuition and boost our confidence.
Types of Gemstones
The field of gemstones is fascinating and so vast that it is impossible to use a single method of classifying them. Different classifications serve different purposes. In this blog, I will mention those that are important to my gemstone jewellery collections.
Precious and Semi-Precious
The terms precious and semi-precious stones have been used to categorise gemstones. Term precious gemstones only include four: diamond, ruby, sapphire and emerald. All others have been considered semi-precious stones. Today gemmologists use these terms less because it implies that some gemstones are better or worth more than others. Nowadays it can be the case that some semi-precious stones are worth far more than so-called precious gemstones.
One distinction between precious and semi-precious stones is the difference in hardness. In general, precious gemstones rank higher up on the Mohs scale of hardness, with diamonds being a 10 out of 10 and rubies and sapphires at a 9 out of 10.
Semi-precious stones are durable and can be used for jewellery, even though they are slightly more delicate than diamonds, sapphires and rubies.
Natural and Synthetic
Natural gemstones form in nature and usually take millions of years to develop. On the other hand, synthetic gemstones grow in laboratories. These two types can have the same properties. However, their value and aesthetic characteristics distinguish them greatly. As natural gemstones take much longer to form their value is higher than synthetic ones. Their natural profile and aesthetics are other characteristics that make people value natural gemstones more.
Organic and Inorganic
Pearls, red coral and amber make the classification as gemstones even though they are of organic noncrystalline origin. Organics refer to gemstones whose formation involves living organisms. Pearls are formed in molluscs while amber is made from the resins of tree trunks. When coral polyps die the hardened skeleton remains and this material is used as a gemstone. Inorganic gemstones are all other gemstones, formed in the Earth’s crust.
A mix of minerals makes rocks. Lapis Lazuli is the best-known gemstone, a rock made of three minerals. Lazurite is the most notable one while pyrites make speckles of yellow and calcite adds white intrusions. Some minerals are not suitable as gemstones. Some are too soft, fragile or not considered attractive.
Difference Between Gemstones and Crystals
The terms gemstone and crystal are often used interchangeably even though there is a difference between the two. Crystals can be gemstones and gemstones can be crystals, but that is not as simple as it appears….
Crystals are pure substances that have molecules arranged in a regular geometric pattern. They can be cubic, tetragonal or hexagonal crystals. Quartz is a great example of a well-known crystal which is also a gemstone. All crystals are not gemstones and sugar or salt are good examples.
Gemstones are minerals of exceptional beauty, durability and rarity. Gemstones are classified by their chemical composition while crystals are classified by their shape. A gemstone can be a crystal whereas a crystal will not always be a gemstone as explained above.
Meaning and Symbolism
Gemstones and crystals are believed to hold symbolic meaning and healing powers. Throughout history, having something physical that represents faith and spirituality was a pressing need for people. In some ways, crystals have fulfilled these spiritual needs. The essence and symbolism of gemstones and crystals also come from their durability, strength, maturity and beauty.
In many civilisations, gemstones have been appreciated for their spiritual powers just as much as their beauty. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans adorned themselves in protective amulets, pendants and bracelets made of lapis lazuli, carnelian, amber, agate and quartz. Although gemstones do not cure illness, they may promote mindfulness for some, which can lead to emotional and physical healing.
Gemstones are treated to change or improve their appearance. In reality, all gemstones are altered after finding them in the Earth’s crust to be able to use in jewellery. Additionally, different methods can enhance gemstones’ colour or clarity. Popular methods include heating under controlled conditions, exposure to X-rays or radium, bleaching or applying pigment to the base facets.
Gemstones are formed under a variety of conditions in the Earth's crust, which is why they are rarely perfect. Imperfections are different naturally occurring characteristics in gemstones. These impurities often give them their colour. The most common impurities can be inclusions or fractures.
External flaws that might be found in gemstones include blemishes, small chips or scratches. Internal flaws may include internal fractures or inclusions such as; other crystals, gas-filled bubbles and insects which get trapped during the gemstone's formation. These imperfections make each gemstone truly unique.
Gemstones of Ireland
Connemara marble is the most known Irish gemstone. It is a rare and attractive stone found only on Ireland’s rocky wild Atlantic coast. There is evidence of the stone being used by humans for thousands of years creating some amazing history around it. It has been quarried and exported for use worldwide.
Gemstone in My Jewellery Collection
During my years of working with gemstones, I have become attracted to each of them at different stages and decided to include them in my gemstone jewellery. You can find below a brief introduction to each gemstone and its meaning. I have grouped them by colour as colours greatly affect the beauty and popularity of each gemstone.
Amazonite is a translucent to opaque feldspar gemstone with a pretty green colour. Its colour can range from pale green to dark green and blue-green. Amazonite is called the stone of courage and the stone of truth. It empowers one to search the self, discover one’s truths and integrity, and move beyond fear of judgment or confrontation with others.
Agate is a variety of chalcedony which is a form of quartz. Agate can show a wide variety of vivid, multiple colours. In my collection, I have green agate and grey agate. It is believed to attract strength and offer protection from bad dreams, stress and the draining of energy. Agate is said to balance energies and awaken talents.
Lapis Lazuli is a rock made of three minerals. It is semi-translucent to opaque, with a waxy to vitreous lustre. Its colour ranges from deep violet-blue and royal blue to light blue. Lapis Lazuli is one of the most sought-after gemstones in use since man’s history began. Its deep, celestial blue remains the symbol of royalty and honour, gods and power, spirit and vision. It is a universal symbol of wisdom and truth.
Turquoise is the birthstone for December and the gemstone that marks the 11th wedding anniversary. Turquoise is a porous semi-translucent to opaque mineral with a waxy or vitreous lustre. The colours range from light to dark blue or blue-green with the typical “robin egg” blue colour as the most praised. It is the stone of protection and is believed to bring happiness and good luck to the wearer.
Angelite is a calming stone that can help ease overwhelming emotions. Angelite invites you to find within the feelings of love and support that you are looking for outside of yourself. Angelite has soothing and nurturing blue colour and energy.
Amethyst is the most popular variety of quartz. It has been highly admired throughout the ages for its stunning beauty and legendary powers to stimulate and soothe, the mind and emotions. It is the stone of St. Valentine, faithful love and marks the 6th wedding anniversary. It carries the energy of fire, passion, creativity and spirituality. It is the birthstone for February.
Rose Quartz is a pink form of quartz. It is known as the stone of unconditional love. The soothing energy of Rose Quartz fosters empathy, reconciliation, and forgiveness of others. Rose Quartz adds loving energy to relationships, bringing calm and peace. Lowering stress and tension in the heart, Rose Quartz clears out anger, jealousy, and resentment of others.
Garnets are a set of closely related minerals forming a group with gemstones in almost every colour. Garnet is the birthstone for January and the stone that celebrates the 2nd wedding anniversary. It suggests eternal friendship and trust and is the perfect gift for a friend. There is a belief that it can stabilise chaos, regardless of whether it is internal or external.
Red Aventurine is a form of quartz, characterised by its translucency and the presence of inclusions that give it a shimmering or glistening effect. Aventurine comes mostly in green but can be red, orange, brown, yellow, blue or grey. Red Aventurine is a “can do” stone of vitality and renewal, creating confidence and capability wherever it is needed. Red Aventurine enhances creativity and prosperity and diffuses negativity.
Yellow Jade is pronounced “yu” in Chinese, meaning “the most beautiful stone”. Yellow Jade symbolises wealth, good fortune and friendship. It is energetic and stimulating, yet mellow. It brings joy and happiness. Yellow Jade is the gemstone which is used to celebrate the 12th wedding anniversary.
Tridacna gemstones are carved from giant clam shells. They have a pearl lustre and glossy pure white colour. Tridacna is one of the most important spiritual stones for Buddhists, it is said to protect you from evil spirits. Tridacna can stabilise mood, eliminate worry, soothe frightened nerves and help insomnia.
Freshwater Pearls encourage faith, loyalty and truth. They have long been associated with purity, humility and innocence. Wearing pearls gives the wearer a sense of confidence and assurance. Pearls are calming and carry maternal, nurturing and supportive vibrations. Pearls are the birthstone for June.
Mother of pearl is the iridescent inside lining of a mollusc shell. The lining is made of nacre which is an organic substance that gives the mother of pearl its shimmery effect and distinct beauty. Mother of pearl shell is commonly believed to attract prosperity and is known to spark one’s imagination, insights, creativity, and sensitivity.
Labradorite is a type of feldspar mineral. It is treasured for its remarkable play of colour, known as labradorescence. As it is known for its changing colours it is considered a gemstone of transformation, enhancing the strength of will and inner worth. The gemstone usually comes in base colours of grey-green, dark grey, black, or greyish-white.
Onyx is a type of chalcedony which is a form of quartz. Black Onyx is a powerful protection stone. It absorbs and transforms negative energy and helps to prevent the drain of personal energy. It is a strength-giving stone and is also known as the wedding anniversary gemstone marking the 7th anniversary.
The divine beauty of gemstones has been the inspiration for many civilisations since the beginning of history. It is no wonder I am inspired by their beauty, colours, meaning and symbolism. It is a joy to be surrounded by them daily while creating a variety of gemstone jewellery designs. Gemstones’ natural origin and abundant choice make them the most versatile material to work with for which I am truly appreciative!