The World's Finest Handcrafted Designer Jewelry

Semi-Precious Gemstone Education

The line between what constitutes "precious" or "semiprecious" gemstones has more to do with historical context than any objective measure of its current value. Historically, the so-called "precious" or "cardinal gems" include diamond, emerald, ruby, and sapphire, but also included amethyst, which is currently both abundant and inexpensive.

Other than historic, ceremonial, or religious reasons, there is no significance in labeling a gem "precious" or "semiprecious." There is no actual difference between these designations, and the use of that terminology can be misleading, inappropriate, and inaccurate. In fact, some of the stones in the ‘semi-precious category might well be considered "precious," due to their increasing scarcity, high price, or changing consumer tastes. Therefore, inclusion or omission of a particular gemstone/mineral in the "precious" or "semiprecious" category should neither diminish nor enhance a stone's prestige or monetary value.

LAPIS GEMS USED IN JEWELRY

Prehnite Crystals Gemstones

Source: Afghanistan, Egypt, Canada, Chile, Myanmar, Russia, South America, USA

Lapis is considered a rock, not a mineral. It combines various minerals, mostly lazurite, but also contains calcite (white), sodalite (blue) and pyrite (fools' gold, a metallic yellow). To be considered a mineral, it would have to consist of only one component. Top quality lapis lazuli comes from Afghanistan where it has been mined for more than 6000 years, but is also found in Siberia, Chile, the U.S., Pakistan, and Canada.

A strong blue, sometimes with a hint of violet, lapis lazuli's value decreases with the presence of white patches (calcite), while small veins of pyrite are often prized. The Egyptians used lapis for seals, ground it for an eyelid cosmetic, and often carved it into vases and figurines. 

A soft stone, 5 -5.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness, lapis lazuli is one of the most valuable semi- opaque stones.

LAPIS FOLKLORE, LEGEND AND HEALING PROPERTIES:

Lapis is said to intensify total awareness, heighten creativity, enhance ESP, boost thyroid, and help to expand viewpoint. It is believed to improve sleep and cure insomnia. Lapis was believed to maintain the skeleton in healthy condition while keeping the spirit free from the negative emotions of fear and jealousy.

Lapis is used to energize the throat chakra and when placed over the brow chakra it induces a heightened state of awareness.

MALACHITE GEMS USED IN JEWELRY

Malachite Gemstones

Source: Congo, Egypt, France, Namibia, Siberia, South Australia, USA (Arizona), Urals, Zaire

Malachite is a popular stone which has ranges from very light green to deep forest green. Some malachite has occasional irregular black banding. Perhaps one of the first "gemstones" used by humans, the ancient Egyptians mined malachite as early as 5000 BC. Malachite was mined in the eastern deserts of Egypt, the Sinai, and at the King Solomon's Mines in Israel's Timna valley. It was not only used to craft jewelry, but it was also used as a colorfast pigment in paint, cosmetic eye-shadow, and in glazing. Specimens of malachite contain special combinations with other minerals, such as azurite, cuprite, or chrysocolla. It ranges between 3.5 to 4 on the Mohs scale of hardness.

FOLKLORE, LEGEND AND HEALING PROPERTIES:

Malachite’s powers include providing protection and security, power, inner peace, hope, love, and success in business.   It is worn to detect impending danger, and it is assumed to break into pieces when danger is near. It is the guardian stone of travelers.

BLACK ONYX USED IN JEWELRY

Rough & Polished Onyx Gemstones

Source: Occurring worldwide

Onyx is chalcedony quartz that is mined in Brazil, India, California, and Uruguay. It usually has a fine texture and black color; however, some onyx also displays white bands, or ribbons, against a black or brown background. This variety is known as sardonyx. 

Originally, almost all colors of chalcedony, from white to reddish brown, dark brown, black, and banded, were called onyx. Today when we think of onyx we often preface the word with black to distinguish it from other varieties. It is a 6.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness, meaning that onyx is a very good stone for use in carving.

FOLKLORE, LEGEND AND HEALING PROPERTIES:

The name comes from the Greek word ‘onyx,’ which means nail of a finger or claw. Legend says that one day while Venus was sleeping Eros/Cupid cut her fingernails and left the clippings scattered on the ground.  Because no part of a heavenly body can die, the gods turned those clippings into stone which later became known as onyx.

Onyx is thought to increase regeneration, heighten happiness, boost intuition, and intensify instincts. It is also thought to decrease sexual desire, and it is said to help change bad habits. Onyx is said to bring mental and emotional balance as well as strength of mind, as it helps focus one’s attention.

MOTHER-OF-PEARL JEWELRY

Mother of Pearl Gemstones

Source: Australia (Broome), Worldwide

Mother-of-pearl is similar to pearls in chemical composition. Unlike a pearl, which is the result of nacre secretions emitted to protect the mollusk from a foreign irritant entering the shell, mother-of-pearl comes from the actual shell of the animal. This natural secretion of calcium carbonate and aragonite causes the two main visual aspects that define mother-of-pearl: pearly luster and iridescence. Although far more abundant, and therefore, far less valuable than pearls, mother-of-pearl has been a major component in jewelry and decorative arts for thousands of years. From ancient Egypt and Persia, to ancient China, mother-of-pearl has been a prized semi-precious gemstone throughout human history. From the early 1900s, the coastal region of Broome, in Western Australia has been one of the largest producers of mother-of-pearl, accounting for up to 80% of world supply.

LAPIS FOLKLORE, LEGEND AND HEALING PROPERTIES:

It may be that a bride wearing mother-of-pearl will not cry during her wedding ceremony. Those worried about danger carry a pearl for protection. Even today, divers carry a pearl to protect them from sharks and other dangers of the deep. Intuition, sensitivity, and imagination are said to be enhanced by wearing mother-of-pearl. It may also reduce high blood pressure, improve vision, and heal wounds.

TURQUOISE USED IN JEWELRY

Turquoise Gemstones

Source: Australia, China, Iran, Sinai, Southwest USA (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico), Mexico

The name Turquoise is apparently related to the fact that it was brought to Europe from the Eastern Mediterranean by Levantine traders, more commonly known as Turks. It’s been used as a valuable ornament for ages and was used by the Egyptians thousands of years ago. The color is, of course, turquoise, but its range of color varies from green and greenish blue to sky blue shades.

For centuries, the most valuable turquoise came from Iran (Persia). Today, some specimens mined in the southwestern United States compete with it.  The name "Persian Turquoise" is now generally used to refer to any turquoise stone that does not have the black or brown veining commonly found in turquoise mined in the United States which is used in a style of jewelry created by Native Americans.

FOLKLORE, LEGEND AND HEALING PROPERTIES:

Turquoise attracts money, success and love. Its powers include protection, healing, courage, friendship, and luck. Relaxes the mind, and eases mental tension. It is sometimes called “the Master Healing Stone,” since there are reputed to be so many benefits from wearing turquoise.

JADE USED IN JEWELRY

Jade Crystals Gemstones

Source: Burma (Myanmar), China, Coastal California (USA), Mexico, New Zealand

Jade is the term applied to forms of jadeite and nephrite. These minerals are similar in appearance and, in the past, a distinction between the two was often not made. Because of its more intense color and translucency, jadeite now brings higher prices and is thought to be the true jade.

The most valuable form of jade is known as Imperial Jade and comes from Myanmar and is an emerald green color. Jade also appears in mottled green and white, as well as the more rare colors of yellow, pink, purple, and black. The ranges of greens are light to dark, creamy, and grayish. A leek green variety called "Russian Jade" is found near Lake Baikal in Russia.

Jade is also found in Mexico, and Central and South America. Because of its smooth even texture, jade has long been a preferred material for carving and is usually cut into cabochons for jewelry.

 The color of the stone is the most important factor but translucency and texture are important criteria determining price. Jade is a 6 1/2-7 on the Mohs scale of hardness.

FOLKLORE, LEGEND AND HEALING PROPERTIES:

Jade is thought to protect the kidneys, liver, spleen, heart, larynx, thymus, and thyroid. Ancient people thought that wearing jade would increase body strength and add longevity. Jade is an ancient symbol of love and virtue. It is also thought to bring emotional balance.

LABRADORITE USED IN JEWELRY

Labradorite Crystals Gemstones

Source: Canada, Finland, Labrador, Madagascar, Mexico, Russia

Spectrolite, the most valued type of Labradorite, comes from Finland. The name is derived from Labrador which is the main and original source of the Canadian variety of this feldspar stone. Labradorite is also found in India, Madagascar, Newfoundland, and Russia.

A type of translucent feldspar which displays strong iridescence when viewed from different angles, Finnish spectrolite exhibits vivid colors of bright aqua, golden yellow, peacock blue, reddish orange, greens and red. It is a 6-6.5 on the Mohs scale.

FOLKLORE, LEGEND AND HEALING PROPERTIES:

Labradorite is said to heighten each person's strengths, increase originality, aid sleep, and help one relate to others.

OPAL USED IN JEWELRY

Opal Gemstones

Source: Australia, Ethiopia, Mexico, USA

Black opal comes from the Lightning Ridge region of Northern New South Wales. It is the most rare and valuable opal. Fine quality black opals often cost more per carat than diamonds. The term black opal is misleading because the stone is not actually black, but, instead, it has a very dark base. This base enhances the brilliant colors known as "fire”.

Boulder opal occurs in the boulder opal belt, an area between the New South Wales border and northwest Queensland. Boulder opal forms on a dark ironstone base (the host rock) and occurs as a thin uneven layer adhering to the ironstone. Because of the uneven layers, sometimes part of the ironstone is visible on the surface of the stone. Boulder opal is found in Australia where precious opal forms in veins and patches within brown ironstone boulders. When the opal is mixed through the ironstone it is called matrix opal. Queensland boulder opal accounts for a small percentage of the world market, and because of its brilliance and rarity, it can bring up to $1000 a carat.

Light opal refers to both the crystal type opal (translucent) and the milky opal (opaque), which is the most common variety of opal, and is generally less expensive than a gem quality light opal. Brilliantly colored light opals may be quite expensive with a value exceeding some black and boulder opals. Brilliance or luster is one of the primary factors that determine an opal's value. An opal with strong intensity and color play has high value.

Hardness ranges between 5.5 and 6 on the Mohs scale. Boulder opal is very durable due to the ironstone backing the pal forms on. Because water content within the opal is very low it almost never cracks or crazes as it ages.

HEALING PROPERTIES:

Opals aid inner beauty, enhance faithfulness, improve eyesight, and help recall past lives.

SMOKEY QUARTZ USED IN JEWELRY

Smokey Quartz Gemstones

Source: Scottish Highlands

Smoky quartz is an earth toned transparent quartz that comes in a variety of shades, including cognac. Also known as champagne on ice, smoky quartz gets its rich warm colors from color centers related to aluminum. A variety of smoky quartz is cairngorm, which owes its name to the legendary source in the Scottish Highlands. Smoky quartz is the national gem of Scotland, whose national scepter includes a large smoky quartz.

FOLKLORE, LEGEND AND HEALING PROPERTIES:

Folklorists classify quartz as a receptive gemstone credited with the ability to attract positive energies, such as peace and love. The subtle energy of quartz is said to balance the emotions, giving inner peace, harmony, and enhancing the bonds of relationships. It is also said to calm aggression and increase self-esteem.

CITRINE USED IN JEWELRY

 

Citrine Gemstones

Source:  South America, Ural Mountains of Russia, Dauphine, France, and Madagascar

Citrine is a variety of quartz whose crystals can form together with amethyst or smoky quartz to form bi-colored quartz called ametrine.

Almost all citrine available on the market today is heat-treated amethyst. Natural citrine is pale yellow to pale orange, much lighter than the heat-treated material which is dark orange-brown to reddish-brown. All of the heat-treated material has a red tint, while natural citrine does not.

Darker colors are considered most valuable, including the medium golden orange and dark sherry-colors.

Citrine may be mistaken for the more expensive orangish-yellow topaz and, at times, may be sold as topaz by dishonest gemstone vendors. Due to this, citrine buyers are sometimes suspicious of any citrine and think it may actually be fake topaz. Citrine is a 7.0 on the scale of hardness.

Folklore, Legend, and Healing Properties:

Citrine is believed to help the heart, kidney, digestive tract, liver and muscles. It promotes creativity, helps personal clarity, and eliminates self-destructive tendencies.

WHITE & BLUE TOPAZ USED IN JEWELRY

White and Blue Topaz Gemstones

Source: Brazil, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Russia

The name topaz comes from Sanskrit and means fire.

Topaz occurs in a wide range of colors including red, orange, peach, pink, gold, yellow, brown, and clear. Naturally pale to medium blue topaz is enhanced by irradiation to produce a more intense blue color.

Red and pink topaz gems were used in the jewelry of the 18th and 19th Century Imperial Russia, and preferred by Czarinas. That is the reason topaz is sometimes called "Imperial Topaz."

The most famous topaz is actually a colorless stone that was originally thought to be a diamond. It is a 1680 carat stone known as the "Braganza Diamond" set in the Portuguese Crown Jewels. Another beautiful topaz is in the Green Vault in Dresden which houses one of the world's most important gem collections.

Although topaz is a very hard gemstone, an 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness, it can be split with a single blow and should be protected from hard knocks.

FOLKLORE, LEGEND AND HEALING PROPERTIES:

During the Middle Ages topaz was thought to heal both physical and mental disorders and ward off death.

The Greeks believed it had power to increase strength and to make its wearer invisible, while the Romans believed it could improve eyesight. The Egyptians wore it as an amulet to protect them from injury.

TIGERS EYE USED IN JEWELRY

 

Tigers Eye Gemstones

Source: Australia, Burma, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Namibia, South Africa, USA

Tiger's eye is a member of the quartz group of chalcedonies, one of the chatoyant gemstones. That means that the stone exhibits a changeable silky luster as light is reflected within the thin parallel fibrous bands.

It has a greenish cast with shades of brown, golden yellow, red and blue veining.  Because the minerals in this stone are of varying hardness, it is difficult to polish without under cutting.

Tiger iron is composed of tiger's eye, red jasper, and black hematite. The rippled wavy bands of color often resemble a scenic view. Marra Mamba is a form of tiger iron found in one area of Australia near Mount Brockman. It is a very rare type of tiger iron that contains shades of red, green, yellow, and blue. This area has been mined out for many years so very little of the "true" marra mamba is available today.

FOLKLORE, LEGEND AND HEALING PROPERTIES:

Many legends about quartz say that wearing tiger's eye (which is a form of quartz) is beneficial for health, relieving high blood pressure as well as a number of diseases. It is said to heighten spiritual well being, in focusing the mind, strengthening convictions, and gaining confidence. Legend also says it is a psychic protector, as well as a protector in battle. It is great for business, as it is used an aid to achieving clarity.

GEMSTONES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Gemstones from Around the World