Education: Colored Gemstones

Gems and ornamental materials have been used since the earliest stages of human existence. Humans had adorned their bodies using simple beads made from seeds, berries and shells long before being able to shape metals or fashion stones.

The term gemstone is applied to any of the one hundred or so naturally occurring minerals (diamond, ruby, sapphire, etc.) and organic materials (amber, pearls, ivory, coral, etc.) that are used for personal adornment or display. Beauty, rarity and durability are the major attributes of a gem material. A gem’s beauty comes from its brilliance, fire, luster and color. In their rough form these attributes are often masked. Only after fashioning and sometimes through enhancements, can their hidden beauty be revealed. Rarity is governed by the availability of a gem and has the biggest impact of its value. Durability refers to a combination of the material’s hardness (ability to withstand scratching), toughness (ability to resist breakage), and stability (ability to withstand chemical or physical change resulting from heat, light or chemical exposure).

There are approximately 5,300 different minerals and dozens of organic materials known. However, less than one hundred are regarded as gemstones or ornamental materials for jewelry use and fewer than 50 are regarded as common.