While over 2,000 natural minerals have been identified, fewer than 100 of them are used as gemstones and only 16 have achieved everyday importance. In alphabetical order these are beryl, chrysoberyl, corundum, diamond, feldspar, garnet, jade, lazurite, olivine, opal, quartz, spinel, topaz, tourmaline, turquoise and zircon. Some of these minerals provide more than one type of gem. For example, beryl contributes both emeralds and aquamarines, while corundum contributes both rubies and sapphires.
For use in jewellery, clear gemstones are facetted while opaque stones may be tumbled and polished or cut ‘en cabochon’ (flat underside and rounded upper surface – see photo of moonstone ring attached). Faceting was only introduced in the Middle Ages – allowing the natural radiance and light enhancing properties of clear crystal gems to be enriched and exploited.
Personal taste has a lot to do with gem choice. The 2 top C’s (out of 4) are colour and carat. Each individual is drawn to a particular colour or colour range. This influences the choice of gemstone for that person. Carat is self-explanatory – size is everything in the arena of gemstones! The cut of the stone is generally chosen by the lapidarist to take advantage of the gemstones natural qualities and radiance. Clarity is an inherent quality – diamonds are generally clear whereas emeralds and rubies may have cloudy inclusions.
Apart from their natural beauty and use in jewellery, gemstones have recognised individual metaphysical properties. For example: Hematite and Obsidian are grounding stones; Agate enhances protection and inner strength; Amethyst is purifying and balancing; Lapis Lazuli relieves stress and promotes harmony and Moonstone grants wishes and abundance. In addition, the ancient Greeks ground gemstones such as Lapis Lazuli for use in makeup. Traditional Tibetan medicine employs a number of gemstones ground and incorporated into medicines for various conditions.
There is such a wide variety of beautiful gemstones available to us – just choose and enjoy!