Characteristics and Classification

A gemstone is a mineral that is used to make jewelry and other decorative items when cut and polished. Gemstones are either classified as precious or semi-precious stones. The classification system goes back to the Ancient Greeks. These days, precious stones are translucent and have excellent color, except for the diamond, which is colorless in its best form.

Gemologists are the professionals who identify and describe gemstones. The gems are classified into various groups, species and varieties. Gemologists speak of specific gravity, hardness and luster. In addition, flaws come into play; flaws take away from the value and are called inclusions.

The “four Cs” used in valuing gemstones are color, cut, clarity and carats, and they should be taken into consideration when buying diamonds. These classifications have been introduced to help the consumer, and specifically the diamond buyer, know how to grade the gems they are looking to purchase. The gemstone needs to be “cut” which allows it to sparkle, to shoot off rainbows, to scintillate (chop light into little pieces) and deliver brilliance to the eye of the beholder.

Gem prices have fluctuated greatly over time. When looking for diamond valuations, as well as other gemstone valuations, a general rule is that the larger the stone, the greater the price, though popular trends of certain sized stones also affect the prices.

A number of laboratories grade and report on gemstones, and each has its own methodology. Jewelers and resellers realize that there are intrinsic differences of opinion. They strive to come up with fair certificates for the gemstones when they sell diamond rings.

Gemstones are often treated in order to best utilize the beauty of the stone. Heat is sometimes utilized; it can improve the color and clarity of the gem. Radiation is also used to turn some gemstones, such as topaz, deeper in color. Emeralds are sometimes filled with wax to enhance their color and hide natural fissures.

Synthetic stones are also used to imitate real gems. These synthetics look similar to the real stones, but are physically different.  They often cost a fraction of their counterparts.  Their color may be even more vivid than their counterparts, and they may lack the impurities that may be present in the true gems.  They are not, however, “gemstones” and if you are looking for the real thing, you may choose to pass them up in favor of authentic gemstones.

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