Gems are described by chemical composition, crystal structure, and where they are found. Gems are further classified based on properties like refractive index (how they bend light), luster, hardness, etc. Perfection in appearance is of primary importance in the finished gemstone. Many gemstones have long and complex histories. Some specific gems have a lot of lore attached to them.
The gems listed here are some of my all time favorites. A gemstone can be a mineral, a rock, or any petrified material that’s suitable for use in jewelry. Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and amethysts are generally the most valuable.
Agate – a form of chalcedony that occurs in many colors with a variety of inclusions. Some people believe that wearing agate increases perceptiveness and also brings good luck, inspiration and strength to the wearer.
Alexandrite – a form of chrysoberyl which exhibits a dramatic color change (red to green) depending on the lighting.
Amber – a fossilized resin that occurs in a range of colors. Amber is thought to dispel negative energies and to encourage a positive attitude. It was used for medicinal purposes at one time.
Amethyst – a form of quartz that ranges in color from light to deep purple. The color is due to the presence of iron and aluminum impurities According to gemstone lore, some people believe that amethyst provides protection to the wearer (amulets of amethyst were worn into battle in Medieval times), brings calmness, and might even ward off drunkenness.
Aquamarine – generally a delicate light blue color, aquamarine can occur in more intense shades. Chemically, aquamarine is a beryl. The blue color of aquamarine is due to traces of iron. At one time it was worn an amulet thought to promote safety when traveling over water
Aventurine – quartz family with inclusions that affect the color (chromium produces green to blue colors while iron produces orange to brown shades. Aventurine is considered to encourage motivation, creativity, healing, hope, and to bring abundance.
Azurite – an intensely blue gemstone that frequently occurs with malachite. The blue color is due to the presence of copper in the stone’s chemistry. Azurite has been used as a blue pigment since ancient times. The ancient Egyptians used it as an eye makeup. Azurite has long been used as a healing stone and it is reputed to clear the mind and to enhance receptivity.
Beryl – this gem occurs in many different colors – the intense green form is known as Emerald, while the lighter blue form is Aquamarine.
Bloodstone – bloodstone is a deep green chalcedony with red spots. It’s also called heliotrope. Bloodstone is thought to encourage healing, improve decision making.
Chalcedony – one of my favorites – I’m particularly found of aqua chalcedony and you can find this stone under gemstone earrings and also gemstone necklaces. Chalcedony is a form of quartz; chalcedony can be found in a variety of colors and also dyes well. This group includes both banded “agates” and onyx depending on their structure
Carnelian – Carnelian is a translucent orange/red to red/brown variety of chalcedony. The red tints are caused by iron oxide impurities. Thenecklace shown on the left can be found un Gemstone Necklaces. Carnelian is recommended to improve mental clarity and may assist people overcoming anger and maintaining self-control. It was highly valued for ornamentation by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans It was reputedly used by the Egyptian goddess Isis to protect the dead on their journey through the afterlife. Carnelian was thought to provide increased energy. Ancient Egyptians set carnelian with turquoise and lapis lazuli for enhanced power.
Chrysoberyl – once widely popular for jewelry, chrysoberyl is now relatively rare. Chrysoberlyl has hard greenish yellow crystals. Alexandrite is one variety that exhibits color change.
Chryoprase – an apple-green form of chalcedony
Cinnabar – mercury sulphide ore with distinct red to brick red color.
Coral – variety of colors depending on variety; frequently dyed. Coral is thought to increase awareness and objectivity. Provides calmness, quiets emotions
Diamond – made of pure carbon, diamond is the hardest, densest, and rarest gem. Diamond is thought to encourage hope, promote healing, and impart protection.
Emerald – a beryl stone with traces of chromium and sometimes vanadium providing the intense green coloration, emeralds are extremely popular for jewelry. Emeralds have been known since ancient times and were mined as early as 2000 BC.
Fluorite – this gem comes in a variety of colors from purple to pink and green and many shades in between. It has a glassy luster and it fluoresces or glows blue under UV light. Fluorite is thought to increase intuition, to foster harmony and balance in relationships, and may attract abundance and wealth.
You’ll find these earrings under Gemstone Earrings
Hematite – a widespread and relatively hard iron ore that is steely gray with a metallic luster when polished. Hematite focuses energy, helps to balance emotions
Jade – long considered a “sacred” stone, jade symbolizes calmness, wisdom, and serenity. There are two recognized “forms“ of jade – nephrite (creamy white to green and almost black) and jadeite. The most common colors are green or white (jadeite), but jade can occur in many colors. The various colors are the result of impurities.
Jasper – an opaque form of chalcedony; fosters awareness and balances emotional, physical, and spiritual energy
Labradorite – a silky appearing dark grey green stone with brilliant flashes of blue, green, and occasionally red. Labradorite can appear as colorless or even red, but the dark green-grey color is typically seen in jewelry. Labradorite is thought to symbolize the “third eye”.
Lapis Lazuli – Long thought to increase awareness and objectivity, lapis has been considered to have healing and curative properties. In ancient times, lapis found use as a pigment, a cosmetic, and in medicines.
Malachite – Frequently associated with malachite. Malachite may enhance insight, clarify emotions
Moss “Agate” – a transparent to translucent chalcedony with green, brown, or black moss-like inclusions.
Obsidian – deep black volcanic glass
Snowflake Obsidian – white “snowflake” markings distinguish this obsidian form.
Onyx – a form of chalcedony. Thought to foster fidelity and resourcefulness, aid in realizing potential, and to promote decision making
Opal – occurring in a variety of colors, opal often has a gelatinous clarity with flashes of color due to water trapped within the crystalline structure of the stone. Ancient Roman thought opals were symbols of hope and purity.
Quartz – can be opaque or transparent and is the most common mineral. Many common gemstones are quartz with various impurities and inclusion providing the distinguishing characteristics of the particular gem.
Rhodochrosite – a fairly soft stone ranging in color from pink through reds to browns and black. Rhodochrosite fosters renewal and expansion of consciousness
Rhodonite – pink to grayish with a glassy luster. This stone is thought to promote peace, attention to detail
Ruby – a corundum stone almost as hard as a diamond, rubies are extremely popular
Sapphire – a corundum stone that can occur in a variety of colors. It is almost as hard as a diamond. Typically thought of as deep blue in color, sapphire occurs in a wide spectrum of colors and also in a color change variety (violet) which changes color depending on the viewing conditions.
Sard – a silicate similar to carnelian but darker brown
Smoky Quartz – smoky brown to almost black. Many people think that smoky quartz banishes negativity
Sodalite – a relatively rare stone that ranges from deep blue to light blue and white. Fosters wisdom, logic, healing.
Spinel – colors include a range of vibrant red tones, pinks, and even blues. Spinel’s hardness makes it a popular stone for jewelry.
Sunstone – a feldspar with a reddish to golden sheen; displays iridescence (similar to Labradorite).
Tanzanite – (zoisite) Tanzanite’s color depends on the orientation of the gem when cut, but it’s usually deep blue and generally heat treated. Tanzanite is pleochroic (light traveling through the crystal in one direction is absorbed differently than light traveling in another direction, so there are color differences depending on how you view the stone).
Tiger Eye – a chatoyant stone that occurs in several colors. (Chatoyancy refers to the bright bands of light across the stone and is a reflection effect) This “eye” effect is due to asbestos fiber inclusions. Tiger eye is reputed to increase peacefulness and clarity in the wearer.
Topaz – Known since ancient times and available in many colors, the yellow to brownish color of this stone was extremely popular for jewelry in Medieval times. Blue topaz is currently the best known topaz color. Topaz was thought to foster success, love, and health as well as strengthening the mind.
Tourmaline – available in an impressive array of colors, tourmaline can mimic a variety of other gems and its hardness makes it an ideal stone for jewelry. Some tourmaline contains two or three colors. The tourmaline family includes several separate minerals, one of which is elabite. Elabite accounts for most gem tourmaline.
Turquoise – a mineral of arid regions. Turquoise varies from light sky blues to light grayish greens due to the presence of copper. The polished stone has a porcelain luster. Turquoise has been considered a gem since ancient times and adorned the rulers of ancient Egypt and also the Aztecs. The Ancient Anasazi of Chaco Canyon and the surround regions traded turquoise and fashioned turquoise ornaments. Turquoise is believed to provide protection and healing for the wearer.
Zircon – (zirconium silicate) is generally colorless or blue. Brilliance is tremendous due to a high refractive index, but zircon also tends to be brittle and can chip or scratch readily. The ancients thought this stone could protect the wearer from disease. Cubic zirconia is zirconium oxide. Cubic zironia has a cubic crystal structure and possesses exceptional brilliance.