Coloured Gemstones' Beauty: How To Judge It

Curious to know what gemologists and gem dealers actually look at in order to assess the beauty of a coIoured stone? 

Here are some things to look for when investing in beautiful coloured gems and jewels...

Why do you need to know this?

Well, your eyes are a muscle which you can train. And the more stones you see - whether in a gem dealer’s office or at a jeweller’s - the better you’ll be able to pick a good, beautiful gem which will last you a lifetime (or even longer) and so, will be a better investment.

One you can enjoy longer too.

“Better investment” btw doesn’t mean that you need to keep these precious pieces in a safe all the time or that they are unwearable.

In fact, the more beautiful and better quality a stone is, the more easily you can wear them every day without running the risk of chipping or scratching them!

There's a funny, contradictory thing going on here: the more expensive a stone, the more frequently it will be put in a safe.

While these are usually the stones that come in such good quality that you can actually wear them every day!

Think fine quality spinel, sapphire, ruby, garnets and tourmalines. 

On top of that, the stunning fashion-forward colours of fine gemstones you can find on the market today ensure a contemporary look which can be styled for after-dark hours, office time and beyond.  

Let’s dive in.

pastel gemstones

One fine pink tourmaline and two pastel coloured spinels from Eva's collection just lying about. 

A stone qualifies as a “gemstone” when a precious stone possesses:

  • Beauty,
  • Durability and
  • Rarity

In this article, we’re looking at the first part ‘beauty’ and how to assess that.

Many people in the gem trade would say that ‘beauty is subjective’ (which is true to some extent obviously), after which they’ll try to convince you to buy their gemstone as that’s the most beautiful one of course.

But there are definitely some objective aspects of beauty in gemstones for you to keep in mind.

Lately these have been summed up through what we call the 4Cs: although a bit of an oversimplification, they are a helpful starting point and stand for:

colour, clarity, cut and carat weight. 

These “4Cs” are taken from the diamond industry but can be used for the judgment of coloured gemstones as well.

Besides those 4Cs from the diamond industry, we also look at about 5 other characteristics of coloured gemstones for our overall beauty assessment.

Those 5 characteristics are:

1. Colour: look at a uniform color with a good saturation throughout the stone.

2. Brilliance: the brilliant sparkles that come from within a stone.

3. Luster: the brilliance that comes off the surface of a stone.

4. Transparency: the fewer inclusions a stone has, the more freely the light can reflect through the stone and the more beautiful it will be.

5. Fire or dispersion: a special characteristic which not every coloured gemstone has. It refers to a rainbow type of scintillation that you normally see in diamonds. Some coloured stones can show this as well, like a demantoid garnet (fine green garnet stone) or a sphene (yellow-green gemstone). It really gives something extra to a stone.

Gemologist Eva Meijer studying Gemstone with Loupe

Pro Tip:  Ask for a loupe - which is a normal thing to ask for in a gem dealer’s office and also in a good jewellery store, especially when you’re looking at a gemstone piece of significant value.

Bring the loupe and the precious piece close to your eyes and nose and look whether you can see any inclusions. It will require some training but it's a good skill to have.

This will help you in assessing how good the transparency, luster and brilliance is of a gemstone. So, you’ll tackle a few points simultaneously that way.

To complicate matters... having some inclusions in a coloured gemstone can actually be a good thing at times.

Because you can be sure the stone is natural in that case and it can soften the colour to a velvety look which is much coveted for some stones. 

On the other hand, having too many inclusions or if the inclusions are dark in colour or too close to the top surface of the stone is not a good thing.

Obviously, you don't want them to be noticeable when you're wearing your precious piece!

Other things that can be affected by having too many inclusions are the transparency, brilliance and luster of the stone which will impact its beauty negatively and may make the stone prone to chipping or breaking more easily.

In short, pick a stone with as few inclusions as you can afford.

And if it has inclusions, make sure they won’t be visible so much when set in a piece of jewellery.

For instance, inclusions located at the bottom or at the very edges of the stone will be partially hidden after having been set in a ring or earrings. So, that’s totally acceptable.

Clean Gemstone

Sparkly, sweet lime-coloured chrysoberyl which we turned into a custom piece for a client. 

By taking into account these tips and always comparing several stones at the same time, you’ll be able to pick a better gemstone.

And if you have some more questions, I’m always here to help! 

Good, beautiful gemstones and jewellery pieces set with fine gemstones come at a price because of their rarity in nature, but it’s so worth doing some more research and invest in a better quality stone.

That way, you can build up a jewellery collection over the coming years that consists of fewer but higher quality jewellery pieces.

Anything good takes time, wouldn’t you say?