Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know before You Buy Gemstones

Here, Eva, a trained gemologist, answers all of your most frequently asked questions about gemstone jewelry. Let Eva help you buy gemstones with confidence.

Everything Youve Ever Wanted To Know Before You Buy Gemstones

What is a gemstone?

A gem is a precious stone that possesses beauty, durability and rarity. Gemstones - precious or semi-precious - are cut and polished to be used in jewelry. Most gemstones are made of minerals, which occur naturally in the earth. Minerals have a defined chemical composition and a clear atomic structure.

Colored stones - or colored gemstones - simply refer to any gem other than diamond (diamonds are typically white). Of course, some diamonds can also be colored but they will never be considered a colored gemstone. 

Discover the difference between a diamond and a gemstone

Gemstones may be cut and polished or remain in their natural form and they may or may not be set in a piece of fine jewelry.

What is the difference between precious and semi-precious gemstones?

Historically, “precious stones” referred to diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires, while “semi-precious stones” covered everything else. Precious used to signify a higher relative value. Today, these concepts have little application in terms of true value, since gemstones exist at every quality level, and must be individually assessed. 

Colored Spinels in excellent cut

Vintage-colored Spinels in excellent cut. These sparkling Spinels increase in color saturation which is rare to find in nature…

For example, there are low quality rubies and sapphire stones that sell for $5/ct (wholesale price), while a fine green garnet may fetch up to $5000/ct. In this light, it would be inaccurate to label garnets as “semi-precious.”

What is a “carat” (ct)?

Gemstones are weighed by metric carat, which is one fifth of a gram (so, 1 ct = ⅕ gram or 1 gram = 5 carats). 

Editor’s Tip: Height / depth x length x width in mm is also a useful measurement to indicate the size of a gemstone. This system will help you determine what size best suits your personal proportions. 

Please note, a ‘carat’ is distinguished from ‘karat,’ which is a measurement of gold purity, based on 24 parts.

What is the difference between shopping for colored gemstone jewelry and diamond jewelry?

Difference between shopping for colored gemstone jewelry and diamond jewelry

Dashing yellow Mali Garnet and a nice design sketch. Just to get your creative juices flowing;)

First off, whether you select a diamond or a colored gemstone, you should always choose fine jewelry that perfectly suits your personal style as well as your lifestyle. 

Both diamonds and colored gemstones share a quality grading system, based on the Four C’s: color, clarity, cut and carat weight. But that’s where the similarities between shopping for diamonds and colored gemstones end.

See also: Gemstone Quality: How to Choose the Perfect Gemstone

Diamond grading is much easier to measure than colored gemstone grading for the following reasons:

  • Diamonds are almost entirely free of color. They are mostly white, which largely simplifies their evaluation. The opposite is true of colored gemstones, which have millions of color variations. So, what one person may call ‘orange-red’, another may describe as ‘pinkish-red’ which shows the subjective nature of the judgment. For that reason, color assessment can be difficult and is best done by an expert who has seen many color stones.
     
  • The majority of diamonds feature little to no inclusions, while colored stones often have a variety of inclusions, some of which are even desired! Inclusions prove the stone is natural and can show the stone’s origin which gem connoisseurs tend to love...
  • Most diamonds are cut as round brilliants, with only a slight variation in proportions and shape. However, colored gemstones are as unique as their wearer, and come in an endless array of cuts and facet patterns. Ironically, colored gems rarely feature a round cut.
     
  • Diamond grading uses well-defined techniques and comes with its own universally accepted language. However, there is no real uniform system for grading colored gemstones. You can learn more about grading colored gemstones by subscribing to Eva’s email list.

What is the best way to buy colored gemstones?

Two quick tips:

First, research the gemstones you think are beautiful.

Then, consult a credible gemologist, who can answer all of your specific questions and help you create precious jewelry that suits your needs, budget and taste.

You can arrange a private consultation with me here. I am happy to guide you on your journey into gemstone jewelry with a one-on-one appointment.

I have traveled the world searching for colored gemstones for all of my clients. Every gem starts with a unique story. Your input and guidance will help me discover the perfect gemstone for all of your colorful stories.

Eva Meijer and Lotte Verbeek

At one of my first celebrity lounges in LA. This was with the lovely Dutch actress Lotte Verbeek who happened to pass by!

Choose a piece from my curated collection of one-of-a-kind jewelry. It consists of rings, earrings and bracelets all handmade in my French-owned atelier in Bangkok.

Or, select a colored gemstone and embark on a luxury bespoke jewelry adventure, creating a piece of jewelry that perfectly represents your singular style.

Please note, fine quality gemstones - such as spinelsgarnets, certain tourmalines, beryls, chrysoberyls, tanzanites, sapphires, rubies in great color, cut and clarity - are extremely rare (much more so than most diamonds). This means certain gemstones, like sapphire or ruby, can cost more than a diamond. 

Lower quality colored gemstones - such as quartz, blue topaz, fire opal, chrysoprase, moonstone, onyx, chalcedony - are of a lower quality because of their chemical and optical characteristics.

I use only fine quality precious gemstones in my luxury jewelry collection.

If you’re looking for stunning precious gemstones, featuring intense, original pigments, maximum brilliance and excellent cuts, please get in touch. In the meantime, you can sign up to my newsletter below for regular updates and insider tips. 

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