Gemstones Buying Guide

People have ornamented themselves with gemstones for thousands of years. For all of our technological advances, we're still pretty hung up on sparkly rocks! Whether you believe that gemstones and crystals have powerful vibrations that can affect your mind, or you just like the way your amethyst necklace looks with your favorite jeans, shopping for gemstones is fun for all ages. Men and women alike can appreciate a beautiful and natural creation. Buying gemstones can be a bit overwhelming since there are so many choices and colors out there. Below is a general guide to buying gemstones no matter what you are looking for; keep in mind that various cuts and styles are available in most stones.      

"Precious" Stones

Recently the term "semi-precious" has fallen out of favor with geologists. Now, all gemstones are referred to as "precious stones." Traditionally, however, precious stones meant five stones in particular, which are listed below. Today, the abundance of amethyst sets it apart price-wise from the other four.  

Colorful Gemstones

Precious stones are not limited to the five featured above--they come in every color of the rainbow! To help you find what you're looking for more easily, stones in this section are grouped by color.

Clear/White Stones


Red/Pink Stones


Yellow/Green Stones


Blue Stones


Brown Stones


Black Stones

Organic Gemstones

Several of the most popular gemstones are created by plants or animals rather than by the earth alone. These stones are known collectively as organic gemstones, but this is where the similarities end. Each is formed by a unique process. The most popular organic gemstones are pearls, amber, jet, coral and ammiolite. Fossilized bones or ivory may also be made into jewelry, along with teeth and claws of various animals, but these are not considered gemstones.One thing all organic gemstones have in common (except for jet, which is relatively hard) is that they are soft, delicate, and easily scratched. You should never put any of these gems into an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner; use only a damp cloth followed by a dry cloth to clean them. Store them away from anything that might scratch them. Pearls and jet beads should be strung with a knot between each bead; if you wear them often, have them restrung yearly. ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

"The Four Cs"

Just like with diamonds, you're still judging your stones based on color, cut, clarity, and carat. '''Cut (and Shape) ''' '''Color''' * Color is another value-inducing factor of a gemstone. It is not the color itself that matters, but the quality of the color, including hue, tone (lightness or darkness), and saturation (purity). * To accurately judge the hue of a gemstone, look at it in bright light against both black and white backgrounds. You want the gemstone to be even in hue without any cloudiness or brown or gray spots. The center should not look pale or washed out in any way. * Ideally, a quality gem will be darker rather than lighter, but it should not be darker than medium dark. Sometimes gemstone manufacturers use heat treatment to intensify or change the color of a gemstone. This will decrease its value and cost. '''Clarity''' * As with diamonds, clarity is measured on a scale of VVS1, VVS2, VS1, VS2, SI1, SI2, I1, I2, I3, with VVS1 being flawless and I3 being badly flawed. * Spots, cracks, and inclusions (flaws) are all negative factors of clarity. * Clarity and transparency is often fixed by oils, resins, and chemicals used by gemstone manufacturers. * Some gemstones are more likely to possess and show flaws than others. will tell you more about your stone of choice. '''Carat''' * Most gemstone weights are measured in carats. * Keep in mind that because of the different densities of different stones, a carat of one might not be the same diameter as a carat of another. * When comparing many stones, use the length and width or the diameter (depending on the shape) to figure out the size of the stone.

What Else Should I Know?

Natural or Genuine?

* Natural gemstones are considered those that have been taken from the ground and brought to the store cut and polished without undergoing any other alterations. * Genuine gemstones may have been treated. * Natural and genuine gemstones are considered to be most valuable.


Two kinds of synthetic gemstones exist. They have been manufactured in labs and claim to hold up longer, however some can cloud prematurely. These are not as valuable as natural or genuine gemstones, but they are an affordable alternative. * Some are made to look like another stone but do not have the same physical or chemical properties. ** Cubic zirconia and moissanite are diamond look-alikes, but lack diamond's properties. ** Synthetic amber is made of a plastic resin. (But amber isn't all that expensive most of the time anyway.) ** Some jewelry may use colored crystal, glass, or even plastic to imitate gemstones. * Some are identical in chemical makeup to the stone they imitate. ** Synthetic emeralds, rubies and sapphires are nearly physically and chemically identical to natural stones. ** Synthetic carborundums (the type of mineral including rubies and sapphires) are very common and inexpensive. ** Cultured pearls are not as expensive as natural pearls and are made using oyster colonies in a lab. ** Most citrine is made by treating other forms of quartz. ** Blue topaz is made by irradiating yellow topaz.

Gemstone Jewelry

Now that you REALLY know your gemstones, check out a few of the colorful rings below that make for great pieces of jewelry!

Related Guides

* Diamond Buying Guide * Pearl Buying Guide * Gemstone Shape Guide  * Jewelry and Watches