The World of Colored Gems
Friday, September 22, 2017
By Gleim the Jeweler
“The jeweler allows me to wear the sapphire blue lake on my finger, emerald green leaves around my neck, and take the citrine sunset with me wherever I go. Jewelry has become my daytime link to nature in an office with no windows. And if I have to work late, there's nothing like diamond stars and a pearl full moon against an onyx night sky.”
"Gossip" emerald cut three stone rings by Goshwara.
This wonderful quotation, by author Astrid Alauda, perfectly expresses the emotional connection that has been provided by colored gemstones for thousands of years.
Fine colored gemstones have been revered throughout history. Gemstones have been imbued with the power to foretell events, strengthen memory, quicken intelligence, ensure purity, avert lightning, prevent intoxication, ensure happiness and are often equated to the fountain of youth.
What Defines a Colored Gemstone?
Colored gemstones are described as all the various gemstones except for diamonds. Only a select few of the vast number of minerals known qualify as gemstones. In order to become a gemstone, the mineral must be rare and beautiful and be durable enough to be worn as jewelry.
Blue sapphire ring by AG Gems.
Precious vs. Semi-Precious Gems?
In the past, the term "precious" was used to describe diamond, emerald, ruby, and sapphire. The term "semi-precious" referred to all other gemstones. Today, most jewelers and gemologists agree that these terms no longer accurately reflect the true value of these gems. In particular, some species of colored gems, such as alexandrite or demantoid garnet, are so rare that they have been known to command prices exceeding those of emerald, ruby, and even diamonds.
Alexandrite and diamond pendant by Omi Privé.
Gemstones generally can be grouped into three major clarity categories:
- Gems that are flawless or have very minor inclusions (e.g. aquamarines and amethysts)
- Gems that are moderately included (e.g. rubies and sapphires)
- Gems that tend to be highly included (e.g. emeralds and red tourmalines)
Color is the single most important deciding factor in determining the value of a gemstone, followed by the cut. The cut of a gemstone is designed to bring out the best possible color or colors in the rough uncut material while retaining as much weight as possible. The color in a fine gem is saturated evenly throughout the stone and is of a brilliant deep, rich, and pleasing color—not too dark and not too light.
Idolite earrings by Erica Courtney.
Each variety of colored gemstone has a range of highly prized colors that have evolved over the years. Many of these colors are tied to historical sources such as "Burmese" rubies from Burma, "Kashmir" sapphires from India, and "Persian" turquoise. This is by no means a sure bet. Not all rubies from Burma have the “Burmese” signature color and furthermore, you may find a fine color from a ruby that was mined in Thailand.
Cushion cut Mozambican Ruby ring by Real Gems Inc.
Ultimately the wearer decides what color speaks to them, keeping in mind that this may not be that color defined as being the most valuable. Since we all perceive color differently it’s ultimately a very personal choice.
Today, with the ever-increasing advances in gemstone enhancements and synthetic gemstone production, it is more important than ever to work with a reputable and properly trained jeweler.
About Gleim the Jeweler
We have been serving the Peninsula since 1931 and have been members of the American Gem Society (AGS) since 1954. Our membership with the AGS assures you that we earn and maintain the education necessary to provide you with the most up to date information about gems and their different markets.
We also have American Gem Society Accredited Gem Laboratories, assuring you that we have the proper instruments to identify and grade gems. And, what’s perhaps most important, we love colored gems!