Exploring the Beauty of Semi Precious StonesFor several decades semi-precious stones have dominated the gemstone marketplace, offering consumers the chance to express themselves individually through their jewelry. The question asked by many, however, is whether a semi-precious stone can truly be considered a valuable piece of jewelry or little more than a poor imitation of its often more highly priced counterparts. Is semi-precious stone as valuable as precious stone? And does it even matter?
Those who view semi-precious stones as inferior and therefore less desirable than precious stones rarely have taken the time to discover what the difference between the two is. The bottom line for jewelers and consumers alike is that there is no difference between precious and semi-precious gems when it comes to the value of the stones themselves. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has considered banning the classification of gems under the terms precious and semi-precious on several occasions because of their ability to be misinterpreted by those outside of the professional community.
Historically, gems classified as precious were both rare and revered, much as we might view the latest technological gadget. There were two criteria used by gemologists to determine a stone’s classification:
1) Market availability. As in all things, gems that were only available in select locations were considered far more valuable than their widely spread counterparts. Diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds have traditionally been considered the major players in precious gems. Amethysts were once classified among their number; however, the discovery of generous deposits of the stone in Brazil and neighboring Uruguay made the amethyst more widely available to the public and changed its classification.
2) How they were used. This, more than their market availability, has been the major considering factor in determining whether a gem would be known as precious or semi-precious. It seems that all things eventually come back to politics and religion, and gems that held ceremonial or ecclesiastical value were considered to be more valuable than their commonplace counterparts.
There are no true, scientific differences between precious and semi-precious stones. A low quality diamond is less valuable than high quality aquamarine, and an exquisitely designed lapis lazuli may sell for more than a rather uninspired ruby. Modern technology being as advanced as it is, many gems are high quality synthetic and/or treated rather than completely natural and render the classifications of precious and semi-precious fairly meaningless.
What Stones are Semi-Precious
Since the first piece of jewelry was designed hundreds of years ago there have been over one hundred and thirty types of gems and minerals classified as semi-precious at one point or another, although only a few dozen continue to be commonly used today. The list of semi-precious stones currently available on the market include:
• Birthstones. Most stones recognized as birthstones (with the obvious exemption of the big 4: diamond, ruby, emerald and sapphire) are considered to be semi-precious.
• Hematite, jade, obsidian, pyrite, tanzanite, agate, opal, turquoise and peridot
• Stones of organic origin, such as amber, pearls and corals
• Certain rocks, such as lapis-lazuli (historically used as trading currency between Middle Eastern rulers), are considered to be semi-precious.
The Advantages of Semi-Precious Stones
Before rejecting a semi-precious stone based on the fact that it isn’t considered to be as valuable or as widely exotic as its more traditional counterparts, consumers should take some time to consider the advantages of semi-precious gems. First and foremost, stones that are considered to be semi-precious are sometimes (but not always) more affordable than the big four, and because the stone is less costly makers can have more freedom when designing the setting while still staying inside a limited budget.
Secondly (and this is what has made semi-precious stones truly popular), because there is such a wide variety of semi-precious stones and gems available on the market consumers have the freedom and capability to express their true thoughts and personality through their accessories. Rather than being limited to the glacier-like appearance of a diamond they can choose the warm glow of an amber; rather than the opulence of a ruby wearers can adorn themselves in the beauty and simplicity of turquoise. With semi-precious gems wearers can allow what’s inside to come out while still enjoying the aesthetic pleasures of well crafted jewelry.