Agate is a banded form of finely-grained Quartz. It’s a translucent gem that can be naturally colored but is usually dyed which is always true of hot pink, blue, and green colored varieties. Due to the bands and subtle changes in each stone, the agate is highly unique since no two agate stones are alike
Alexandrite is known as the color changing variety of chrysoberyl. Under different lighting conditions, it can appear greenish-blue to dark yellow-green or even pink and red. It was discovered in Russia in the 1880’s and was named for Alexander Nikolaevich who went on to become Czar Alexander II.
Amber is a natural gemstone made from the hardened resin of ancient pine trees. Due to the extended hardening time for resin, amber often has inclusions which can range from insects and plants and even the well-known mosquito.
Amethyst is a variety of quartz. It’s deep purple color is often associated with royalty making it a highly regarded stone. The quality of amethyst is noted by the stone being clear and also having very rich color - the more, the better. Make sure not to overexpose amethyst to sunlight since this can result in its color gradually fading. Amethyst is the birthstone of February.
Aquamarine is the green-blue variety of beryl and as such, its name derives from the Latin phrase ‘water of the sea,’ due to these greenish-blue hues. The more pure blues of aquamarine are a permanent result of heating the stone after it’s mined. Aquamarine is believed to bring health, hopefulness, and youth to its bearer. It was also a traditional favorite of sailors which makes it a great choice for anyone who has a love for the sea. Aquamarine is the birthstone of March.
Beryl in its pure form is colorless, but when it is introduced with different element impurities it can take on a wide range of color choices. Beryl has a glassy luster and can be translucent or transparent, though it is frequently tinted by impurities. Beryl’s durability makes it an excellent choice for jewelry and some well-known members of the beryl family include aquamarine, emerald, and morganite.
Blue topaz is a very popular gemstone in the jewelry market. While its watery blue color is similar to the aquamarine, the blue topaz has no green overtones and its good clarity and hardness makes it an excellent choice for jewelry pieces.
Citrine is the yellow-orange variety of quartz. Natural citrine is very rare, so it is often created by heat-treating amethyst, making this variety of citrine the most commonly found on the market. This process makes citrine share similar characteristics to amethyst, in that it alternates between light and darker colored bands depending on how it’s viewed in light. Citrine is said to bring cheerfulness and feelings of lightheartedness to anyone who wears it. Citrine is also the birthstone of November.
The emerald is the most valuable form of beryl, and is one of the most valuable gemstones on the market, with the best and most sought-after coming from only a few mines in Colombia (though other places also produce them). While almost all emeralds have inclusions in them, the fewer the stone has the more pure, costly, and valuable it is. To prevent natural wear and tear and to retain the beauty of the emerald, a layer of wax or oil is put on top to solidify the resin. This process should be re-done every few years by a professional. The emerald is also the birthstone of May.
Garnet comes in a variety of reds from very pale, to brick red, to a dark red-black. In the past, it was thought that garnet could stop bleeding. It was also seen as a symbol of loyalty, energy, promoted sincerity, and offered tranquility to its wearers. Garnet is also the birthstone of January.
Jade is famously known for being the gem of royalty in ancient China - it was even more prized than gold for the Mayans and Aztecs! Jade is comprised of one of two minerals - jadeite and nephrite. Nephrite is most commonly found in jade, which can yield colors ranging from dark green to grey-green. Jadeite is rarer and can also include hues like red, white, pink, violet, black, and brown. Jade can have streaks and other blemishes but don’t worry - these marks actually add value and character to a piece of jade jewelry.
Onyx is the black stone variety of quartz. Onyx is an opaque stone, so it’s often cut into a smooth, rounded, polished dome (known as cabochon) for jewelry pieces.
Opal is comprised of the same ingredients as quartz; however, it has less water and is not crystallized. Due to this, it is softer than normal quartz and needs a little more care to prevent damage. The colorful shimmering effect of opal is referred to as ‘fire’ - this refers to the shifting colors as a result of microscopic spherical structures within the stone. Like all non-transparent stones, it’s cut into a cabochon (smooth, round, and polished) shape. Opal is believed to sharpen the mind and emotions and is also the symbol of fidelity, but be warned - it can bring significant trouble to anyone who is unfaithful. Opal is the birthstone of October.
Peridot, also referred to as its proper names - chrysolite or olivine - is a gem that has existed since the ancient Greeks. In Roman times, the stone offered protection from deception and depression. Peridot’s color can range from a yellow green to a beautiful chartreuse. Due to the excellent clarity of the stone, peridot is best fit for faceted cuts since the light can sparkle through. Peridot is the birthstone of August.
Quartz is one of the most common types of crystal minerals on Earth. The sub-varieties are divided into two groups based on the size of grains in the stone: macrocrystalline quartz (individual crystals are visible to the unaided eye) and cryptocrystalline quartz (crystals are only visible under high magnification). Some types of quartz include, but are not limited to, agate, amethyst, citrine, rose quartz, and smoky quartz.
The ruby is one of the most prized gemstones in the market, especially known for its bright red color. The best colored rubies come from Burma and can be quite expensive; those from Thailand are darker and clearer but are much more common (thus less valuable). The ruby is made of corundum, which is the second hardest stone after the diamond and an ideal ruby would have a bright red color and as few inclusions as possible. The ruby was one of the most valuable gems in ancient Southeast Asia, and was believed to bring its owner all types of protection and even - in some cases - invincibility.
A ‘sapphire’ can refer to any color of corundum that is not red (ruby), although the cornflower blue variety is the most sought-after color. Also, the ‘sapphire’ as a stand-alone name only refers to the blue variety - any other sapphire that is a different color variety will have the color in its name (i.e. orange sapphire or pink sapphire). The sapphire comes from Southeast Asia and, like the ruby, the best colors come from Kashmir and Burma. Most sapphires will have inclusions in them, but because of its strength and hardness, the sapphire can take a good amount of abuse.
Tanzanite is a young gemstone in the market having only been discovered in Tanzania’s mines in 1967. Its scarcity and recent discovery has made tanzanite a highly sought after gem, especially for its gorgeous blue-violet color. Despite its beauty, be careful of using tanzanite in rings since the stone is softer, making it prone to scratches and chipping. Tanzanite is the birthstone of December.
Although topaz is often associated with the blue topaz, the true and pure color of topaz is actually yellow. Color ranges, however, can go from a pale blue, to pink, and yellow. In the Middle Ages it was believed to have great medicinal properties which was even used to ward off the Black Plague.
Tourmaline comes from the Sinhalese word, ‘turmali,’ which means gemstone. The tourmaline can come in every color of the rainbow (even opaque black!) and most gemstones are multi-colored. Tourmaline is believed to have a powerful influence on love and friendship. It’s hardness and variety of rich colors makes it an ideal gemstone for everyday wear.
Turquoise is one of the oldest gemstones known to mankind - it was even discovered in ancient Egyptian tombs dating back to 3000 BC! Known to be a lucky talisman for numerous cultures around the world, the turquoise is said to bring the wearer strong, mutually fruitful relationships and even bring self-confidence to those who are usually withdrawn. It is typically known to have a sky-blue color, but can also be found in varying shades of green to yellow-grey. The blue color is brought by traces of copper within the stone while green shades are from traces of iron or chromium.
Zircon can range in color from reddish brown, yellow, green, blue, gray, and can even be colorless. More than any other natural gemstone, zircon comes the closest to resembling the diamond due to its strong luster and intense color spectrum easily seen from light shining through it. Even though zircon can be seen as an imitation to diamonds, zircon is actually a desirable gemstone because of its hardness and wide range of colors. Make sure not to expose it to prolonged sunlight, since it can result in its color darken and dull its, otherwise, shiny luster.