Gemstones are classified as Precious or Semi-precious but what do we really know about these terms, who created them, where, when and why? I’ve often wondered about these questions – maybe you have too – but found answers elusive maybe because they were trade secrets. After much searching, however, and talking to the right people I have the answers that may or may not, depending on how cynical or skeptical you are, surprise you.
Firstly, then, these designations were created in the West, specifically ancient Greece to exist solely in the West by people looking to sell particular gemstones – diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, rubies – at a greater profit. In other words, these designations are simply a marketing tool or a commercial-based classification whose aim or purpose was to hoodwink consumers by putting misconceived notions of the truth into their minds.
In so doing, they implied that all other gemstones were of lesser quality and value and therefore should be labelled Semi-precious. These designations exist to the present day but no longer reflect modern values, e.g. a Tsavorite green garnet (semi-precious) is more valuable than a mid-quality (precious) Sapphire. Also, without a universally accepted grading system for gemstones these concepts of precious and semi-precious designations should perhaps be eliminated.
Rare is another word we often hear in connection with some gemstones but what exactly does that mean? Does it mean, for example, that the mine has dried up, its resources depleted or that finds were few and far between with one only location in the entire world ever found? Or is it, like the Precious and Semi-precious designations, simply another clever marketing strategy aimed at maximizing profits? Or could it be that the demand exceeds the supply (the Law of Supply and Demand) that in turn affects – increases – the price of whatever the product, gemstones included and earns those gemstones the label rare? Still another theory or school of thought, though, is that all gemstones are rare because gem quality of the raw material, e.g. quartz, is such a tiny fraction, less than 1% in fact, of the substance.
Consider too the even rarer mineral corundum that is responsible for both the sapphire and the ruby. The sapphire comes in every colour of the rainbow but the blue is the undisputed favourite colour and it is that demand that fuels the price (again the Law of Supply and Demand) whereas sapphire’s other colours, e.g. pink, yellow, pinkish-orange, green, etc. are indeed rare. Large rubies are also rare and in short supply, hence their high price tags whereas smaller rubies, such as those used in cluster rings, do not qualify for the rare designation because they are readily available and therefore less expensive than their larger sisters.
Other Rare Gemstones
Aside from the rare Sapphire colours, are there any other really rare gemstones? Yes. And here they are with perhaps some surprises, e.g. Tourmaline that is often touted as being the one gemstone that could satisfy the preferred colour choice of every man, woman. and child on the planet excepting the Yellow Tourmaline gems that are very rare indeed as are the Fancy Colour-change and Cat’s Eye Tourmalines.
Also rare are Red Diamonds, Yellow Citrine, Yellow Topaz, and the most expensive of all coloured gems, the Red Beryl, formerly known as Bixbite. Tanzanite also qualifies as rare as do the Black Opal, Jadeite, Alexandrite, Taaffeite (pronounced Tar-fite), the Benitoite, which is California’s official state gem but for that very reason it is rarely cut and offered for sale. Surprisingly too, Peridot or rather gem-quality Peridot is on the list of rare or exceptionally rare gems because some Peridot gems have very exotic origins: meteorites.
There may well be many other rare gemstones – you may even have some – that I know nothing about but Monika at LL Private Jewellers would certainly know. So, if you’re interested to know more about these most uncommon gemstones you really should talk to her.
Please for more information about precious gemstones contact LL Private Jewellers at 604-684-6343.