Defining Semiprecious Gemstones
You've heard the term semiprecious gemstones, but what does it really mean? Understanding the origin of this gemstone classification can help you determine which types of stones may, or may not, be more valuable than others.
What Semi Means
The definition of the term "semi" means half, less than others or incomplete. When applied to jewels and gems, this seems to indicate that any semiprecious stones are less valuable than precious gems, or are lacking in some regard. That is just not true, however, and in fact, many so-called semiprecious gemstones can be even more valuable and sought after than traditional precious gems.
The Original Precious Gemstones
A jewel is considered more precious when it is rare and not as widely mined as other stones. The general beauty of a stone, the brilliance of its coloration, how its distribution has historically been controlled and how it can be cut for special shapes are all factors that have contributed to some stones being considered more precious than others.
The four classic gemstones classified as precious are diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires. These are also called the cardinal gemstones, and historically they have been regularly used for royal or religious adornments. These gems have been used for jewelry for millennia, and they have all been found in ancient Greece, Egypt, Rome and Mesopotamia, as well as other parts of the world.
In years past other gems have been classified as precious, including pearls, opals and amethysts. Each of these stones was eventually redesignated as semiprecious, however, when new deposits were discovered that made the stones much more widely available and therefore more easily attainable and less expensive.
About Semiprecious Gemstones
In general, semiprecious gemstones have historically been more widespread and available for more uses than just by a select group. The greater abundance of these stones can make them less expensive, but in reality, the term "semiprecious" is a marketing tactic first introduced in the mid-1800s as a way to encourage consumers to opt for more expensive stones.
As more studies have been done on the crystal structure and chemical composition of both types of stones, gemologists have discovered that there really is no difference between stones that have been traditionally classified as precious versus those that are classified as semiprecious. In fact, as more in-depth analysis of gems has become available, some semiprecious stones such as red beryl, ammolite, tanzanite and alexandrite have been found to be much rarer than any traditional precious gem.
At the same time, it is important to remember that there is great variation among all gemstones. A low-quality, poorly cut diamond with visible inclusions and poor color, for example, is far less valuable or desirable than a more common stone that is flawlessly cut with spectacular color and clarity. Personal opinion also plays a great part in stone valuation – some flaws and inclusions can have beautiful effects, or an individual may prefer a stone that shows a flaw or color variation for its uniqueness.
Every Stone Is Precious
Today, the terms precious and semiprecious are considered misleading and obsolete when classifying gemstones. Instead, the generic term gemstones is applied to all jewelry-quality stones, no matter what type of stones they are, where they originated or how rare they may be. After all, every stone has its own unique beauty, and all have limited quantities and different degrees of rarity. Different organic materials such as amber, pearl and coral are also classified as gemstones when they are finished for jewelry use.
Ultimately, every stone is precious if you find it beautiful and desirable. Discover the beauty in all our gemstone rings and other gemstone jewelry, as well as our collection of loose gemstones, and you'll soon agree that every type of stone has precious qualities that make it unique and stunning.