Gemstone Facts


Amber, an ancient organic gemstone, is composed of tree resin that has hardened over time.  According to the GIA, the stone must be at least 1 million years old to be classified as amber, and some amber can be up to 120 million years old.  Amber can come in a number of different colors, ranging from yellow to golden orange to red.  Most of the world’s amber comes from the shores of the Baltic Sea in Eastern Europe.

Amethyst has historically been the most prized gemstone in the quartz family.  It is treasured for its purple hue, which can range in tone from light to dark.  The finest amethyst will have strong color saturation and a medium to dark reddish purple or purple color.  Its attractive color, along with is affordable price compared to other precious gemstones, make amethyst consistently one of the most popular gems.

Black Onyx, a member of the chalcedony family, is a gemstone made up of tiny microscopic crystals.  It is a very popular gemstone in both women’s and men’s jewelry because its black color acts as a great complement to white metals like sterling silver, as well as clear crystals and CZs.  Most black onyx on the market today is treated to give it its dark black color.  Black onyx is sometimes faceted or fashioned into beads.

Chalcedony is a type of quartz.  It is classified separately because, unlike other forms of quartz, it is composed of very small microscopic crystals.  It can come in a wide variety of looks and colors. 

Citrine is known for its stylish yellow to brownish color, and is generally considered the top selling gemstone of this color in the United States.  It is a member of the quartz family, and has a large crystalline structure.

Coral is an organic gem that comes from the skeletal remains of sea creatures (which are themselves called Coral).  The most common colors associated with coral jewelry are pink and red.  Coral requires pristine environmental conditions to grow, meaning that producers must maintain calm waters free of pollution.  According to the GIA, coral is believed to have been used in jewelry for about 30,000 years.

Emeralds are one of the three main precious gemstones (along with rubies and sapphires) and are known for their fine green to bluish green color.  They have been treasured throughout history, and some historians report that the Egyptians mined emerald as early as 3500 BC.  Today, emeralds are increasingly being used in faceted rough-cut designs that provide a bold look at an affordable price.

Garnet is most commonly a deep red to purplish red gemstone with a cubic crystal structure.  Garnet is considered an affordable alternative to more expensive red gemstones like rubies or tourmaline, and goes particularly well with sterling silver.

Jade is most commonly associated with the color green, but can come in a number of other colors as well.  Jade is closely linked to Asian culture, history, and tradition, and is sometimes referred to as the “stone of heaven.”

Jasper is a semi-translucent to opaque gemstone, of the chalcedony family, that comes in a variety of colors.  Oftentimes, jasper will feature unique and interesting patterns within the colored stone.  Picture jasper is a type of jasper known for the colors (often beiges and browns) and swirls in the stone’s pattern.  These unique patterns occur in nature and make each piece of jasper a one-of-a-kind treasure.

Lapis is an opaque gemstone often featuring a deep midnight blue to violet-blue color.  It frequently contains gold colored pyrite flecks sprinkled through the gem, making each piece of lapis beautiful and unique.  Lapis is a versatile gemstone that is used both in classic and contemporary jewelry styles.

Opal is a gemstone that comes in a kaleidoscopic array of colors. It is typically formed in desert areas over long periods of time from layers of silica deposits in deep underground rock.  It is known for its fascinating “play of color” that occurs when light interacts with the opal’s silica layers.  Much of the opal on the market today is synthetic.

Peridot is a bright green gemstone that provides the style and look of emerald at a more affordable price.  According to the GIA, some historians believe that Cleopatra’s famous emerald collection was actually peridot.  Peridot is one of the softer gemstones on the market, with a hardness of 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale. Peridot most commonly originates in volcanic areas that are rich in iron and magnesium.

Quartz refers to a family of crystalline gemstones of various colors and sizes.  Among the well-known types of quartz are rose quartz (which has a delicate pink color), and smoky quartz (which comes in a variety of shades of translucent brown).  A number of other gemstones — like Amethyst and Citrine — are also part of the quartz family.  Rutilated quartz is a popular type of quartz containing needle-like inclusions.

Rubies are known for their intense red color, and are among the most highly valued precious gemstones.  Rubies have been treasured for millennia.  In Sanskrit, the word for ruby is “ratnaraj”, meaning “king of precious stones.”  Although rubies can command one of the the highest per-carat prices of all precious stones, they are increasing being used in “rough-cut” faceted designs at much more affordable prices.

Sapphire the most popular form of sapphire is blue sapphire, which is known for its medium to deep blue color and strong saturation.  Fancy colored sapphires in various colors are also available.  In the United States, blue sapphire is the most popular and most affordable of the three major precious gemstones (emerald, ruby, and sapphire).  Like emeralds and rubies, sapphire is increasingly being used in rough-cut faceted designs that provide a strong, bold look at an affordable price.

Tiger’s Eye is a gemstone known for its unique and rich striped brown color, which, as its name suggests, can resemble the patterns on a tiger’s coat.  It is a member of the quartz group of gemstones.  It has a microcrystalline structure, meaning that it is made up of crystals that are smaller than those of quartzes like rose quartz and smoky quartz, but larger than the crystals of chalcedony group gemstones.

Topaz is a bright clear gemstone which is often used to create bold, eye-catching designs.  The most popular variety of topaz in the market today is blue topaz, which has a bright light blue color and is relatively inexpensive.  This color is produced with irradiation and heat treatment (in nature, topaz is most often colorless).  Pink topaz is another popular variety of this gemstone.

Turquoise is found in only a few places on earth, and the world’s largest turquoise producing region is the southwest United States.  Turquoise is prized for its attractive color — most often an intense medium blue or a greenish blue — and its ancient heritage.  Turquoise is used in a great variety of jewelry styles.  It is perhaps most closely associated with southwest and Native American jewelry, but it is also used in many sleek, modern styles.  Some turquoise contains a matrix of dark brown markings, which provides an interesting contrast to the gemstone’s bright blue color.

 Pearl Jewelry and Shell Jewelry

What Are Cultured Pearls?

Almost all pearl jewelry in the marketplace today is made up of  cultured pearls.  This means that the pearls were produced with human assistance by oysters or other mollusks at a pearl farm (as opposed to being found and collected by divers).  To create a cultured pearl, a pearl farmer will trigger the natural process of pearl formation by inserting a small irritant into the oyster or mollusk.  The oyster will then surround it with layer after layer of nacre.  It is this nacre that gives pearls their characteristic beautiful luster.  Creating a cultured pearl can take from 6 months to 3 years, depending on the type and size of pearl, and it requires both constant care and clean, pure water. 

What Types of Pearls Are There?

Cultured pearls may either be freshwater or saltwater pearls, depending on the type of oyster or mollusk that produces them and the climate where the oyster lives. 

Freshwater pearls are the most plentiful and affordable type of pearl on the market.  They come in a wide variety of shapes and colors, and are sometimes dyed to create a bright colorful look. 

Saltwater pearls come in several varieties.  Akoya pearls are round, white (sometimes with a rose overtone), and are often used to make classic pearl necklaces or pearl earrings.  Tahitian and South Sea Pearls are large and valuable, and come in diverse colors such as black, peacock, golden and white.

What Is Mother of Pearl?

Mother of Pearl is a type of shell.  It comes from the inside shell of a pearl-producing oyster or mollusk.  This shell is made up of nacre, the same material the oyster produces to coat a pearl.
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