Gemstones – Your Questions Answered

Gemstones – Your Questions Answered

Jewellery is fabulous – but all the different types and terms CAN be confusing! We’re continuing on our quest to educate you, and the next on our list of common questions we get asked is about gemstones.

What Are Gemstones?

Gemstones are any stone used to make a piece of jewellery. Stones are generally made from cut and refined minerals — but not always! Organic rocks and other fossilized materials, such as amber, are often considered gemstones, as well.

What Is The Difference Between Semi-Precious & Precious Stones?

The labels “precious” and “semi-precious” to describe stones were created back in the mid-1800s when “precious stones” were considered quite rare and harder to find, therefore making them more valuable and expensive. “Semi-precious stones” were a bit more abundant and thus, not quite as valuable.

The only reason these labels still exist today is to market precious stones as more valuable, even though typically, they aren’t as rare today. Most jewellers will steer away from these terms when describing gemstones.

Which Popular Gemstones Are Considered “Precious”?


Everyone knows diamonds are the most popular gemstone. A diamond is the hardest natural substance ever found. It takes millions of years to form this mineral compound made of pure carbon.


Emerald is the lovely green-coloured gemstone composed of beryl mineral and trace chromium. Emeralds can actually lose their colour when subjected to a very high level of heat!


Sapphires are composed of the mineral corundum. Typically, sapphires are a vivid blue colour, but there is another category called “fancy sapphires” — these stones come in all different colours such as pink, green, and even purple and orange. The only colour a sapphire can’t come in is red because these are called… Rubies!


Rubies are composed of the red-coloured corundum which is what gives it its intense red colour. However, ruby “red” can be anything from a deep purple to a very dark pink. While today, rubies are a popular expression of love, in ancient times, they were valuable because they were believed to bring protective benefits to the wearer.

Which Popular Gemstones Are Considered “Semi-Precious”?

All gemstones except the four listed above are considered “semi-precious”. While there are quite a few gemstones in existence, here are a few of our favourites:


Pearls are formed within bivalve mollusks (typically mussels and oysters) which are found in both saltwater and freshwater sources. While they are not hard gems, it is extremely difficult to crush a pearl. The colour of a pearl can range vastly from almost clear to yellow and depends on the type of mollusk and water it is found in.


Opal is composed of a form of silica that is chemically similar to glass. In ancient times, opals were commonly worn for their healing benefits, and still remains true in some cultures today. Each opal stone is extremely different and encompasses many different colours in unique patterns.

Black Onyx

Onyx is a black variety of the microcrystalline quartz called chalcedony. Onyx can also occur in white form but is dyed jet black. Considered a high energy stone, onyx is used to help with self-control.


Blue topaz is the most commonly thought of topaz in the West, but it can actually come in a variety of colours. Imperial topaz, sometimes called precious topaz, is the rarest of them all. Topaz consists of aluminum and fluorine and is a silicate mineral. Traditionally considered a comforting stone, topaz is still used for relaxation benefits today.

These are just a few of the popular gemstones and how they’re made and classified. There are so many more, including some we discuss on our website or found in our jewellery store in Duncan. So, which ones are your favourite?

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