The gorgeous GEMSTONES

The definition of a gemstone can be quite challenging. For thousands of years, people have used gems to describe precious stones such as diamonds, rubies and emeralds. Therefore, a working definition of a gemstone: Gemstones are minerals that have been chosen for their beauty and durability, then cut and polished for use as human adornment. Of course, there are exceptions to this definition. Pearls and amber are well-known gemstones but they’re not minerals. They have organic origins.  In fact, pearl is the only gemstone made by a living animal (oyster) and the amber is a fossilised resin of ancient trees. 

Most gems are mineralsbut some, notably pearl and amber — are organics. Living organisms create these materials. By definition, a mineral must be created inside the Earth. Hence, pearls fall into a different category. (To add some confusion, a pearl’s coating is a mineral, even though pearls form inside a mollusc). Likewise, amber began life as tree sap. After millions of years, it transformed into a polymer, a natural plastic. People have regarded amber as a gem for thousands of years, although it’s definitely not a mineral.

For gemstone buyers, durability is usually a high priority. Nevertheless, two very popular gems are particularly delicate. Pearls generally last about a century as jewellery stones due to their softness. The simple act of wiping off dust will slowly wear away their coating. Perfumes and hairsprays can also stain and damage pearls. As ring stones, pearls need protective settings, especially for engagement rings.

Gems can be used in their natural or raw state or cut and polished. Many people find gems in their raw form more appealing as they believe it exudes metaphysical qualities of Mother Nature. People have cut, polished, and admired about 3,000 minerals. Of these, only about a hundred show up in jewellery. The rest are simply too delicate to wear well and qualify as collector’s items. 

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