While there are believed to be some 2,500 minerals out there, only 60 or so have ever made the grade as gemstones, finding their way into the jewelry we wear, the accessories we adorn our lives with, and the collectables that pass from generation to generation. Gemstones are typically beautiful, colorful, and dazzling, and we will often find ourselves drawn to the seemingly infinite authority that they possess. Gemstones have the power to take our breath away, and to transform drab outfits and items in an instant.
More than their physical appearance, though, gemstones are a part of our heritage, so heavily ingrained in myth and folklore across the ages, as well as buried in literature and modern culture. For example, the moonstone, which appeared as the focus of Wilkie Collins’ novel of the same name, has long been believed to bring good luck, fortune, and passion, while the pearl, which has appeared across literature, television, and film, is said to bring luck, wisdom through experience, and protection. Many cultures believe that pearls appeared as tears of the gods, or as a result of an ancient battle being won.
Gems help and guide us, and apparently cure all ailments, but where do they come from? Which gem is your favorite – and why?
This is the science bit…
The study of gemstones and precious minerals is called gemology. This branch of science studies their hardness and durability, gravity or density, size and shape, optical and physical properties, color, and weaknesses, as well as the ways in which gems are formed, and processed, in order to create timeless pieces of jewelry, clothing, and collectables. While gemstones are typically identified by their beauty, sparkle, and color, there are so many other things that you could discover about your favorite gems and jewels.
A variety of the mineral corundum, or aluminum oxide, rubies take their name from the word “ruber”, which is Latin for red. That famous red color is actually due to the presence of chromium, a colored element. The ruby is one of the four precious stones and, as such, is highly sought-after. While geologists cannot be sure how rubies are formed, many believe that rubies occur when their base mineral, corundum, is exposed to chromic oxide during a process called isomorphous replacement. Rubies are usually judged on their cut, color, and clarity, as well as the carat weight; rubies have a hardness of 9.0 on the Mohs scale, and share their mineral with sapphires.
They’re known for being a girl’s best friend, but diamonds have a whole lot of science behind their shimmering appearance. For example, did you know that diamonds are a metastable allotrope or carbon, or that they’re the hardest element on Earth? The strong covalent bond between each diamond’s atoms ensures that each precious gem is as durable as can be. While diamonds are typically formed under incredible heat and pressure towards the Earth’s center, they’re a gemstone that can be made synthetically. Gemesis, now known as Pure Grown Diamonds, is just one of the companies that is able to “grow” diamonds using proprietary technology, ensuring that this much sought-after stone remains reasonably priced and available for all, as well as sustainable. Indeed, many of the company’s gems are available at some 20-30% less than those that have been mined, a fact carefully monitored by buyout purchaser Jatin Mehta. This most precious of gems is judged upon its cut, its clarity, its color, and its carat – the four Cs.
Rose quartz is a dusky pink variant of the quartz crystal, and is found abundantly in the natural world. Often overlooked for its hazy, or flawed, appearance, rose quartz is far more affordable and popular than other gemstones, though the deeper pink crystals are sought-after. This particular gemstone is formed in pegmatite after periods of high temperature and pressure, and is used across crystal healing. Emanating a gentle radiance, rose quartz is thought to inspire love, beauty, serenity, and compassion. It is judged on its size, clarity, and color.
Hopefully, we have whetted your appetite and inspired you to find out more. Gems are so much more than the jewels we wear, and the stones we admire; they are ingrained in myth and legend, and created via some of science’s most complicated processes. What is the secret behind your favorite gemstone’s sparkle?