An Introduction To Colored Gemstones - Commonly Seen Genstones

By: Gen Wright

When shopping for gemstones, it's important to familiarize yourself with the popular varieties. Most popular gems are judged by the "four Cs": cut, color, clarity and crystal (or transparency). The cut should be clean and symmetrical, the color should be vibrant, the stone should be free of imperfections, and light should easily pass through without cloudiness. Stones are also judged on carats, which is a measure of their weight.

Diamonds are by far the most popular and commonly seen gemstones. Diamonds can be cut, or shaped, in numerous styles, including princess and tear drop, depending upon the setting and consumer preference. A stone with a slight yellow tinge will be worth less than a perfectly clear diamond, although vibrant colors such as pink dramatically increase the diamond's value. The color of most diamonds is rated on the GIA scale, with "D" being completely colorless and "Z" being yellow or brown. All diamonds, regardless of color, should be exceptionally clear with no cloudiness or imperfections.

Emeralds are also very popular gemstones. Emeralds range in vibrancy of green, from pale to incredibly dark. Only emeralds with a dark green hue are considered true emeralds, and the stones should appear greener than yellow or blue. Visually perfect emeralds are very rare, and nearly all have been treated to improve surface appearance. Since emeralds are typically uneven, they are commonly sold as cabochons (gemstones which have been shaped, smoothed and polished), rather than a facet cut stone.

Aquamarine is a light to medium hued blue, inexpensive stone that is popular in larger settings and dramatic pieces. These stones are very similar to emeralds in composition, and when cut in faceted shapes should resemble the emerald's hexagonal appearance. Their color should be nearly translucent with a blue hue, although many varieties also come in a blue-green that resemble the sea.

Sapphires are a medium to dark stone that comes in every color except red. It is most common in a range of blue, from the traditional deep sapphire blue to a near black. Some colors, such as purple, are more common and less expensive than the blue varieties, while others, such as pink, are incredibly rare and prohibitively expensive. Colorless or near-colorless sapphires are often used to create a diamond appearance in jewelry. No matter which color is purchased, the stone should be vibrant and even in hue. Because of their popularity, cost and relative rarity, sapphires are one of the most common stones to be synthesized, so higher quality stones can be purchased for a lower cost.

Rubies, while considered a specific type of gem stone, are simply red sapphires. They are judged on the vibrancy and clarity of their color, which ranges from red to pink, brown or purple. Rubies with a pure, rich red hue and an excellent transparency are the most valuable of the variety. They naturally have inclusions, so a stone that is free of these has been heavily treated or is synthesized. Like sapphires, rubies are also commonly sold in synthetic form to increase availability to consumers.

Now that you've read a bit about five of the most common gemstones, remember that the official value of the stone is no substitute for what you find appealing. Many purchasers find stones with imperfections appealing for their character and uniqueness. Your personal preferences and tastes should always be the final determination of whether or not to purchase a particular stone.

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