A Guide to Gemstones for Jewelry
Gemstones add color and style to any jewelry and give you a non-traditional option for an engagement ring. However, not all gemstones are created equal and finding the right one for your is crucial for a long-lasting and beautiful piece of jewelry.
Considering Gemstone Durability
When choosing a gemstone for your jewelry, durability is a significant factor, especially for engagement rings. The hardness of a gemstone refers to its ability to resist scratches and is measured on the Mohs scale. Another feature of durability is toughness, which refers to the stone’s ability to withstand chipping and cracking.
Of all the gemstones out there, diamond is the hardest with a Mohs rating of 10, while sapphires (Mohs 9) and rubies (Mohs 9) come in second. Emeralds have a good hardness rating but has poor toughness due to the excessive inclusions they tend to have.
Rarity and Value
While it might seem that rarity and value of a gemstone should be correlated, this isn’t always the case. Tanzanite is among the rarest gemstones in the world and yet they are often priced more affordably than blue sapphire, which is more available. What this means for you, the consumer, is that you can purchase a rare and unique gemstone at a price that’s more affordable than you might think.
Best Gemstones for Jewelry
The word ‘best’ is subjective and depends on varying factors, such as the type of jewelry you’re purchasing, your budget and so on. However, here are the most popular and highly sought-after gemstones on the market.
Sapphire is made of a mineral called Corundum and comes in a range of colors from white to black, except red. This is only because red corundum is known as rubies (more on this below). Sapphires are mined across the globe, with significant deposits found in India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Vietnman, Australia and the USA.
Sapphires range in value depending on their quality factors, relating to the 4Cs (cut, color, clarity and carat). Of these, color is the most important and greatly impacts the overall value of the stone, with blue sapphire and pink Padparadscha sapphires typically considered the most popular and valuable. High quality sapphires can fetch high sums because they’re rare and hard to come by. Sapphires from Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka) and Kashmir are especially in high demand.
After diamonds, sapphire (with rubies) are the second hardest gemstone. They’re also much tougher than diamonds and are ideal for daily wear.
Rubies are made of the same mineral as sapphires – corundum. They only come in the color red but can vary in shades. The red color of rubies comes from the presence of chromium in the stone’s formation. Like sapphires, rubies also come from around the world with significant deposits being located in Burma, Sri Lanka and Mozambique.
The beauty of a ruby lies in its color intensity, and its value is dependent on the combination of the 4Cs. Blood red rubies are extremely rare and valuable. In fact, the most valuable gemstone ever sold at an auction was the Sunrise Ruby, a pigeon blood red ruby that broke records with its price of $30.4 million.
Just like sapphires, ruby is also very hard and tough, with a 9 Mohs ranking. They’re an excellent choice for daily wear and are highly resistant to exposure.
The most popular green gemstone, the word emerald is synonymous with the color green. They’re from the beryl mineral family, which it shares with other famous gemstones like morganite and aquamarine. Emeralds come from a range of locations around the world, including Colombia, Zambia, Madagascar and South Africa.
Emeralds are highly sought after and are valued for their green color. Of the 4Cs, color is the most significant for emeralds, followed by clarity. A high-quality emerald is extremely rare and can command high prices.
Emeralds are softer than sapphires and rubies, ranking at 8 on the Mohs scale, but this rating is hard enough for daily wear. The issue with emeralds is that they aren’t very tough and are prone to breakage. This is due to the inclusions often found within emeralds, which can compromise their durability, making them vulnerable to heat damage, knocks and bumps. Almost all emeralds used in jewelry are treated in some way to enhance clarity, stability and color of the stone. However, emerald inclusions don’t typically impact on its value.
Tanzanite is one of the rarest gemstones and is found in only one location in the world – at the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (hence the name). Tanzanite sources are believed to run out in the next decade or so, making it a ‘one generation’ gemstone. This is also a relatively new gemstone and has been on the market for less than 50 years. Tanzanite looks very similar to blue sapphire and can even rival the beauty of that stone. While it ranges in color and shade from blue to purple, light to dark, the most valuable are vivid blue tanzanites.
Although it’s very rare, tanzanite is still typically less expensive than sapphire, which makes it a great alternative. However, this of course, depends largely on the 4Cs of the stone.
Tanzanite isn’t a highly durable stone, ranking at 6-7 on the Mohs scale. It also has low toughness and can break if struck. This makes tanzanite a gemstone that needs to be worn with care and should be maintained carefully.
Which Should I Choose?
Most retailers, including Intercontinental Jewelers, offer sapphires, rubies and emeralds as part of their gemstone inventory as these gemstones are considered among the best for jewelry and are valued for their value, beauty and illustrious histories. However, choosing the right stone for your depends on your preferences, including budget, color and style.