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In the world of gemstones, only four are classified as precious: diamond, ruby, sapphire and emerald. These are the four most expensive and sought-after stones in the world, and the “precious” label is largely a marketing tool. By labeling certain stones as precious, those who sell the stones are able to sell them at higher prices.
Sometimes, jade, pearl and opal are listed as precious gemstones. This categorization is not widely accepted, though, and those stones are mainly regarded as semi-precious. Generally speaking, diamond, sapphire, ruby and emerald are the only true precious gemstones.
Keep in mind that “precious” does not necessarily mean “rarer” or “more desirable.” Several semi-precious stones, like red beryl, tsavorite garnet and several others, are much rarer than any of the precious stones. Desirability largely comes down to the wearer. While some people prefer diamonds or sapphires because of their “precious” status, there are many others who prefer semi-precious stones, which are no less beautiful or exquisite.
Any stone that isn’t classified as precious is considered semi-precious. This category is, of course, much larger and contains hundreds of different gemstones, including amethyst, quartz, turquoise, pearl, garnet, aquamarine and many, many others.
It is important to note that semi-precious gemstones are not necessarily less valuable than precious ones. For example, a high-quality green garnet (a semi-precious stone) has more monetary value than a mid-quality sapphire (a precious stone). Also, remember that the entire notion of value is a human concept and that our tastes and perceptions change over time. While diamonds are currently some of the most valuable gemstones on the market, there was a time when amethyst held that honor.
One of the benefits of semi-precious gemstone beads is that they offer more variety than their precious counterparts. While diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires come in different shades and, sometimes, different colors, there are semi-precious stones in just about any color you can imagine. They form in all colors of the rainbow and they are a great option when you want to create beautiful and unique pieces.
It is easy to assume that precious stones are the “best,” but this isn’t necessarily true. In many ways, the terms “precious” and “semi-precious” have become arbitrary and rather meaningless. In fact, many experts have pushed for these terms to be removed from use in the gemstone industry. When the terms first originated, the value differences between the four precious stones and the other gemstones of the world were vast. Today, however, there are semi-precious stones that can be worth more than precious ones, as previously mentioned.
When you are shopping for gemstones for your own projects, don’t get too hung up on labels. Choose the ones that are most appealing to you and/or your customers. Consider your preferences as well as your budget. If, for example, you are looking for a clear stone but cannot afford diamonds, there is absolutely nothing “wrong” with choosing clear quartz instead.