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A Quick Guide To Gemstones

Gemstones have been prized throughout history, although each stone has been attributed an arbitrary value, depending on its value as a possession or trading vehicle within the cultures in which it was used.

Roslyn Schwarz takes us on a quick tour of the most popular gemstones:

amber gemstone Amber
Amber is created from the fossilized resin of trees. Its golden yellow color is similar to honey, but the color may also be a rich orange, red, brown, white and almost black. In Germany, amber is known as bernstein because in the Middle Ages, powdered amber was burnt as incense.

amethyst gemstone

Amethyst
The name amethyst derives from the Greek word amethustos meaning “not drunken”. The gem was believed to protect against intoxication from alcohol. Amethyst is a clear purple, mauve or violet color, and symbolizes sincerity, security and peace of mind.

amazonite gemstone

Amazonite
Because its color varies from bright green to blue-green, amazonite is often confused with jade. According to legend, the gemstone was first found in the Amazon River, hence its name.

aquamarine gemstone

Aquamarine
Aquamarine is blue to green in color, and is named from the Greek word for seawater. Aquamarine has long been associated with mythical sea creatures like the mermaid.

aventurine gemstone

Aventurine
It ranges in colour from green to peach, brown and blue, and has exhibits a sparkling effect. It is often mistaken for jade. The name comes from the Italian phrase, a ventura, which means “by chance”, so the stone is associated with good luck.

black diamond gemstone

Black Diamond
These diamonds are enhanced to produce a metallic black shine.

carnelian gemstone

Carnelian
Carnelian ranges from bright to reddish orange. The name is most commonly believed to be derived from the Latin carne, meaning flesh. Others attribute the name to the Latin cor, meaning heart. It is thought to control anger, jealousy and hateful feelings. In the 1700's it was reputed to bring luck, protection and comfort.

citrine gemstone

Citrine
Citrine is yellow or golden and derives from the French word for lemon, citron It symbolizes hope, youth, health and fidelity.

diamond gemstone

Diamond
Diamonds are yellow, orange, brown or colorless and are a universal symbol of live. The name derives from the Greek word, Adamus, which means unconquerable or indestructible. Diamonds are considered the hardest substance on earth.

emerald gemstone

Emerald
The colors range from lime green to deep forest green. The ancients prized it as representing the colour of Spring and therefore symbolizing love and rebirth.

fluorite gemstone

Fluorite
Its colors are purple, red, pink, yellow, green, blue and sometimes black. It is said to absorb and neutralize negative vibrations. The name is derived from the Latin fluere, which means to flow. It was traditionally used as a flux.

garnet gemstone

Garnet
Its colors range from red to range, brown, green, yellow and brown. Its name is derived from the Latin Granatus, meaning seed, as it often resembles small round seeds when found in its matrix rock.

iolite gemstone

Iolite
Its colors are pale blue, dark violet blue and yellow. During stormy weather, Viking explorers used thin pieces of Iolite as a polarizing lens to determine the position of the sun, helping them navigate safely.

jade gemstone

Jade
Its colors are pink, lilac, lavender, brown, lime, green, black and white. It symbolizes love and virtue. In China, jade is regarded as a special stone. The Chinese believe that by handling jade, a person will absorb its special qualities.

jasper gemstone

Jasper
Its colors are red, brown, green, gray-blue and yellow. It was thought to drive evil spirits away and protect against snake and spider bites. Jasper was a favourite gem in ancient times and is referred to in Greek, Hebrew, Assyrian and Latin texts.

lapis gemstone

Lapis Lazuli
Its colors are deep blue with a hint of violet. The name is derived from the Latin word, lapis, which means “stone”, and from the Arabic azul, which means blue. The stone is believed to bring mental clarity and emotional healing, and is regarded as a stone of friendship and truth in many cultures.

moonstone gemstone

Moonstone
It colors range from colourless to white, yellow, orange and grey. It always has a white or blue sheen. Moonstone reflects light in a distinctive shimmering phenomenon know as aduralesence. In India it is regarded as a sacred stone.

onyx gemstone

Onyx
Its colors are brown, white, grey and black, with bands of brown, white or black. It is named from the Greek word onux, which means “nail of a finger or claw”.

opal gemstone

Opal
Opal exhibits flashes of color and comes in numerous varieties. It was renowned in medieval times as a cure for diseases of the eye. The Greeks and Romans believed that opals represented hope, innocence and purity.

pearl gemstone

Pearl
A pearl can be pink, rose, purple, yellow, green, silver, blue or black. Pearls are formed naturally by the oyster when a foreign object such as sand or a small stone enters the shell and causes irritation. The name is derived from the Latin word, Margarita, which means “child of the sea”.

peridot gemstone

Peridot
This stone is usually transparent lime or olive green. It is often found in the rocks created by volcanoes.

rose-quartz gemstone

Rose Quartz
The rose quartz is generally pink to rose red in color. It is a symbol of love and beauty.

ruby gemstone

Ruby
Rubies are generally red or pink. They represent love, passion, sexual desire and power. The ruby was the world's most valued gemstone for thousands of years.

sapphire gemstone

Sapphire
A sapphire may be any color except red, although blue is the most common. Sapphire engagement rings are given to express commitment and loyalty.

tanzanite gemstone

Tanzanite
Its color may be blue, purple or slate grey. This stone was first discovered in East Africa in 1967.

topaz gemstone

Topaz
The color can range from colorless to blue, green, pink, orange, yellow or brown. There are two conflicting accounts regarding its name. Some scholars believe it's derived from the Greek work Topazes, the ancient name for St John's Island in the Red Sea. Others believe it comes from the Sanskrit word, tapas, meaning fire.

tourmaline gemstone

Tourmaline
The color is generally dark green, but it can also be blue, red, pink, orange, yellow, brown, violet, black and even colorless. Its name is derived from the Singhalese word, turamali, which means coloured stone. It is also known as the rainbow gemstone.

turquoise gemstone

Turquoise
The color ranges from sky blue to green. Turkish traders introduced the gemstone to Europe.

For more information on gemstones, including lists on birthstones and zodiac stones, visit our jewelry articles page.

Recommended Gem Stone Sites

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  • Gillett's Jewellers
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