Jewel Talk


When it comes to coloured gemstones, just how many types are there? Which gemstones are “Precious” and which are considered “Semi-precious”?

These are burning questions for many people who are gaining interest in coloured gemstones but lack the knowledge and understanding of them.

The past decade has seen a resurgence in the popularity of coloured gemstones. This is thanks to an increasing awareness, primarily via the internet and marketing. In addition, many developments have boosted consumers’ confidence in coloured gemstones via certification, industry transparency, and gemmological reports.

What are “Semi-precious” gemstones and how did this term come about? Did you know that coloured gemstones have been sought after for centuries?

In the past, coloured gemstones were worn by many for their talismanic properties and were believed to be gifts from God. Emperors and Empresses wore them to cement their status. In the early days, only a few gemstones were appreciated and understood by nobles and royalty - Diamond, Emerald, Pearl, Blue Sapphire and Ruby; hence dubbed “Precious” gemstones. The demand for these “Precious” gemstones became much sought after. Those who were less informed looked up to what the rich and famous wore. Despite the existence of many other gemstones during the same period, there was a lack of information on them. Hence, they were stigmatised as “Semi-precious” gemstones until today.

Were coloured gemstones often identified wrongly in the past?

The answer is yes. In one example, Red Spinels were often mistaken for Rubies because of their similar properties and occurrence in the same geological environment. If you have heard of the famous “Black Prince Ruby” mounted on the British Crown, well, that turned out to be a glowing red uncut Spinel.

How is this significant for gemstone collectors?

There is no defined line between what is “Precious” and “Semi-precious”. Tourmaline is a great example of what people thought were worthless and “Semi-precious”. Did you know that the Paraiba variety is actually a highly-coveted Tourmaline? A fine piece of Paraiba can command a higher value than diamonds of a similar size and there’s no guarantees you can even get your hands on one as it is so rare! With increasing knowledge and awareness of many “Semi-precious” gemstones, the demand for them continues to increase. Some are rarer in supply than others. In the history of economic downturns, gold and gemstones quickly became a good alternative investment to balance one’s portfolio.

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