Fundamentals

“Beauty, durability and rarity; such are the three cardinal virtues of a perfect gemstone.

Stones lacking any of them cannot aspire to high place in the ranks of the precious stones.”

Dr. G.F. Herbert Smith (1872-1953), Gemstones and their Distinctive Characters

G.F. Herbert Smith, author of this quote, was a British Mineralogist who worked for the British Museum of Natural History, and was responsible for developing the first efficient jeweler's refractometer (an instrument used to measure the refractive index of gems). Though mineral or organic materials might be worn for personal adornment, a gem is only a gem when it is beautiful, durable and rare. Occurring entirely by chance, gemstones truly are amazing miracles of nature. While anyone can appreciate the aesthetic beauty of gemstones, even a basic understanding will make owning gemstones much more rewarding. Many people are far more comfortable buying Diamonds than colored gems, which is unsurprising considering the amount of money the Diamond industry has spent on advertising.

Specimen of apatites

Examples of Apatite

When it comes to colored gemstones, most people are unsure what’s available, let alone how to determine value. Some may be able to name a few birthstones, and some of the better-known varieties, but unless they or someone they know is ‘into’ colored gems, their knowledge barely scratches the surface. This is a pity because it’s easy to become a expert gem buyer, without the need to be a millionaire. Colored gems often offer a fantastical palette of colors for a reasonable price, and many of these stones are, in fact, rarer than Diamonds.

Fancy Sapphires

Fancy Sapphires

Thanks to Diamonds, most people have at least a fleeting recognition of the 4Cs (Color, Cut, Clarity and Carat Weight) which constitute a good way to describe the beauty of a gemstone, and provide easy criteria to assess value in a domain which, at first glance, appears dauntingly complex. The 4Cs are a strong foundation, but there are other factors that also need to be considered when purchasing gemstones. We will discuss these factors and their relative importance and contribution to the gemstone’s final value.