Gemstones Basic 101: The 9 Essentials for Gemstones

Top Color Emerald

Gemstones come in many shapes, colors and forms and therefore are harder to define than a Diamond. As there are so many varieties and species, value are usually based on multiple factors assumed in the market. We tried summarizing the essential criteria for most gemstones below:

Aesthetics or beauty of a gemstone can be classified into four essential categories.

Top Color Emerald
Top color emeralds like this pair can cost up to US$10,000 per carat

1) Color: For most gemstones, color is considered the most important factor in determining price.   This is especially true for the “big three gemstones”, rubies, sapphires, & emeralds. For these gems, color can cause the prices to fluctuate wildly from US$10 a carat to over US$10,000 per carat. Other stones also have beautiful shifting colors (e.g. an opal) and price can be based on how many unique colors it has.

2) Symmetry or Cut: The second essential factor of a gemstone is its symmetry which defines how well the stone is cut and it’s most appealing form. In natural rough form, gemstones can look like rocks to the normal person, but to an expert gemstone cutter they can convert the stones in a different class of beauty. In the trade, if the gemstone is cut in correct shape and proportions this usually enhances its beauty and sparkling factor which therefore increase prices.

3) Luster: Luster or the gem’s surface appearance also influences the beauty and price of the stone.   Diamonds for example do have the top luster and therefore, are highly valued due to this factor. Other gemstones like the big three also do have a high luster due to their hardness.     But, there are also cases like pearls in which luster plays a key role to its beauty. Therefore, stones that shine are also usually more expensive. 

4) Transparency: Another factor which plays an important role in determining gemstone price is how transparent a stone is. Transparency defines the degree to which the material allows light to pass through it.   There are different degrees of transparency as define below and usually the more transparent the stone the more expensive it is.

Transparent Blue Sapphire
Sapphires like the other big three gemstones are usually transparent

a. Transparent: Light can pass through freely with little or no distortion like glass. Examples of transparent stones are the big three gemstones, garnet, tanzanite, zircon, etc.
b. Translucent: Light diffuses when it passes through the stone.   Frosted glass is a good example.   Examples of translucent stones are moon stone, jade, opal, etc.
c. Opaque: No light is allowed to get through.   A black sheet of paper is opaque. Examples of opaque stones are hematite, turquoise, lapis lazuli, black onyx, etc.

5) Rarity:

Rarity is a decreasing scale defining how difficult it is to find a gemstone as compared to others. Therefore, some gems are more rare then others. Some gemstones are so rare they are considered collectors’ items only.   A stone which our company sold recently is a 1.20ct blue Jeremejevite, which is considered the top ten rarest stone in the world. However, due to lack of knowledge about the stone, the price is still considerable lower then the more common blue sapphire or spinel.

1.20 carats Jeremejevite
This Blue Namibian Jeremejevite is one of the top ten rarest stones in the world, but know one has heard about it!

Most gemstones which people know in the market are consider to be somewhere in the middle of the rarity scale.     This can surprise most consumers as they usually do assume the rarest stones should be the most expensive.     However, the fact is shrewd marketing actually can change consumer preferences. A good example is when the movie “Titanic” released, the price of the gemstone, “tanzanite” shot up because of the last scene in the film in which Rose threw her necklace in the ocean for Jack her lost love.

Diamonds are also another good example in how stones which are not that rare in the modern age still priced very high because of effective marketing campaigns.  It is actually easier to find a 5 carat D-flawless top grade diamond than a 5 carat top pigeon blood ruby.   But, people still want to get the diamond over the top ruby.   This again can be explained by De Beers great marketing campaigns.

Therefore rarity plus beauty and durability must be combined with strong marketing campaigns to merit popular success.   There should also be sufficient quantities of stones in the market so it can stay in public consciousness over the long haul.


One reason why gems have lasted over the ages is because of their durability. Durability is combination of three factors shown below:

6) Hardness – Hardness measures how well a gemstone can resist scratching and abrasion. Diamonds are considered the hardest substance in the Mohs scale with hardness of 10, the highest it can be. While rubies and sapphires, have the Mohs hardness scale of 9. 

Diamond - Hardest Substance in The World
Diamond has hardness of 10 in Mohs scale

7) Toughness – Toughness is the ability to withstand breaking, chipping and cracking. Diamonds are actually not toughest material and in fact can chip if hit in the certain direction. On the other hand Jadeite is considered very tough but has less hardness then topaz. 

8) Stability – Stability measures how well a gemstone resists the effects of light, heat and chemicals.   Some chemicals or sunlight can cause some gemstones to damage or fade in color. For example, if the cleaning solutions for sapphires are used on a peridot it can damage the stone. While if kunzite is expose by sunlight for a long period of time it can cause the stone color to fade.

The combination of all three factors defines how durable a gemstone material is. A stone with low durability like fluorite and calcite though are very beautiful are not use in jewelry as they damage easily.   While stones like Diamonds or the big three gemstones have high durability and therefore can withstand the everyday abuse of wear & tear when used in jewelry. Therefore, usually the rule is the more durable a stone is the more expensive they are priced in the market place.

9) Country of Origin

Though I personally don’t agree with this criteria, people in the trade do put a premium on gemstones from certain country of origins.  It has been shown in the past or historical connotations that certain countries do produce beautiful color gemstones like Kashmir Blue sapphires, Colombian green emeralds or Burmese red rubies.  However, this does not mean that all gemstones from the premium origins are the best or top color quality.  In fact some rubies from Tanzania or Madagascar can beat a lot of the Burma rubies.  However, due to their country of origin, they will almost always sell in discount.

“Determining Price”

The above guide is a good foundation in learning how gemstone prices are determine, but, it still doesn’t provide a clear answer.  As each stone is unique, standardizing a price list is almost impossible. Therefore, determining a price of a gemstone is sort of an art, luck and some negotiating skills.  I have come across many times gemstones which are unbelievable beautiful and cheap because the supplier or source got it very cheap themselves.   Their is no such thing as a standardize gemstone fix price.

Another way in learning “how to buy gemstones” is through the GIA website, which provides images and some ‘brief’ helpful advice for different gemstones:

Contact us today to get all your wholesale gemstones, diamonds and jewelry needs.  We can Source, Search and Supply anything you require.   

What will you get if you contact us

  • Get wholesale and highly competitive prices of gemstones & diamonds from anywhere through our extensive network of contacts around the world
  • All stones sold by us is verified in house by our GIA Graduate Gemologist or certified
  • We provide personalized service and NOT the same old “One Size Fits All” Approach

You can learn more by clicking here or image below


One thought on “Gemstones Basic 101: The 9 Essentials for Gemstones

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.