As with beauty being in the eye of the beholder, so the value of different precious stones lies in the perceptions of the buyer. While diamonds are a common favorite of most women today, that is due in part to very successful marketing efforts in the 20th century. Over the years many other stones have been considered precious, and many are highly valued today.
What Makes a Stone Precious?
Virtually everything that is bought and sold has a value determined in part its available supply and market demand. That means one of the key requirements of any precious stone is a sense of rarity. While it is only in the past few centuries that various gemstones have been classified as precious or semi-precious, all glittery and beautiful stones have been sought after and collected since mankind’s earliest history. Throughout that time, rarity has been one of the principle factors in determining value. The other two essential characteristics are a stone’s beauty (generally a function of color, brilliance and translucency) and its hardness.
The rarity of various stones has actually changed over the years. For example, the discovery of huge quantities of Tiger’s Eye stones in Brazil quickly knocked this favorite gem out of the precious category. Even though it was an opaque stone, it was extremely beautiful and quite rare. Likewise, the amethyst has lost much of its attraction as a premier stone because of the discovery of large supplies.
There are 3 qualities that characterize the precious stones of today: (1) beauty, that is, translucency and brilliance, (2) hardness, and (3) rarity. Two of these qualities, however, have not always been permanent. Tiger’s eye used to be a precious stone, even though the gemstone is, not translucent, but opaque. The tiger’s eye winning advantage was that the gemstone was extremely rare, at least it used be. Like tiger’s eye, amethyst was once a precious stone, until a huge deposit of the gemstone was found in Brazil and obliterated the gem’s fame for rarity. Their huge supply having been discovered, both tiger’s eye and amethyst plummeted in value and were consequently reduced to semi-precious stones.
There is today an extensive list of stones that are generally ranked as precious or semi-precious. At the same time, each individual stone will have a value based on its specific characteristics. Just as there are some diamonds (a precious stone) that you can purchase for less than $100 a carat, there are select semi-precious garnets that command prices in excess of $1,000 a carat.
You’ll find some highly desirable and gorgeous alternatives, or complements to, diamonds among these precious stones:
- Ruby. The red ruby is a classic, and is second only to the diamond in hardness and value.
- Sapphire. Sapphire stones come in all colors except red, and the blue is generally considered the most desirable, and, hence, most valuable.
- Emerald. The green variety of beryl is considered precious, while its many other variations are seldom ranked as more than semi-precious.
- Opals. Black, blue or white, the opal is on most lists of precious stones. In fact, a quality black opal will command $8,000 a carat or more.
- Pearls. Not all pearls qualify, but truly remarkable examples are considered as basic to many elegant wardrobes as diamonds themselves.
While it is of interest to understand what the market considers the most valuable gemstones, the final arbiter is your own taste and budget. As with art, choose the stones and settings that give you the most pleasure and fit your lifestyle and wardrobe.