Diamonds, rubies, pearls, opals and sapphires. Though there’s no arguing over whether or not these stones are rare, beautiful and expensive, there is some confusion about which gems are precious and which are semi-precious. Do you believe that semi-precious stones are less valuable than precious, or more common, or lesser in any way? It’s a common misconception. But, here for your thrilling edification, is the truth behind those two terms and what they really mean.
From the Beginning
You can thank Greece for the original distinction between semi-precious and precious gemstones. They had good reason for separating the rocks into two categories back then. Precious stones, which are diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds — always — were rarer, worth considerably more and of a higher quality. Today, that is not so much the case. Semi-precious stones, which include all other gemstones, like pearls, opals and garnets, are sometimes more difficult to ferret out and therefore can be worth notably more.
Present Day Usage
The terms are still in use today as a more commercial way of boosting the perceived value of the precious stones. There is no system of measurement that makes grading gemstones universal, nor is there any scientific basis for classifying a stone “precious” or “semi-precious,” so it’s important to recognize the sales pitch when you hear it. Dubious sellers toss around these terms in order to sell more diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds under the guise of intrinsically higher value. A good way of uncovering a shady jeweler is to ask the meaning of the words.
Though precious and semi-precious have very little useful meaning in the jewelry world outside of a marketing stand point, discovering gemstone history is always fascinating, as long as it doesn’t risk your investment in quality pieces that you’ll adore for years to come. Now that you have busted the myth of these terms, you can safely indulge in some beautiful new pieces without worrying about the meaning.