Gemstones are often considered valuable or semiprecious stones, but there are many different definitions of what constitutes a gemstone. The most popularly accepted definition is that a gemstone should have an attractive appearance so that it can be cut and polished for jewelry or other adornments. Gemstones are also used to manufacture industrial and electronic equipment, such as lasers and optical fibers.
However, many stones not traditionally considered “gems” have been used as such. There is no internationally agreed-upon definition of what constitutes a “gemstone” and what does not. The word “gem” has previously been applied to any semiprecious, crystal brightly colored, or stones that exhibit pleasing iridescence.
The west traditionally classified gemstones based on their levels of being precious. They considered some gemstones as precious while others as semiprecious. The difference openly shows the rarity of the respective stones in the old days, and their quality: precious stones were highly valued for their intangibility and durability. In contrast, common ones were generally considered worthless.
“Gem” in gemstone originates from “jeme”, an Old French word. The ancient Greeks wore amulets made of gems for protection against weathering, disease and evil spirits. Archaeologists excavating tombs in Egypt have found amulets that were made of jasper, carnelian and lapis lazuli thousands of years old. The ancient Egyptians believed that jasper was formed when lightning struck sand, while carnelian was thought to have been formed by the solidification of blood from the blood-red eyes of certain snakes.
Benefits of Gemstones
Gemstones in Jewelry
Gemstones are often used in jewelry, and the precious metals gold and silver being used for adornment for thousands of years. The gemstone is usually the center of attention in a piece of jewelry. Still, it is also common to set a gemstone into jewelry that has been made from other materials such as metal or plastic. The use of gemstones in jewelry can be traced back throughout history, but the use of large or colored gems has been especially prevalent since the 19th century.
Gemstones in Medicine
Some gemstones are used for gemstone therapy, a form of alternative medicine.
The therapy is holistic and non-invasive as it is based on the belief that all of the body’s organs are represented by corresponding stones, thus allowing the stones to be used to heal or maintain health.
Gemstones in Religion
Some cultures use gemstones in their religious practices. Christians use gems as symbols for their religious beliefs, such as using amethyst to protect from drunkenness and lapis lazuli for its beauty and association with heaven. In Judaism, amethyst is used for its symbolism as a stone of spirituality, strength, and peace.
Gemstones in Mythology
Some gemstones are used in mythology. Jade is loved for its healing properties and opal for its ability to reflect all rainbow colors. In Greek mythology, amethyst is associated with Bacchus, god of wine and intoxication; in Roman mythology, amethyst was thought to be able to protect against drunkenness.
Reasons making Gemstones Special
Gemstones are Durable
Gemstones display high endurance levels, which are vital for their functioning. The property is different from being hardy, as is seen with diamonds. Gemstones have been used for centuries to the present day as they are durable enough to endure long-term use. Their chemical and physical properties determine the durability of gemstones. Chemical and physical properties can be grouped into two broad categories:
Gemstones do not require special care like diamonds, as they are resilient and hardy. In some cases, taking extra care may even damage the gemstone. For example, cleaning with a lint-free cloth is recommended for opals and pearls; however, this can lead to scratches on the stone’s surface if done improperly.
Gemstones are Rare
Their tendency to be rare boosts the uniqueness of gemstones. Among the gemstones that one cannot locate quickly include alexandrite and tanzanite. Alexandrite is not as common as it used to be in the past and can only be found in Russia. Tanzanite, on the other hand, is very rare because of its location. It is found only in Tanzania.