Types of Gems, Precious Stones & Jewels
Throughout history, civilizations have embraced gemstones as status symbols, spiritual healing tools and the ultimate in personal decoration. Some jewels, such as the blue Hope Diamond, are associated with curses rather than cures but are still coveted. No matter what color, size or hardness, gemstones–also known as precious stones and jewels–remain treasured possessions worldwide.
Gems or gemstones, precious and semi-precious stones, and jewels are all terms that refer to the minerals or rocks used as jewelry or for other decorative purpose. These minerals are measured for hardness, or durability, by the Mohs’ scale, which ranks the minerals in order from hardest to softest. The harder a mineral, the more likely it is to last as a jewel or decoration. Diamond, ruby, sapphire, emerald, aquamarine, chrysoberyl, topaz, tourmaline, peridot, garnet, pearl and opal are some minerals commonly ranked highest in hardness.
In artificial light, gemstones look different than they do in natural light. Walter Schumann says in his book “Gemstones of the World” that “color is produced by light; light is an electromagnetic vibration at certain wavelengths.” Schumann explains that the human eye sees portions of these wavelengths as color. Darker stones may be cut thinner than lighter stones so they display more color. Garnet, sapphire, ruby, emerald and alexandrite are all gemstones that have color that is affected by light and can change according to the lighting and the cut of the stone.
Gemstones have been assigned to astrological signs for centuries, and are used in spiritual healing techniques practiced by holistic therapists. Specific gemstones are believed to be powerful for people born to certain astrological signs. Each month has at least one birthstone assigned to it. Some of the birthstones are garnet, amethyst, aquamarine, bloodstone, diamond, emerald, pearl, moonstone, alexandrite, ruby, peridot, sardonyx, sapphire, opal, tourmaline, topaz, turquoise and zircon. Of course, anyone may wear a jewel designated to someone else’s birth month, but its healing powers are believed to be strongest if the jewel is worn by someone with the corresponding birth month.