Is a geode a gemstone? How about a crystal? The answer to both of those questions is an abject "no", but why is that the case? What qualities make a stone into a gemstone? I asked my spouse and the theory I was given is that it has to do with how translucent a stone is. Well, diamonds are clear, so that can't be it. After a bit of digging we found the definitive answer! There are three points which we will cover from most common to least. Finally, we can wrap things up by discussing the differences between a crystal and a gemstone.
Stones are solid. It is basically the one common factor that almost every mineral on Earth shares. Sure there are some that are much softer than others, talc is technically a stone but it can be easily scratched with just your fingernail. There are also extremely hard stones that end up being brittle. Cracking and breaking is obviously not doing those 'hard' stones any favors in the durability department.
The durability of gemstones is an important factor in what makes them so valuable. Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying "If you are in a fuss because the world seems out of control, then the advice is, buy some gems. They, more than anything, represent permanent stability." If you are actually interested in creating capital from stones then check out our blog on gemstone investing!
There are a lot of beautiful stones on our amazing planet. The vast majority come up short of being labeled gemstones for one or both of the other two reasons. I remember the first time I uncovered a piece of quartz while hiking in the backyard of my California home. My 8 year old brain was exuberant! I ran home to tell my parents that we were officially rich! Upon showing them what I found, they had a good laugh.
Beautiful stones don't automatically mean valuable stones. If you find the right buyer then there is certainly money to be found. We could've squeezed about 50 cents out of that quartz. Raw quartz goes for around $4-$6 per pound. The money can scale up quite quickly with things like geodes depending on the color combination, size, and symmetry. I've seen little roadside shops in my travels that sell geodes for around $60-$80 and to my shock, people buy them! I mean, it's your money. Spend it however you please, but do realize that these aren't precious gemstones.
Obviously the least common factor which turns a stone into a gemstone is the rarity. There are plenty of stones out there that are durable and gorgeous, but they are simply too common to be of much interest to gemstone aficionados. Take that quartz stone for example, it has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs mineral hardness scale and has looks quite similar to the highly-sought-after diamond but when a clumsy 8 year old can simply find them laying on the ground?
That doesn't bode well for the value. It's a simple question of supply and demand, and that equation is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Quartz isn't valuable because it's common and people don't want to buy it because it isn't valuable, so the price spirals downward. Gemstones might be rare, but the rarity is what truly drives the price and very likely the reason that we can't wait to get our hands on them!
Differences Between Crystals and Gemstones
So... Now that you know exactly what makes a stone into a gemstone, perhaps you can answer this question for yourself. Why are crystals not counted as gemstones? They're certainly beautiful on the whole, but when boiled down crystals are simply a repeating arrangement of atoms. They are certainly pleasing to the eye, and that covers the beauty aspect of our gemstone checklist but what about the other points?
Let us consider durability. The quartz crystal I continuously bring up is certainly durable, right? But quartz isn't the only type of crystal out there. Think about sugar or salt crystals. These crystals won't even survive a dousing with a bit of water! Definitely not the poster-child for durability. These crystal formations are also extremely common. This is the case for almost every kind of crystal because repeating arrangements of atoms are absolutely everywhere in nature, so we can count crystals out. Crystals are definitely not gemstones.
What Are The True Precious Gemstones?
The only stones that are currently officially recognized at this time are: diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. Some people will point at jade, opal, and pearls but these technically fall into the semi-precious stone category. There is a very wide range of semi-precious stones, and it is an all-encompassing sort of label. You've got gorgeous but common stones like quartz and tigerseye on the lower end of the pricing spectrum, and less durable and rare stones like lapis lazuli edging their way into the 'almost precious' end of the scale.
If you aren't investing, then the price and status of a gemstone is largely a non-factor for me. I won't hesitate to wear gemstones that look good, no matter if they're precious or semi-precious or even not precious at all! To add to that, you should absolutely be taking utmost care of all your gemstones, crystals, and jewelry like they were priceless. Polish them to perfection with our amazing and effective gentle jewelry cleaner!
You can't put a number on sentimental value. I have a sterling silver necklace with a simple aquamarine pendant, but I treat it like it was gold encrusted with diamonds since it was a gift from my great grandmother. I keep it in an anti-tarnish cloth storage bag to keep it from tarnishing because I don't want to wear it out and accidentally lose it, but I do want to keep it with me forever.