Precious stones like diamonds, rubies and emeralds are not the only stones used in jewellery. Many semi-precious stones are an alternative for those who do not want to spend the money on the higher-priced stones. Price is not always a good indicator of a stone’s precious or semi-precious status, though, because low-quality diamonds could actually run less than some high-quality semi-precious stones. There are more than 100 different semi-precious gemstones, each with unique characteristics.
Usually a dark red, garnets range from opaque to almost transparent. The International Colored Gemstone Association reports that garnets also exist in green, yellow, orange and earth hues, and in fact the only colour they do not come in is blue. Most garnets come from Africa. The garnet is January’s birth stone. These stones are hard, which makes them good for everyday jewellery.
Amethyst, the birthstone of February, is a type of quartz. It is violet in colour, and can range from dark purple to light violet. It can change its colour when subjected to heat and light. In fact some stones may become almost clear when exposed to too much light. Wearers should not leave amethyst jewellery in the sun or heat. The largest amount of amethyst comes from Brazil and Uruguay, found in volcanic rock. The prices of the stone vary based on colour, clarity and cut.
Green jade is the most common, though it can actually come in many colours, from almost black to a more medium green. Very rarely is the stone completely solid in colour, often having veins and streaks running through the stone. It has always been an important stone in China, and according to the International Colored Gemstone Association, is a Chinese equivalent of diamonds or gold in western cultures.
Opals are easy to recognise because of the bright reflective shine they have. There are many different varieties and colours, from black to white to fire red. Opals contain a large amount of water and may become brittle if stored in a dry or hot location. Wearing the opal often can help with this problem. Australia is the largest exporter of opals.
According to Bob Jones, Senior Editor of Rock & Gem Magazine, turquoise is only found on or near copper deposits. The stone is a hydrate of copper, aluminium and phosphorus. It ranges from blue to green based on the amount of iron. In the Southwest, spiderweb turquoise is popular, which is turquoise with veining running through the stone. There is no pattern in the veining, and the colour of these fillers can range from black to red.
Amber is fossilised pine tree resin. It can range from light yellow to a dark brown. According to the International Colored Gemstone Association, amber jewellery can range from £13 to £26,000 or more. More valuable items are older, and people will pay more if there is a trapped object, like an insect, inside. Amber is easily scratched, and many items sold in stores have been treated to prevent scratching.