How many types of gemstones are there?


The fascination with gems is as old as civilization itself. Before it could read or write, the human race believed in adornment and tool making. Gemstones have served mankind in both ways. Whether to augment beauty or improve upon its machines people have looked to rare substances from the ground and the sea. Often these rare gems become invaluable, either due to scarcity or their unique beauty. The fascination with gems is often the stuff of legend. In fact, even when gems are used practically, they find their way into tools that fuel the imagination or amaze their handlers with capabilities no other substances can match. 

How many types of gemstones are there?

Depending upon who's counting there are anywhere from one hundred fifty to two hundred acknowledged gemstones to be found worldwide. While most of them are pulled from the ground, a few come from the sea. Many gemstones require a great deal of effort and danger to gather. Even the most common of them require a lot of patience and time to form. 

Gemstones range from precious to semi-precious. The precious gems are often the hardest to find. The names of these stones are known to most cultures. Diamonds, rubies, sapphires and pearls are examples of these. Notice how our first three examples are found by digging into the earth, but the last one, pearls, comes from prying open the shells of seabed clams. But where do you find gemstones? The locations of gemstones are as varied as the locations of humans themselves. Mountains, valleys, caves and deserts all hold great mineral treasures. 

A shortlist of rare and semi-precious gems shows us the variety:

  • Tanzanite – found only in Tanzania on the continent of Africa, beneath Mount Kilimanjaro

  • Larimar – found only in a little area on the Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic

  • Black Opal – found in mines of New South Wales, Australia

  • Grandidierite – gem quality stones mostly found in Madagascar and Sri Lanka

  • Alexandrite – dug in the mountains of rural Russia

  • Painite – found most recently in mines of Myanmar

What draws people to gems? 

The sparkle and lustre of a gem is the first thing people usually notice. Nothing glistens quite like the rare stones. Likewise, the shine of a pearl has a singular beauty. Using gemstones as part of elegant apparel is a time-honoured practice. Sometimes the jewel gets displayed on its own. Most commonly though it is mounted upon supporting metal or encased with other stones. Precious minerals like gold and silver are usually the raw materials jewellery mounting. Occasionally gems are bound, however, with simple metals, such as copper or brass instead. In those cases, the gem brings the most value to the completed ensemble and is the centre of attention. Not to be lost in opulence, gemstones have also been used for practical and spiritual purposes. The fire at the heart of a gem has often been given mystical or religious significance. Some stones were rumoured to be cursed, while others were said to house the souls of deities and saints. Pragmatically, gems are sometimes used for scientific study and modern tools. Emerald lasers and diamond drill bits are just two of the many ways precious stones and gems aid modern science, medicine and research. 

Get in touch

Here at Cuttings, we are a family-run independent jeweller owned by the Kirkland family for over 50 years and we are here to help you with your jewellery investment. Whether you are looking to purchase a timeless gold or diamond piece, or if you are looking to get your jewellery valued with our pawnbroking team, we are here to help. We have expert knowledge and provide expert advice so please get in touch with us here. 

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