What are gemstones ?
Precious stones and the gems cut from them are fascinating objects. Celebrated in poetry and art through the ages; worn by beautiful women; symbolizing wealth, luxury, and power; obtained by strenuous labor and transformed by skiff and experience, a gemstone is a pure and tangible concentrate of value, which never loses its appeal, whether as an ornamental object, a collector's item, or simply an investment.
Fantastic origins, not to mention magical and medicinal properties, can be claimed for gemstones.
Magical and medicinal properties were attributed to gemstones over the years:
Diamond - gave immunity to poison and revealed infidelity;
Amethyst - protected against drunkenness;
Bloodstone (Heliotrope) - stopped nosebleed and conferred in-visibility;
Sapphire - enabled the wearer to escape from prison.
These are just a few known examples, but there are also numerous tales of stones with mysterious names, impossible to identify.
There are four characteristics—rarity, hardness, natural origin, and beauty—together with chemical resistance, that constitute an acceptable definition of a precious stone. A stone is a natural object (and also a mineral), beautiful, rare, hard, and resistant.
Let us look briefly at these properties:
A natural gemstone is a mineral that is formed spontaneously in nature, without human intervention. This property is essential to our definition, because many modern artificial stones are highly prized, and the synthetic varieties are sometimes virtually indistinguishable from the natural ones.
Beauty is essentially a subjective concept, even if the appreciation of precious stones is commonly based on objective criteria, like optical characteristics: the play of colors, color, transparency, and high reflectivity.
Rarity too is a criterion which has more to do with the beholder than the beheld. It is connected to that part of human nature that prefers things that are hard to come by, partly to arouse in others a sense of envy. Despite their intrinsic qualities, no one would wear rubies for ornamentation if they were as common as pebbles on the beach.
The remaining two properties—hardness and chemical resistance are truly objective because they are physical and chemical.
Hardness and Chemical Resistance
Hardness is essential to a gemstone as scratching of the surface or abrasion of the edges would spoil its appearance. Similarly, poor chemical resistance would eventually lead to partial disintegration, depriving the stone of value by destroying its brilliance.
A gemstone has both subjective and objective properties, fact and fantasy, fashion, superstition, and reality; studied by scientists, depicted by jewelry artists and worn by both men and women, symbol of power and wealth, and the craftsman's skill—a gemstone is all this—something which has defied the passage of time and will surely continue to fascinate future generations.