What Is a Gemstone Anyway?

A gemstone, commonly referred to as a gem, a stone, or a jewel is a mineral or organic material used in decoration and adornment valued for its beauty, durability, and rarity. 

Of the 3,000 or so minerals found in the earth, only about 50 are commonly used in jewelry. As new sources and varieties of gems are found, the number of minerals commonly used in jewelry may change. Popularity and fashion trends can rocket a little known mineral into a star of the mainstream jewelry world.

Other gemstones come from plants and animals rather than a mineral source. These are called organics. Pearls are produced by mollusks, like oysters. Amber is fossilized tree resin that is millions of years old. Other organics include coral, jet, ivory, and shell.

Synthetic gemstones are not from a natural source. They have the same chemical, physical, and optical properties as their natural counterparts, but are produced in a laboratory or factory.

Imitation gemstones include any material that looks like a natural gemstone but is not the stone it is portraying. This can include other natural stones, like a colorless topaz in place of a diamond, man made stones like cubic zirconia, a diamond imitation, or any other material such as glass, plastic, and assembled stones.

Alexis Romeo Jewelry uses natural gemstones, not synthetics.

Cut gemstones often begin in their crystalline form embedded in their host rock, called the matrix. In this phase the stone is known as rough. While some pieces of rough are beautiful enough to leave in this state to be collected and put on display, most will go on to be cut, polished, and set into jewelry.

Gemstones are most often faceted, cut in a specific pattern of polished planes.

Another common cut is cabochon, a domed and polished upper surface.

Organics are not usually faceted because they are not as durable as mineral gems. Instead they tend to be polished, carved, half or hole drilled and made into beads.

Parts of a faceted gemstone


Gemstone Facts

  • Diamonds are probably the oldest thing you will ever own; they’re approximately 3 billion years old.
  • Rubies and Sapphires are both corundum and have the same chemical composition: aluminum oxide.
  • Rubies refer to red corundum and sapphires refer to blue and all other colors of the rainbow except for red.
  • George Washington wore a locket with Martha's picture in it around his neck his entire life.
  • Emerald, aquamarine, and morganite are the green, blue, and pink colors of beryl, made of beryllium aluminum silicate.
  • Obsidian is natural glass that forms when volcanic lava cools rapidly.
  • The Black Prince’s Ruby is actually a spinel, not a ruby. It’s one of the oldest Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, with a traceable history dating back to the middle of the 14th century.
  • Zircon is zirconium silicate, a natural mineral available in a variety of colors. This should not be confused with cubic zirconia.
  • Cubic zirconia is zirconium oxide, a mineral almost always synthesized and used as a diamond stimulant.
  • A pearl is formed when an irritant, such as a piece of grit, gets into a shellfish like an oyster or mussel. Its natural defense is to coat it in layers of aragonite, also called nacre. This creates the solid beauty known as a pearl.
  • Amethyst and citrine are the same mineral, silicon dioxide.
  • Malachite dust is poisonous.
  • Ivory is sometimes made of vegetable ivory from Doum Palm nuts and Tagua nuts.
  • Amber is 30 to 90 million year old fossilized tree resin.
  • Jet, popular in mourning jewelry during the Victorian Era, is fossilized wood remains that are millions of years old.
  • Herkimer diamonds are actually double terminated quartz.