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Guide to Gemstones: Semi-Precious vs. Precious Stones


You plan to purchase a piece of jewelry, but then encounter terminology like “precious” and “semi-precious” stones. The piece looks nice, you think, but is it something truly valuable? How much is it actually worth?

As a very basic reference point, “precious” stones pertain to gems originating from rocks or minerals. These stones have the greatest visual appeal, resulting from a high level of clarity and color saturation. In general, rare stones fall within this group.

Semi-precious, by contrast, indicates the gem is more common and easier to find. Colors also tend to vary widely. And while the price may be lower, this isn’t true in every case.

So when you’re picking out jewelry, what should you be looking for?

Precious Stones

These gems have the greatest value. Because of this, many come with a report detailing the stone’s carats, color, clarity, cut, and weight, as well as information about treatment and origins.

The standard precious stones include: 

  • Rubies: The most valuable colored stone when priced per carat, rubies vary from red to orange. Because consumers prefer the former, the gem may be heated to improve the color. 
  • Emeralds: These stones range from bluish- to yellowish-green. To improve the appearance, these stones may be oiled or filled to hide imperfections. 
  • Sapphires: The most popular precious stone in the U.S. can be found in a range of shades, although blue is preferred. 
  • Diamonds: These are the clearest out of the group, but may be found in a range of shades. Learn more about diamonds before you buy.

Semi-Precious Stones

Several gems fall within this category. The most popular are: 

  • Garnet: While not a gemstone, it’s composed of a silicate mineral, which makes it strong yet easy to cut. 
  • Peridot: This green stone originates from mineral olivine. 
  • Amethyst: Part of the quartz family, it ranges from nearly colorless to a red-violet shade and prominently displays banding. 
  • Citrine: A yellow to orange color, this is yet another quartz-formed stone. Because of its color and clarity, it’s often mistaken for topaz.
  • Topaz: The hardest silicate mineral, topaz forms from fluorine and aluminum. While a clear stone, impurities turn it a range of colors: blue, red, yellow, green, brown, and pink. 
  • Turquoise: This “Turkish stone” has been used for jewelry since 2000 B.C. In forming, hydrated copper and aluminum phosphate create a blue to green gem. More valuable options have a clear spider matrix on the surface.

You’ll find both types of stones within Tiara Jewelers’ selection. Browse through our pieces, and then contact our location to learn more.