Precious or semi-precious?

Precious or Semi-Precious how they are differentiated? For ages and even now- gemstones are the signs of wealth, beauty and brilliance. They are a treat to the eyes, and this feeling becomes more delightful when one wears them. Wow! So beautiful they look. The discovery of gemstones was a tragic change for the future world as it opened the door to many businesses and industries, as a result, many people earn their bread and butter through it. In this blog, you will come to know how to identify if a gemstone is Precious or Semi-Precious.

History – First-Time Discovery

According to archaeologists and experts, The first of these great discoveries happened in 300 AD (Anno Domini) years and after some years of classification and identification, business started. After that, all the fuss started. Haha….

 Now after the passage of so many years, the gemstone industry has become a high revenue-making industry. According to many experts and reports, the gemstones industry has an estimated market cap of $31,000 Million. Yes, It’s enormous!

There are many basis on which gemstones can be categorised, but from all of them, Precious and Semi-precious stones are prioritised at the top. It has captured a high percentage on the basis graph.

What are Precious Gemstones?

Simply talking, precious gemstones are those stones, which got the name “precious” due to their lustre, shine, and phenomenal looks. There are four gemstones that fell under the precious gemstone category, they are Emerald, Diamond, Ruby and Sapphire.
Due to the similarity of features/characteristics, some of the stones can fall into the category of precious gemstones. These stones are alexandrite, jadeite, and pearls. But these stones are not on the list of precious gemstones. Experts have explained why these precious gemstones are not on the list.

Characteristics Of Gemstones 

Many people consider this thing that gemstones that look very beautiful are in the bucket of precious gemstones but this is not the whole story. There is another side to the story too, there are many other factors that put those four stones in the category of precious gemstones. 

Let’s quickly go through those factors

Characteristics/Features Of Precious Gemstones

Basis Diamond Ruby Sapphire  Emerald
Hardness 10 (Mohs) 9 (Mohs) 9 (Mohs) 7.5 to 8 (Mohs)

Natural Colour
Diamonds naturally have many colours like red, yellow, orange, green, blue, pink, purple, brown, violet and grey. Pigeon Blood red
+  Many Other Varients
Royal Blue (Also in many other colours due to various chemical compositions) Lush green 
Quality  Factors 4C’s (clarity, cut, carat and colour) It’s colour with the 4c’s It’s colour with the 4c’s Colour and its Transparency
Mineral Species Carbon Corundum Corundum Mineral Beryl

How do we recognise a semi-precious gemstone? 


What is a semi-precious gemstone?

After so much discussion about precious gemstones, now we must shift our minds towards the other side of the class. Gemstones after excluding all four precious gemstones are categorised as semi-precious gemstones. People’s mindset after listening to semi-precious gemstones is that they would be less expensive or precious (value), but this is not true.

There are many semi-precious gemstones that are expensive, beautiful and rarer than precious gemstones for example Tanzanite, but then also fall under this category. 

Common Characteristics of Semi-precious Gemstones 

  • Durable to chemical acids and 
  • Their demand is comparatively less than precious gemstones 
  • Most gemstones are unaffected by weather conditions. 
  • Easy to Maintain
  • Excluding all four precious gemstones, the rest gemstones are semi-precious
  • Most Semi-Precious Stones are Soft

Till now we have known how precious and semi-precious gemstones are classified.

But not all gemologists follow this way of distinction of gemstones. Earlier in ancient times, people use their own ways to classify gemstones, like on the basis of colour and price.

These two classification ways ended too soon when their arguments arrived.

  • In the colour category, there were chances of confusion for example Green Garnets were considered emeralds, and red spinel was considered a ruby.
  • The price of precious gemstones is considered higher than semi-precious but there are many semi-precious gemstones that are way more expensive than precious ones.

No one has ever or no one can precisely classify gemstones into such categories as there are unknown properties residing in the gemstones. 

According to modern gemology, there are no precious or semi-precious gemstones. Natural Gemstones are classified into 

  1. Inorganic Gem Materials 

Minerals – e.g. aquamarine, diamond, emerald, tourmaline, zircon, benitoite

Rocks – e.g. lapis lazuli, opal with matrix, and turquoise with azurite and malachite

Natural glass – e.g. obsidian and moldavite

2. Organic/Biogenic materials 

Plant origin – e.g. amber

Animal origin – e.g. ivory, coral, pearl


Hope you have understood now what is the story behind the classification of gemstones. Summarising the class – we have learned that precious stones are considered to be only 4 and those are diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphire rest of them are considered to as semi-precious gemstones.

But the big gemstones associations considered this method of grouping as outdated one. They have grouped gemstones into two categories i.e. Inorganic and Organic.

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