What Attributes Make A Gemstone Desirable?

9:00 AM

It's worthwhile to ask what qualities are desirable in a gemstone. There are six main characteristics which are classically regarded as being desirable in a gemstone. These are in order of importance:
1. Beauty
2. Durability
3. Rarity
4. Fashion
5. Special Properties
6. Individual Taste
First, a gemstone should be optically attractive. It can achieve this in various ways. It could be a beautiful color, or it could sparkle through reflecting light. All the aspects of beauty relate to what happens to light when it hits the gemstone. 

The most important gem characteristic is color. Gems such as ruby, amethyst, sapphire and emerald have beautiful color as their main attraction and are generally expected to be transparent. However it is not necessary for a gemstone to be transparent. Coral, lapis lazuli, carnelian and opal are beautiful but are usually opaque. Although sapphire, spinel and quartz can occur in colorless varieties, they can be uninteresting because they do not have the advantage of possessing the beauty of color. Diamond likewise is often colorless, but it is considered by many to be the most desirable gemstone. The main reason why diamond is suitable as a gemstone is its high refraction and dispersion - now we are getting technical! If you want to deepen the color of your gemstones, you should check out our wide selection of colors in Soft Flex Wire .019

Why some stones sparkle more than others:
1. Reflection
2. Refraction
3. Dispersion
4. Facetting
1. Reflection
All stones will reflect light from their surface. The amount of light reflected will depend on the surface reflectivity of the stone. The reflectivity of a stone at its surface is often referred to as its luster. Transparent stones will also reflect light from their internal surfaces. The proportion of light reflected off an internal surface increases suddenly at a particular angle known as the angle of total internal reflection. This angle is very important when determining the best cutting angles for a gemstone. 

2. Refraction
All materials refract light, meaning alter the light’s angle. The amount by which light is refracted is an important feature of every gemstone. The measure of a material's refractivity is known as its refractive index (R.I.). 

3. Dispersion
Dispersion is the difference between the amount of refraction of different colors of light. White light is actually composed of light of all different colors. A highly dispersive material will split light strongly into component colors to give a "prism" effect showing a rainbow or spectrum. Diamonds owe most of their beauty to their high dispersion. 

4. Faceting
The number of facets on a gemstone and their careful placement will give a stone more sparkle. Good faceting can enhance the beauty and desirability of the gemstone. 

In general a larger gemstone has more obvious beauty. 

To some, a heart shaped stone may be more desirable than a different shape, but this is usually a matter of personal preference. Some stones naturally occur in certain typical shapes, or lend themselves to be cut in certain shapes. Emeralds for example lend themselves to being cut into oblong or octagonal shapes, so that an oblong shape with its corners cut to form an octagon is known as an emerald cut.

Regardless of how beautiful a stone may appear, for it to be suitable as a gemstone, it will need to be reasonably durable. Gemstones do vary considerably in their durability, some, such as diamond, are almost indestructible, others are considerably more delicate. 

There are numerous different ways of considering hardness, but the main one for gems is their resistance to abrasion. Moh's hardness scale lists 10 well known minerals on a scale from 1 to 10. Each numbered mineral will scratch the mineral numbered below it.

Many state that rarity is necessary or desirable for a gemstone. We believe that a beautiful and attractive gemstone is just as beautiful and just as attractive whether it is common or rare. Supply and demand usually dictate that rare objects command high prices. Only the status value of gems is increased by their rarity, not their aesthetic value. 

Natural, Synthetic or Simulant?
Many insist that being natural is a necessary attribute for a gemstone. Certainly, ownership of a rare, expensive and all natural gemstone gives the owner a degree of status and personal satisfaction. However, this does not make a beautiful, attractive synthetic or simulated gem any less beautiful. There is a difference between natural, synthetic, and simulated. A gem simulation is a stone which appears similar or identical to a different stone. Cubic zirconia can be used to imitate or simulate a diamond. A synthetically produced diamond is a real diamond that is man made, not a simulation for diamond. Synthetic gemstones are relatively recent. 

Fashion can play a part in determining whether a gemstone is popular. There are many stones that have historically had no claim to fame until a famous person was photographed wearing it or a big name designer decided to use it as a part of their new fashion extravaganza. 

Special Properties
Special properties include possible health or social effects which gemstones can possess. This includes the categories of superstition, religion, social custom and health. 

It has long been believed that wearing certain minerals and gemstones can create beneficial health effects. 

Superstition sometimes plays a part in choosing a stone. For instance, some people believe emeralds or opals are unlucky or that "pearls are for tears". 

Beads and gemstones have long been used for religious ornamentation or for prayer and worship. For example, bishops wear large stone rings as a symbol of their office usually with red or purple stones. Similarly, red stones may be set in a cross or crucifix. 

Social Customs
In some societies and cultures wearing gemstones may convey a message about the social status of the wearer.

Blog contributor Sara Oehler (the original SoftFlexGirl) is the Sales and Marketing Manager for Soft Flex Company. Find her on facebook or her blog. She'd love to hear from you! So, please feel free to leave comments or email her at

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