Gemstone Guide
Precious Gemstone Guide
Semi-Precious Gemstone Guide
Exotic Gemstone Guide
Birthstone Guide
Diamond Guide
Cubic Zirconia Guide
Pearl Guide
Semi-Precious Gemstone Guide

Semi-Precious Gemstones

Any gemstones that is not a diamond, ruby, emerald or sapphire is a semi-precious gemstone. Calling a gemstone semi-precious does not mean it is less valuable than precious gemstones. Semi-precious gemstones are just usually more abundant (but there are a few exceptions).

The value given to semi-precious gemstones depend largely on color, availably and quality. Because these gemstones typically have more sources, they are a good choice for larger, clean-eye stones and come in a rainbow of colors.

Some semi-precious gemstones are not stones at all, but are made of organic material like amber, coral and pearl. This guide will reveal details about some of the most popular semi-precious gemstones - garnet, peridot, amethyst, citrine, blue topaz and turquoise. For information on the only semi-precious gemstone that comes from an organism, take a look at the pearl buying guide.
Garnet - Semi-Precious Gemstone

Garnet Characteristics

  • Garnet comes in a rainbow of colors, with blue being the only exception.
  • The gemstone's principle color is a reddish brown and the red variety called Pyrope is the best known garnet.
  • Garnet is not a specific gemstone. Rather, it is a group of common silicate minerals that have similar structures and components.
  • Major garnet types are Almandine, Andradite, Carbuncle, Grossular, Hessonite, Pyrope, Rhodolite, Spessartine, Topazolite and Uvarovite.
  • Garnet gemstones have been a popular jewelry choice for 1,000s of years because garnet is fairly easy to cut, very brilliant and durable.

Garnet Origin

  • In the Bible, Noah used garnet to navigate the Ark through 40 days and nights of rain. This helped the gemstone gain the reputation of guiding its wearers.
  • Garnet has been used for 1,000s of years, dating back to the ancient Egyptians. Jewelry, beads, and bracelets from 3100 B.C. have been found in the Nile delta.
  • Garnet bracelets and brooches were popular in the 1800s. Garnet in the Victorian period typically was a rosette style, a large stone surrounded by smaller ones.
  • The gemstone is named after the Latin word "granatus" meaning "many seeds" because it was compared to a grain or pomegranate seed.

Garnet Folklore

  • Garnet is rumored to increase confidence, courage, energy and security.
  • The gemstone has a high refractive index, which means it's very brilliant. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans thought of garnet as a protective gemstone that would light the night and protect wearers from evil and doom.
  • Travelers carry garnet to protect themselves against accidents.
  • The gemstone symbolizes faith, truth, compassion and fidelity.
Peridot - Semi-Precious Gemstone

Peridot Characteristics

  • Peridot, pronounced "pair-uh-dough," is one of the few gemstones that is only one color - green.
  • Iron makes the gemstone green, although peridot's color ranges from yellow-green to olive-green to brownish-green.
  • The most valued color is a deep lime green with no olive tones. Dark shades of green are more expensive than lighter shades.
  • Peridot is made of the mineral Olivine. Olivine is abundant, but gemstone quality peridot is scarce.

Peridot Origin

  • Peridot was formed in Earth's infancy under intense heat. It's created in magma found in the mantle and spewed to the surface by active volcanoes. Falling to the ground causes the molten peridot to take on a teardrop shape, which is why ancient Hawaiians thought peridot were the tears of the volcano goddess Pele.
  • The volcanic gemstone was first used in jewelry more than 3,500 years ago by the Egyptians.
  • The first peridot gemstones were mined in Egypt's St. John's Island (Zebirget Island) as early as 1500 B.C. The pharaoh's slaves mined the volcano for dark-green peridot in the middle of the night, believing the gemstone couldn't be seen during the day.
  • Peridot was once called the "gem of the sun" by ancient Egyptians.

Peridot Folklore

  • Ancient Romans nicknamed peridot the "evening emerald" after its colorful glow among candlelight. They believed peridot jewelry could cure depression, protect them from spells and evil, and provide restful sleep.
  • Peridot was used as an ancient remedy to treat digestive, heart, lung and eye problems.
  • Sufferers of asthma would grind the gemstone up and swallow the powder and people with fevers would hold the gemstone under their tongue to lessen their thirst.
  • It was believed medicines were more potent when drunk out of a peridot goblet.
  • Peridot was also said to slow aging, provide restful sleep and provide its owner with patience, confidence and influence.
Amethyst - Semi-Precious Gemstone

Amethyst Characteristics

  • Amethyst is the most recognized and precious gemstone in the quartz family.
  • Amethyst is colorless in its purest form and comes in a range of tones - from violet to pale red-violet. The most valuable stones possess deep, cloudless, uniform tones.
  • Large cuts of dark, single-shaded amethyst are rare.
  • Although the gemstone's weight and light refraction is similar to other quartzes, amethyst's unusual structure causes uneven color in the stone. Zones of light and dark color are called banding and are common.

Amethyst Origin

  • Ancient civilizations valued amethyst more than today's pricier gemstones. It was as valuable as a diamond until large Brazilian sources were discovered, which increased abundance and decreased the price of the gemstone.
  • For centuries, amethyst played significant roles throughout many cultures, royal families and world religions.
  • The regal purple gemstone is a long-time favorite among kings and queens, and is present in the British Crown Jewels.
  • Russian Empress Catherine the Great liked amethyst so much, she sent thousands of miners into the Ural Mountains to look for it.
  • Amethyst was an important ornament among Catholic Church clergy during the Middle Ages. The royal purple stood for piety, celibacy and a symbol for Christ. Even today, it's common for bishops to wear amethyst rings.
  • In Tibet, the gemstone was dedicated to Buddha and believed to promote clarity of mind because Buddha considered amethyst sacred. This lead to the amethyst rosaries common in Tibet.

Amethyst Folklore

  • Since antiquity, the gemstone has gained notoriety for benefiting those who wear it.
  • Amethyst's legend was born of Greek mythology. It begins with a beautiful maiden named Amethyst who became drunk with wine. Dionysus, the god of wine and song, became angry and tried to slay the young virgin. Artemis, goddess of virginity and hunting, interfered and turned the girl into quartz. Dionysus saw what happened and repented by pouring wine over the stone, staining it purple, but leaving the bottom white.
  • Ancient Greeks and Romans believed amethysts protected against drunkenness, so the word amethyst comes from the Greek word 'amethystos,' which means 'not intoxicated.' They would mix the gemstone with wine and drink from goblets carved from large amethysts believing it would allow them to drink alcohol without becoming drunk.
  • Many cultures believed an amethyst had the power to provide its owner with protection, defend crops and bring good fortune in hunting and battle.
Citrine - Semi-Precious Gemstone

Citrine Characteristics

  • Named after "citron," the French word for lemon. Many of these gemstones are a deep yellow, but can be light or dark yellow, a golden orange and a brown orange.
  • Citrine is a transparent quartz that gets its yellow color from iron. It usually has excellent clarity and few inclusions.
  • Citrine is commonly mistaken for topaz and has been mislabeled gold topaz or smoky topaz since its discovery. The gemstone has a lower refractive index than topaz and instead is known for casting a warm, golden glow.
  • Larger stones are typically a more golden color than the smaller gemstones.

Citrine Origin

  • Natural citrine is rare. In the 1700s, people discovered amethyst and smoky quartz became citrine when baked between 470 and 560 degrees. This made the gemstone accessible, and today the majority of citrine began as orange-brown amethyst or smoky quartz.
  • Citrine became a popular adornment for Greeks between 323 and 150 B.C.
  • The gemstone was used to decorate or make dagger handles in 17th century Scotland.

Citrine Folklore

  • Ancient cultures carried citrine as protection against snake venom and evil thoughts.
  • Citrine was thought to remove toxins from the body and assist digestion.
  • The gemstone was called a "stone of the mind" because it was believed citrine placed on the forehead would provide psychic powers. The gemstone was also thought to stimulate memory, creativity, confidence and intuition.
Blue Topaz
Blue Topaz - Semi-Precious Gemstone

Blue Topaz Characteristics

  • Topaz is the hardest of the silicate minerals and made of fluorine and aluminium.
  • Pure topaz is clear. Small amounts of impurities tint topaz into an array of colors, including blue, red, yellow, yellow-brown, green, brown and pink.
  • Blue topaz comes in four shades: Sky Blue is light blue, Swiss Blue is medium to dark indigo blue, London Blue is blue-green, and Maxi Blue is the deepest blue.
  • The gemstone usually has high clarity and few inclusions seen by the naked eye.

Blue Topaz Origin

  • Topaz was mined by ancient Romans and Greeks and was considered a rare stone until the middle of the 19th century when a large source was discovered in Brazil.
  • Yellow topaz is the most common. The word topaz was used to describe any yellow gemstone in the Middle Ages.
  • Heat gives blue topaz its color. Natural blue topaz is extremely rare.

Blue Topaz Folklore

  • Ancient civilizations thought the gemstone could cool hot heads and turn a pot of boiling water cold.
  • They thought blue topaz could cure insanity, insomnia, asthma and make those who wear it invisible when confronted with danger.
  • In mysticism, topaz is said to make men more handsome, chase away sadness, anger and fear, and protect its wearer from sudden death.
  • Blue topaz gifts symbolize love and fidelity.
Turquoise - Semi-Precious Gemstone

Turquoise Characteristics

  • The name was derived from the French phrase "pierre turquoise" or "Turkish stone" when it was imported to Europe through Turkey. The Persians mined turquoise as early as 2000 B.C.
  • Turquoise is rarely faceted and can be engraved or carved into beads or cabochons.
  • Turquoise is made of hydrated copper and aluminum phosphate. The copper is what primarily gives turquoise its color.
  • The gemstone's color ranges from pure sky blue to blue-green to green. Turquoise with even, robin's egg blue color is most valuable.
  • A spiderweb matrix that complements the turquoise can increase value. A matrix is remnants of the mother stone still attached to the turquoise. This black or brown veining is also called a cobweb, edisonite, spiderweb or egg shell.
  • Light sky blue and dark royal blue turquoise without matrix is valuable and called Sleeping Beauty turquoise. Stones with more green or an unattractive matrix are of lesser quality.
  • Turquoise is relatively soft and usually protected with a wax coating.

Turquoise Origin

  • Turquoise is found filling fractures in volcanic rock.
  • It is one of the oldest mined gemstones, collected by the ancient Egyptians as early as 3000 B.C.
  • Native Americans have used turquoise for more than 2000 years. The gemstone is used in ceremonial garments and is considered sacred to some tribes. Turquoise jewelry from southwestern Indian tribes is very popular.
  • Aztec, Anasazi and Hahokam Indians used turquoise for religious ceremonies, art and trade. The Aztecs decorated their masks with the gemstone.
  • Turquoise was also a popular gemstone among ancient Mesopotamians, Persians and Chinese in the Shang Dynasty.

Turquoise Folklore

  • Turquoise has been considered a healing stone and was thought to block diseases and promote tissue growth, strengthening and body alignment.
  • People thought turquoise would change color to warn its wearer of danger. The gemstone does change color, but as a result of sun exposure, heat and acids in cosmetics or household cleaners.
  • In the 13th century, it was believed turquoise prevented horses and their riders from falling.
  • Ancient Persians would wear turquoise around their necks to prevent unnatural death and accidents.
  • The cheerful blue color of turquoise is said to bring happiness and good fortune, especially when the gemstone is given as a gift.