Why do they call some gemstones “precious” and others they call “semi-precious“?
Is there really a reason?
Aren’t all gemstones precious?
Only three gemstones have the title of “precious” attached to them. They are:
Sapphire, ruby and emerald.
These 3 gems are named precious for a couple of reasons:
- They are valuable
- It’s rare to find decent quality, like color or clarity
- To separate them from the regular gemstones
These other regular (more common) gemstones are: citrine, garnet, aquamarine, topaz, tourmaline, peridot, opal, pearl, amethyst and zircon (plus all the other gems).
These stones were given the name “semi-precious“. Which is the silliest name to put on a gemstone. Semi? It’s only half precious? Couldn’t they think of a better name like “Not so precious…” “Almost precious…” or “Less than precious“??? Isn’t that what semi-precious sounds like?
I have yet to ever hear a customer (in over 20 years) walk into a jewelry store and say “I’d like to look at your collection of semi-precious gemstones.”
I would laugh.
Customers ask for gemstones by their name “amethyst” or “birthstones” and some just say “gemstones” but never “precious” or “semi-precious“.
The names never caught on…
The names precious and semi never caught on like they wanted them to. No one really ever used them except for the jewelers. Only now and then do you actually see gems listed as semi-precious or precious in the sales fliers (that’s more rare than precious stones are). Most won’t even go there. Jewelers just call the stones what they are “sapphire” “ruby” “aquamarine” “topaz“…
Created precious gemstones:
Here’s the funny thing about these 3 precious gems… You want to know why you never see them called “precious” in the ads? Because they’re not real. They’re created.
Just about every jeweler in the mall and department stores (the ones who distribute sales fliers) don’t carry the genuine stuff anymore. Their precious gemstones are actually all “lab created“. Check out the advertisements, see for yourself. “Created sapphire.” “Created ruby.” “Created emerald.” They’re all made in a laboratory. Test-tube gemstones (but at least they’re cheaper).
Maybe that’s why jewelers dropped the title “precious“? Probably so. I mean, it would be silly and wrong to call them “lab-created precious gems.” You can’t call it precious if it’s created in a lab. It’s funny to even think about.
Precious is slowly slipping away.
Slipping away for good reason. If customers saw what genuine precious stones really looked like (most are pale and highly included), then they probably wouldn’t buy them. Good quality gems, (emeralds, rubies and sapphires) really are that hard to locate in any good size, color and clarity.
The main jewelry stores that still sell these real gemstones are the independent jewelers (and that’s even getting scarce). They tend not to carry much of the “created” gems. Most independents just want to carry the real thing (just so you know). But quality would still be an issue. You will find real ones, but you will have to look hard to find the real good ones.
Here’s my last take on precious VS semi-precious gemstones… It doesn’t work.
They aren’t more precious.
Calling a sapphire “precious” makes it sound like it’s better than a high quality tourmaline. It makes it sound like it would be more expensive than one. But the fact is, it may not be. There are plenty of “semi-precious” gems that will sell for more than a sapphire or ruby or emerald would depending on the size, clarity and color. The name precious just means nothing anymore.
Take alexandrites for example. They’re not called “precious“, but these genuine stones are almost impossible to locate in any jewelry store anywhere in the country (chain or independent). (You can find created alexandrite gems everywhere). But no… They still don’t get that supreme title. Maybe we should start calling them “more precious than precious and definitely more precious than semi-precious.” What do you think?
Does the title mean anything to you?
Would it help you to buy a gemstone?
Does it even matter? Or does it just make it all that more confusing?
I think they just gave these 3 main gemstones the title of “precious” so they could sell more of them (or charge more). Who knows? Why are they so great?
Fact is, no stone is any more precious than another. Good quality is always a rare find. When we buy gemstones, we buy them because we like the color. We like the cut. We like the way the jewelry was designed… Not because of the title.
To us, any gem can become “precious“. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tiny, little blue topaz… It’s “precious” to us.
We are more like Smigel from the Lord of the Rings than we know…
All of us look down at our rings and gems, smile and say “My Preciousssss!“
Author Richard Scott. Certified Diamontologist and Gemologist. 30 years of experience.
Let Richard help you choose the best diamond, the most dazzling engagement ring, and save as much money as possible. Read more about the author here. Follow Richard on social media; Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest. Contact Richard Scott here.