When entering the wonderful world of vintage and antique jewellery, you’ll quickly notice that there’s a lot to choose from. With all the available colours, styles, and materials, it is very understandable that you sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees in your search for the perfect pieces of jewellery. Vintage and antique jewellery is made of the finest materials, to give the person wearing it a feeling of luxury and comfort. But what actually are these materials? It’s often said that jewellery is made of the so-called ‘metals’ and ‘stones’. The term metals refers to the metals used to make jewellery, which can be divided into precious metals and non-precious metals. The term stones refers to the stones that are used in the jewellery, which can also be divided into precious stones and semi-precious stones. Since we already made a handy guide about the types of metal your jewellery can be made of (click here to read), in this blog we will teach you all about the stones that are often used.
What are gemstones?
A type of stone that is often used in jewellery is the gemstone. Gemstones are minerals that distinguish themselves because of their hardness, durability, shine and sparkle, and transparency. When cut and polished, they are officially called gemstones and are very desirable for use in jewellery. Certain rocks and organic materials are also used for jewellery and therefore considered gemstones as well. Examples of these are lapis lazuli and amber.
When talking about gemstones, there is a distinction between precious stones and semi-precious stones. Only a small group of gemstones is considered ‘precious’, namely the diamond, ruby, sapphire, and emerald. All other gemstones are considered semi-precious, like for example aquamarine, lapis lazuli, and tourmaline. The distinction between precious and semi-precious gemstones is considered a bit outdated nowadays and stems from a time in which there was no advanced gemological equipment and gems were identified by their look and feel. The precious stones were distinguished by their quality, rarity, hardness and the beauty of their colours.
Characteristics of the precious gems
While all precious stones distinguish themselves by their hardness, this is especially the case for diamond, since it’s considered to be the hardest natural material on earth. The characteristic that distinguishes ruby from other gemstones, is the intensity of its red colour. The colour of ruby ranges from pink to deep red, with the most valuable rubies being rubies with a medium tone, intense red colour, and high transparency. Sapphire is a variety of the mineral corundum and occurs in many different colours, like for example pink, orange, blue, yellow, and purple. Interesting to know is that ruby is also a variety of the same mineral, and thus all corundum that has a red colour, is called ruby instead of sapphire. The preferred colour of a sapphire is blue, with sapphires with stones with a pale, violet-like blue to a deep velvety blue colour often being the most valuable. Finally, emeralds are mostly known for their vivid green colour. The most desirable emeralds are those with slightly bluish green colours in a medium to dark tone. Clarity of the stone is also important, but emeralds often contain inclusions, which are tiny pieces of other materials trapped inside the emerald.
Birthstones are a special category of gemstones. These are gemstones that, according to religion, custom, or superstition, are related to the month or day someone is born. Nowadays they are very popular as a birthday gift, for example, and they are often used in rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. For a long time, there has been no consensus on the list of birthstones, until the National Association of Jewelers standardized the list. But even after that, the list has been modified several times. Below, you can find the list of birthstones that is most commonly used nowadays. A piece of jewellery with a birthstone can be the perfect, personalized gift to show your loved ones how much you care about them. A personalized mother’s ring containing birthstones of all children for example, is a very personal gift to give to a mother. When you’re looking for a slightly more colourful engagement ring, a ring adorned with the birthstone of your fiancée is a great choice as well!
January - Garnet
February - Amethyst
March - Aquamarine
April - Diamond
May - Emerald
June - Alexandrite
July - Ruby
August - Peridot or Spinel
September - Sapphire
October - Tourmaline
November - Golden Topaz or Citrine
December - Blue Zircon, Blue Topaz, or Tanzanite
Finding your perfect gemstones
When purchasing jewellery adorned with gemstones, the distinction between precious and semi-precious stones can be quite misleading. After all, precious stones are not necessarily more valuable than semi-precious stones, neither are they more beautiful. When purchasing a stone, you can certainly take into account characteristics like hardness, purity, rarity, colour, and size, but always keep in mind that the perceived beauty of a gemstone is very subjective. It's often a better choice to buy a semi-precious stone of a good quality because you feel very attracted to it, than to buy a precious stone just for the sake of it. After all, you’ll be the one wearing it and it can be a great feeling to wear jewellery that feels like it made just for you!
“I hope you enjoy your search for your perfect gemstones!” -xxx- Sophie