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What is the Difference Between Precious and Semi-Precious Stones?

When it comes to the world of gemstones, you may have heard the phrases ‘precious’ and ‘semi-precious’ but do these hold any meaning? I take a look at why certain stones have been labelled in this way and whether there are any differences between precious stones and semi-precious stones.

What is a precious stone?

There are only four precious stones: diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds. Precious stones tend to be harder than most other stones - as ranked on the Mohs scale - although this is not always the case. Precious stones are also more expensive than semi-precious stones, although this is mainly due to the reputation they have acquired.

What is a semi-precious stone?

Semi-precious stones are any of those gemstones not considered as one of the four precious stones. There are many different stones available and some popular examples include amethyst, quartz, onyx, chalcedony and turquoise (to name just a few).

Semi-precious stones tend to be more affordable than precious stones although this is not always the case as pearls, for example, can be quite expensive.

Are precious stones really that different to semi-precious stones?

The GIA says there is nothing like a "semi-precious" stone and all stones are precious as they are formed naturally. 

In the mid-1800s, when gemology was in its early phases, diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires were assigned as precious gemstones because of their relative popularity and price.

However, these days it is fairly redundant terminology and the value and rarity of gemstones has shifted since then. Many people believe that the distinction is no longer as relevant as some varieties of semi-precious stone can actually be rarer than precious stones, and indeed more expensive. 

However, the reputation of precious stones has remained strong over the years, which is why diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies are still so sought after!

How do I choose the right stone?

When choosing a gemstone, instead of focusing on whether it is ‘precious’ or semi-precious, you should think of the following factors:

The context

Choosing a stone depends on why you are buying that piece of jewellery. For an engagement ring, for example, a diamond is the traditional option that you may indeed want to stick with or if you are buying a birthday gift, you may want to go for a birthstone.

The colours that most appeal to you/ suit you

In my opinion, gemstone jewellery is so wonderful because it adds vibrancy and an interest point to your piece, whether it’s a ring, necklace, bracelet or a pair of earrings.

Therefore, you want to think carefully about the colour when choosing your stone, as this is what stands out. Think about the colours that typically suit your complexion, as well as those colours that you are usually drawn towards, as this will ensure you will really enjoy wearing the piece of jewellery.

Your budget

Precious stones can be very expensive due to how they are held in high regard, but you can find truly beautiful semi-precious gemstone jewellery within a smaller budget that is guaranteed to wow!

I love semi-precious stones and there are so many to choose from! If you’re looking to add some gemstones to your jewellery wardrobe, why not browse our gemstone collection?