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Gemstone Jewelry Buying Guide

Incorporating many beautiful gemstones found from across the world, gemstone jewelry is among the most popular forms of jewelry. Providing a myriad of color and style combinations, gemstone jewelry is a favorite of men and women that combine this personal decoration with fashion to create unique and interesting looks. While often seen primarily as attractive, jewelry like gemstone earrings, necklaces and bracelets can be much more; many people feel that gemstones offer therapeutic, healing effects and almost everyone will agree that this special form of jewelry often carries meaning beyond mere looks. To navigate the gemstone jewelry purchase process, let's consider a brief history of the gemstone's use in jewelry, develop an understanding of the valuation of gemstones, look as some of alternative benefits of gemstones and conclude with some gemstone jewelry buying tips.

Gemstone Jewelry History

The creation of gemstone jewelry dates back thousands of years to ancient stories found in the Bible and elsewhere. Most scholars agree that the stories and myths behind this form of jewelry can be traced to the story of the "Breastplate of Aaron," which was a ceremonial and spiritual garment that was inlaid with twelve natural gemstones. It's believed that each of these gemstones represented the twelve tribes of Israel from the Old Testament and are associated with the Twelve Apostles.

In modern times, the belief that the twelve gemstones present on the Breastplate of Aaron was extended to include additional meaning. The practice of assigning meaning to stones was probably associated to astrological practices and the custom of wearing gemstones as in birthstone jewelry was first seen in 15th century Poland. In the early 1900s the connection of specific stones to birth months was formalized in the United States; although criticized by gemstone purists as a commercially motivated effort, people from across the world now embrace the concept of birthstones and the ability to place deeper meaning in the gemstone jewelry that they wear.

As you search for gemstone jewelry, the folklore and myths associated with each gemstone offer greater interest and enjoyment. While it may require some homework, identifying the characteristics and meaning of each gemstone will give your jewelry more meaning. Some sample meanings include prosperity, luck, serenity and more. In addition, gemstones are considered by many to possess a variety of healing qualities and personality traits. Regardless of your beliefs, gemstones and the jewelry in which they are featured have a long and interesting history.

Precious vs. Semi-Precious Gemstones

The distinction between precious and semi-precious gemstones is often misunderstood, but fairly easy to understand. Stemming from the ancient Greeks, the traditional distinction between precious and semi-precious gemstones boils down to rarity; diamond, ruby, sapphire and emerald are considered precious, while all other gemstones are considered semi-precious. Generally, this system is often considered overly simplistic, unscientific and only reflects the rarity of the respective stones in ancient times. As a result, use of the terms 'precious' and 'semi-precious' in a commercial context can be considered misleading, however when buying gemstone jewelry it's important to acknowledge that this will largely affect the price of any purchase.

The Healing Affects of Gemstone Jewelry

While gemstone jewelry is frequently thought of as simply an attractive adornment, gemstones are also thought to possess special meaning and healing effects. Used in a form of therapy, gemstone energy medicine uses the unique properties inherent in each type of gemstone to help focus the body's own healing powers. It's been reported that emotional maladies, mental complaints, and chronic illnesses of all kinds have responded to gemstone energy medicine in unprecedented ways. While many may doubt the legitimacy of using gemstone jewelry as a treatment of established maladies, it can't be argued that a substantial number of people have found this treatment helpful.

Although gemstone jewelry has been worn throughout history for its therapeutic properties, the healing effects have met with varying degrees of success due to a lack of understanding of how they work. Authorities on the subject state that to obtain the greatest benefit a gemstone must be of high quality and the proper shape. Like any other form of medicine, the greater the quality the better result, so flawless gemstones are needed to achieve the maximum benefit. Furthermore, the belief that these gems radiate healing powers makes a spherical gemstone ideal. Finally, most experts state that gemstone necklaces place the stone in a location that will benefit the entire body. Whether you consider the use of gemstones and gemstone jewelry a legitimate treatment or not, many swear by the positive affects they've experienced through its use.

The Healing Properties of Gemstones

Gemstones are not only attractive, but according to lore helpful in the treatment in a wide variety of medical conditions. Among the many popular forms of gemstone jewelry, let's look at several types of gemstones that are commonly integrated into jewelry and what their healing properties they are thought to have:

Amethyst is a purple-colored, semi-precious stone that is known as a spiritual stone and used for general healing and meditation. It's said that sleeping with a piece of amethyst beneath one's pillow promotes intuitive dreams and inspired thought.

Diamond is considered a master healer. An extremely powerful stone, it is said to remove blockages and all emotional negativity.

Emerald is a bright green precious stone said to improve intellect and memory. In addition, it's been reported to have wide ranging positive properties including relieving insomnia and acts as emotional stabilizer to assist in the release of emotionally based trauma.

Ruby is a deep red transparent gemstone and thought to increase levels of energy and divine creativity. In addition, it alleviates worries, lifts spirits, as well as improves one's confidence, intuition, spiritual wisdom, energy and courage.

Sapphire is often seen to have a calming effect on those prone to nervousness. Considered a stone of friendship and love, it attracts good influences. Sapphire has also been reported to give the wearer devotion, faith, imagination and peace of mind.

Gemstones are available in a wide range of varieties and are incorporated into many forms of jewelry including gemstone earrings, necklaces and rings. An attractive alternative to more traditional forms of jewelry, gemstones are not only attractive but also have a story behind them.

Gemstone Jewelry Buying Tips

Armed with some background information on gemstone jewelry including history, valuation and alternative uses, you're already well positioned to make a wise purchase but let's look at some useful tips to ensure that your purchase of gemstone jewelry will be an easy and enjoyable experience. Here are several tips that you should find helpful:

Look for Quality Gemstones

Identifying the quality level of the stones used within gemstone jewelry is important and will ensure that any gemstone rings, necklaces or other pieces you purchase will retain their value. Since gemstones have no grading system, their evaluation can be more complicated than diamonds. However like diamonds, starting with the Four Cs can be helpful:

  • Color The color of gemstones used for jewelry is important. Generally clear, medium-tone, intense and saturated primary colors are the most preferred. Avoid stones with color that is too dark or color that is muddled. The brighter and more vivid the color, the better.
  • Clarity After color, gemstone clarity is the next most important factor in valuation. Clear, transparent gemstones with no visible flaws are the most valued. With no standardized grading system, clarity can be difficult to judge, but if flaws aren't visible in the face up position, then they rarely matter. Some gemstone varieties, like emerald and red tourmaline, are rarely seen without inclusions, so gemstone jewelry that uses high quality stones from these varieties will be more expensive.
  • Carat - Gemstones are sold by weight, not by size and prices are calculated per carat. It's important to recognize that some gems are denser than others, so similarly sized stones of different varieties may differ greatly in cost. In addition, larger stones of some varieties can be quite rare and much more expensive like ruby, emerald, sapphire and tourmaline.
  • Cut Although not the most important factor in evaluating the quality of gemstones, cut is very important in how the stone is used in gemstone jewelry. A good cut is something that may not cost more but can add or subtract a lot of beauty. A well-cut faceted gemstone reflects light back evenly across its surface area when held face up. The best way to judge cut is to look at similar gemstones next to each other.

Think Ahead

When searching for the perfect piece of gemstone jewelry, buyers often place too much concentration on the item itself without considering how the jewelry will be worn. Properly pairing jewelry with clothing for a particular use or occasion is critical to ensure that the jewelry will be worn and enjoyed. For example, an ornate gemstone necklace may not be the appropriate for a more formal business environment where a more subtle bracelet or ring may be best suited. So when selecting among the various types of jewelry items, it's wise to consider how the wearer may use the item and think ahead.

Ask Questions

While there is a great deal of information about gemstone jewelry available in books and online, ask questions of your jeweler. Regardless of the amount of information gathered during the purchase process, there always seems to be additional points that may have been misunderstood or overlooked. Whether the subject is valuation, style or some other topic, asking questions will help you find a piece of gemstone jewelry that will be appreciated for years to come.