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A Buyer’s Guide to Gemstones
A Buyer’s Guide to Gemstones

A Buyer’s Guide to Gemstones

Shopping for gemstones is about more than just colour. Colour, cut, clarity, carat, and your preferred type of jewellery are important factors too.

With so many gemstones in the world, all in so many colours and shapes, where do you begin to shop? This jewellery guide can help you understand gemstone categories (be it colour, cut, clarity, carat, or the beliefs traditionally associated with each gem) and narrow down what you’re looking for.


Understanding Gem Value


Gemstones are graded on scales, which rank certain traits found in each gem according to their rarity. Very small imperfections can drastically affect a gem’s value in the eyes of a grader. However, it’s important to note that the best gemstone for you is the one you like the most, be it for comfort, aesthetic, or sentimentality. A gem that receives high scores on these scales may not be to your taste, and that’s no reason to select it over a gemstone that better suits you.


Colour - Since many gemstones come in a variety of colours, colour grading can seem like a fickle scale. To most consumers, the difference between a red ruby and a red-orange ruby may be insignificant. However, this can affect the perceived value of the gem, and lead to a better price for you.


Cut - Typically, gemstones are expected to conform to regular shapes, so this is what they are cut into before they are sold. Round, baguette, pear, oval, asscher, and princess are just a few of the many possible shapes a gemstone can come in. Deciding on your cut preference before you begin browsing for gemstones will help you narrow down your options. A well-cut gem should be symmetrical, and its facets should emphasise the sparkle.


Clarity - Coloured gems are labeled as “eye-clean” if any imperfections are invisible to the naked eye, or “eye-visible” if an imperfection can be seen. Visible imperfections are more likely to lower the gem’s value. As a consumer, this can help you save money while still enjoying some extraordinary pieces, so you shouldn’t automatically rule out a gemstone with an “eye-visible” clarity ranking


Carat - A carat is 1/5 of a gram (200 milligrams) and is a unit of measurement for weighing gems. When browsing, you may find it is possible to buy a jewellery piece featuring several small gems clustered together for less than the price of a single larger gem. This is an excellent option if you would like to wear gemstones on a budget (and still look fabulous too).


Birthstone Guide


Birthstones are a list of gems that have become associated with the months of the modern calendar. Not many people know that the list of birthstones has changed over the years. In fact, it was updated as recently as 2016, when spinel was added as an alternate birthstone for August. So, you might be asking, how did the modern list of birthstones originate? Throughout history, many gems have been associated with different months of the year. That list was narrowed over time, with gems being selected if they were easy to cut into wearable shapes. 


One of the most popular ways to wear birthstones has always been as a necklace, with many mothers wearing the birthstones of their children close to their heart. Here’s another fun fact: all the gems on the modern birthstone list are transparent, making them easier to use in jewellery designs.


The American National Retail Jeweler’s Association created a standard list of birthstones in 1912, and it has been added to occasionally over the years. The most up-to-date birthstone list on the net is:


  • January - Garnet

  • February - Amethyst

  • March - Aquamarine or Bloodstone

  • April - Diamond

  • May - Emerald

  • June - Pearl, Alexandrite, or Moonstone

  • July - Ruby 

  • August - Peridot or Spinel

  • September - Sapphire

  • October - Opal or Tourmaline

  • November - Topaz or Citrine

  • December - Turquoise, Blue Zircon, or Tanzanite


You may know your birthstone now, but what are the best ways to incorporate it into your outfit? Fortunately, birthstones can be added to all kinds of jewellery as a fashionable accent. Here are a few stunning examples:



Metals and Designs That Pair


Metal is often incorporated in jewellery alongside gemstones. Metal beads are popular spacers, allowing “breathing room” between each gem. If placed on either side of a gemstone, they can also draw the eye towards the center, accenting its beauty as a focal piece.


  • Silver is always an excellent choice of metal, as it catches light nicely and can bring out the hue of just about any gem.


  • When pairing a gemstone with gold, clear stones (such as diamonds), red stones (such as rubies and garnets), or deep blue stones (such as sapphires and lapis lazuli) are the way to go.


  • Gold is similar to yellow, the complementary colour of blue on the color wheel. Clear stones won’t clash with the bright metal, and red is a hot colour that pairs nicely with the warm tones of gold.




Once you master colours and cuts, you are well prepared to shop for gemstones (even online, where you aren’t viewing gems in person). There are thousands of options at your fingertips, ranging from big brand names to smaller artisan jewellery shops. Whether you prefer a specific gem due to its association with your birth month, or your favourite gem is one you simply like because of its colour and sheen, you are sure to find a stunning item just a click away.


The three most important takeaways are:


  • Gems that are graded highly on the “4 Cs” scales may not suit your personal tastes, so don’t be afraid to choose for yourself.


  • You may not always find your perfect gem within your price range.


  • Being willing to compromise on an imperfection or two may help you afford a larger gem at a more affordable price.

Ready to start shopping? Get in touch with a local or artisan jeweller today, and browse to your heart’s content.

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