Gemstone

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Gem is any mineral that is highly prized for its beauty, durability, and rarity. It is enhanced in some manner by altering its shape, usually by cutting and polishing. Most gems begin as crystals of minerals or as aggregates of crystals. Non-organic origin material (eg pearl, red coral and amber) with several crystal origin is also classified as precious stones.

HISTORY OF GEMS

The use of gemstones in human history goes back to the Upper Paleolithic Period (25,000–12,000 BCE). People were initially drawn by the bright colors and beautiful patterns of gems. When the shaping of stones for adornment first began, opaque and soft specimens were used. As shaping techniques improved, harder stones began to be cut into gems. Beads of the quartz varieties hard carnelian and rock crystal were fashioned in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) in the 7th millennium BCE. Records of the time suggest that people thought that stones had a mystic value—a belief that persists to the present.

GEM MINING

Gemstone deposits form in different geological environments. Perhaps the best known are the “pipes” of kimberlite, from which most diamonds are recovered by the hard-rock methods of drilling and blasting. Other gems also recovered from the rock in which they form are quartz varieties, opal, tourmaline, topaz, emerald, aquamarine, some sapphires and rubies, turquoise, lapis lazuli, and chrysoberyl. Hard and dense gemstones that are impervious to chemical weathering are carried by water to placer deposits such as river beds, beaches, and the ocean floor. Placer mining techniques mimic the creation of the placer by separating denser minerals in running water. The simplest methods are panning and sieving, or passing gravel through a trough of flowing water with baffles at the bottom. The lighter material washes away but denser gemstones remain.

FACETING

Gemstones can be shaped in several ways. Opaque or translucent semiprecious stones, such as agate and jasper, are tumble-polished, carved, engraved, or cut with a rounded upper surface and a flat underside. Grinding and polishing of flat faces on the stone is called faceting. Facets are placed in specific geometric positions at specific angles according to the bending of light within a particular GEM CUTS There are three basic types of facet cut: step (with rectangular facets), brilliant (with triangular facets), and mixed (a combination of the two). The first faceting probably involved diamond cutting in Italy prior to the 15th century. First, only the natural faces of octahedral diamond crystals were polished. stone. Transparent stones, such as amethyst, diamond, and sapphire, are faceted to maximize their brilliance and “fire” or enhance color. Although much material is ground away while cutting, the final value is much enhanced.

GEM CUTS

There are three basic types of facet cut: step (with rectangular facets), brilliant (with triangular facets), and mixed (a combination of the two). The first faceting probably involved diamond cutting in Italy prior to the 15th century. First, only the natural faces of octahedral diamond crystals were polished. stone. Transparent stones, such as amethyst, diamond, and sapphire, are faceted to maximize their brilliance and “fire” or enhance color. Although much material is ground away while cutting, the final value is much enhanced. The rose cut was developed in the 17th century. By about 1700, the brilliant cut (today’s favorite for diamonds and other colorless gems) was created. The emerald cut was soon developed to save valuable material, as its rectangular cut conforms to the shape of emerald crystals. Today there are hundreds of possible gem cuts.

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