Gemology, the study and science of gems, can be as much an anthropological study as it is a mineralogical one. Gemstones, because of their remarkable beauty, durability, and rarity, have been granted a significance that helps us understand the history of mankind. The human race, from its infancy to present day, has sought to protect itself behind walls of mysticism and superstition reinforced with gem talismans that could be easily carried and hidden.
Ancient lore and legends associated with gems have, for the most part, been replaced with "rational" references of romance and poetic beauty, but precious stones remain the greatest universal talismans of wealth and power!
What is Gemology?
Gemology is the scientific study of gemstones, which often involves the study of mineralogical fundamentals such as formations, genesis, localities, physical properties and identification of gemstones. It includes the basic knowledge of structural, crystallographic, chemical and physical characteristics and properties of gems. It also involves the way in which gemstones are fashioned.
Special Gemology deals with categories and varieties of gemstones, synthetic stones, and imitations. Conventionally, the organic substances such as amber, pearls, coral and the non-minerals are also included in this subject of special gemology.
Practical Gemology refers to the application of the knowledge of characteristics and properties of gemstones in identification or separation of synthetics and imitations. Diamond grading is included in practical gemology.
What is a Gemologist?
A gemologist is someone who studies gemstones. Being recognized as a gemologist usually involves having credentials from one of the Institutes for Gem(m)ological Studies discussed below (see Becoming a Gemologist).
What are gemstones?
Gemstones are usually minerals but sometimes organic substances. What separates them from minerals, in general, is that they are used in jewelry or for ornamentation. That is a very thin line of separation, but usually we take 4 factors into account:
And, of course, there is a 5th factor:
All the factors above are relative in nature. For instance, amber has very poor durability, isn't very rare and in general is not highly priced. Yet it is considered to be a gem due to its beauty.
On the other hand, most sapphire has good durability but can be very unattractive and inexpensive. Only a small portion of all sapphires mined have good color/beauty. The same can be said for diamond; the vast majority of diamonds mined are used for industrial purposes because they lack the necessary beauty to be worn as jewelry.