What’s The Difference Between Gemstones and Minerals?

Two words commonly thrown around are gemstones and minerals. One of the reasons these two terms are confusing is that most gemstones are minerals and minerals are generally the all-encompassing term, but there are gemstones such as Amber that aren’t actually minerals.

For starters, gemstones are used for aesthetic purposes to make jewelry or ornaments. The term is getting more confusing due to the creation of lab-made gemstones. Minerals are naturally-occurring in the earth’s crust. Technically, a gemstone is supposed to be a piece of mineral crystal, but the definition has changed over time to include a few other things. Amber occurs in trees and, while it’s a gemstone, it cannot be classified as a mineral.

Why are gemstones more expensive than minerals?

If you took the prettiest minerals and cut them specifically to make jewelry then you would get gemstones. Finding minerals with formations nice enough to even extract any gemstones lowers the yield. The fact that you have to then professionally cut it and transport the gemstone adds to it’s value. The extra minerals from excavations have uses, but the real money is in the gemstones that they’re able to get.

As you can imagine, the earth’s crust is not overflowing with gemstone-worthy minerals. Finding the right deposits is crucial and involves a lot of scientific knowledge as well as measurements. And, of course, sometimes people just get lucky.

Measuring Mineral Quality

We’ve talked about the 4 Cs of diamonds, but minerals actually have their own classification system: color, form, luster, streak, hardness, cleavage and fracture. Most of them are pretty self-explanatory, but just drive in the mountains of Colorado and look at the rocky cliffs and you’ll be able to see some variation of all of these. Minerals are abundant, though their ease of access makes most of the 2,000+ variations non-valuable.