2. What makes a gem, or what are its key qualities:
I am often asked: “I have found a piece of beach glass stone, it is so beautiful. Is it a gem?” No. Or I am educated by others: “You know, gems are only valuable because they are rare….” No… Or others: “Why to bother, it is all machine produced and artificial now anyway.” No….
Gemstones have some qualities that are scientifically defined and subject to standardisation. Let me tell you something about those rules, or what makes a gem – gem, so things may become clearer:
Beauty – It can be said that it is actually in the eye of the beholder and that every person can see it in a different way (“De gustibus non est disputandum“ – “In matters of taste there can be no disputes”), but nevertheless precious stones, without exemption, needs to be pleasing to the person eye. Beginning by the way they are found in nature, to their final form when they become objects of beauty, gems are masterpieces of nature and human artistic creation combined. It needs to embellish our body and environment and rejoice our soul. The same rule applies without any omission to somewhat controversial forms, fashionable, but sometimes bizarre designs; their quintessence remains the same – it is our wish to stress something by that unusual look, to release a part of our nature and spirit, to share it and convey a meaning that resides in a form of splendour. Simply – they need to be beautiful.
Uncommonness – Gems are rare in nature, or very hard for us to reach. Diamonds are, for example, as it is well known, made of clear carbon formed only at certain temperature and pressure, at minimum 150km beneath Earth surface, in Earth mantle. It is also known that at higher depths, Diamonds are quite abundant. So if you catch a Goldfish and she grants you three wishes, one can be: “I want to go shopping at 200km beneath the surface”. Yes, there are lots of Diamonds down there, but there are only two basic ways we can reach them from up here: if a meteorite or earthquake formed a crater deep enough for us to go down for it, or if lava brings Diamonds up. The other example of the relative impact of this “rarity” rule is Quartz. It is a most abundant mineral on Earth, but in its forms that are considered gems, like Clear Quartz, Rose Quartz or Amethyst – it is relatively rare.
Minerals that are rare in nature are also difficult to get for an average person. It is not something you can usually find walking down the beach, as much it is not usual to find oil well in your back garden. But both things have been known to happen, so you can keep trying. Nevertheless, gems are never made out of something that is usually available to everyone – e.g. limestone (which does not mean that this material can not be used for making ornaments, but not gems).
This attribute directly influence their worth, but I would think also our need to possess – there is something in our disposition that make us want uncommon things.
Resilience – Gems are typically enduring little things. Exterior, form, value, colours etc. should not change over time. So it can also be regarded as a “wealth keepers”, good for wealth management, especially now when so many other values seem to decline. Gems have been traditional “wealth keepers”, since very old times, when all permanent riches and values were often held in reserve in precious stones and metals. “Diamonds are forever” – It is a well known saying, and it is true for most of the coloured gems too, but it depends on their physical properties…