The Most Common Gemstones on Earth
There are hundreds of different gemstones available on the market, at least for those who know to dig. The endless variety can make things confusing, especially since you have to take into account more than just the color of a stone when you decide what to do with it.
On the other hand, there’s a shocking amount of variety just in the most common stones around us. Let’s take a look at some of the most common gemstones on Earth!
Quartz is cut into faceted gems on occasion, rather than being kept in the more common crystal form. These gemstones are similar to glass in the end and made of pretty much the same material, but they can certainly add a bit of sparkle for a low cost.
Quartz is actually the basis for a staggering variety of different collectible gemstones and rocks. It just depends on heat, inclusions in the crystal matrix, and radiation. From there we end up with a wide variety of different colors and inclusions.
Some types of quartz are very highly regarded even in fine jewelry, however. These include rutilated quartz and gold-bearing quartz harvested from veins and cut to display both the gold and the stone. It’s safe to say there’s a lot of variety here, and it’s undoubtedly one of the most common gemstones.
In antiquity, amethyst was highly regarded. Purple has long been the royal color, and deep-colored amethyst was drawn from remote locations in the Western Ural mountains. As a stone, it was considered just as important and expensive as rubies, sapphires, and emeralds.
The discovery of massive deposits of high-quality amethyst in Brazil has rendered amethyst much cheaper these days. High-end faceted stones aren’t cheap, but they’re not on par with top-grade sapphires and emeralds when it comes to price.
Garnet is one of the most famous gemstones and there’s a seemingly endless variety of different colors and formations available. While garnet is usually regarded as a red stone, other varieties include things like the purple rhodolite garnets and the deep green of tsavorite garnets.
Overall, they’re an amazing stone! The material is also quite common, as long as you’re not looking for gem-grade material. Almandine garnet is one of the most commonly used abrasives in industrial water jets, for instance.
There’s something for everyone in the garnet family. The red and purple varieties are usually quite affordable, although green varieties can have incredibly high prices. Like many of the “semi-precious” families, the value depends entirely on the individual stone and its properties.
Diamonds have a reputation for being rare, but that’s not quite the truth. Gem-quality diamonds are relatively rare, but the majority of diamonds are industrial-grade. These diamonds were, historically, crushed and use as an abrasive. Often to cut more diamonds.
And it’s hard to argue with the presence of diamonds in modern fine jewelry. It sometimes seems that every flat piece of metal is studded with a pave setting of diamonds. Jewelers don’t just like them because they’re expensive, either. It’s the fact that they’re one of the few stones that can withstand the heat of a torch without cracking or discoloring.
Diamonds are still very valuable, but lab-created specimens are cheaper and readily available. You may also want to look into moissanite if you’re on a budget, this sub-diamond form of carbon is almost a diamond and will run you a small fraction of the cost.
Opal is a common stone, just a hydrated form of amorphous silica. It can be found in many locations, with colors ranging from off-white to pink to green to blue depending on the inclusions. Common opal is cheap and readily available on the market.
But most of us think of precious opal when we hear the word. Precious opal has an internal fire that changes with the light as you move the stone around, creating a sparkling effect that’s nothing like any other natural stone.
Opals range from relatively affordable to incredibly expensive. It depends on location, cut, and the stone’s optical properties more than anything else. This is one place where “price per carat” goes out the window in favor of “price per piece.” After you’ve handled a few, you’ll quickly understand why!
If I was stuck with just one gemstone for the rest of my life, tourmalines would be top of the running. It comes in a shocking array of colors while being hard enough to be awesome for any kind of jewelry. From earthy tones to emerald-green chrome tourmaline, to the shocking electric blue of Paraiba tourmaline…
It’s hard stuff to beat when it comes to variety. Even the crystals are attractive and often set in jewelry! No cutting is necessary once you’ve swept off the remnants of the matrix. The only problem is that it can be hard to find larger stones regardless of your budget.
Tourmaline is known for many different configurations, perhaps more than any other crystal. Oddly enough, we just call them all tourmaline despite the fact that we don’t do the same for ruby/sapphire corundum or aquamarine/emerald beryl gemstones. The lack of subclassification is fine, of course, it just means that everyone will love some form of tourmaline.
Aquamarine is a light-blue form of beryl, known for high clarity and massive crystals. The color of aquamarine has made it a fast favorite for a long time, especially before irradiated varieties of topaz became commonplace on the market.
Aquamarine is hard, despite looking fragile. Oddly, while emerald (green beryl) is heavily included in all cases… aquamarine’s clarity is barely part of the pricing equation. Even specimen pieces often display enormous crystals with water-like transparency.
Aquamarine is more common than the other varieties of beryl but remains an important gemstone. It’s also great for those with a taste for blue and a tight budget since only deeply saturated specimens reach sky-high prices.
Depending on the year you were born, you probably think of topaz as either yellow-brown or blue. The majority of topaz is actually transparent, with just a glimmer more sparkle than quartz, but the stone has surged in popularity due to modern techniques.
The main technique used is simple irradiation. This turns the majority of topaz some shade of blue, depending on the specifics of the stone. While a lot of blue topaz simply has a touch of blue, there are also Swiss Blue and London Blue gems. Both of these shades are produced by heavy irradiation but you can’t argue with the end results!
This process is industry-standard, not requiring disclosure in the paperwork. Topaz itself is a great stone for rings, where softer stones may fail, and it’s commonly available due to its prevalence in the earth’s crust!
9. Lapis Lazuli
One of the most ancient stones still in common use. Lapis is a deep blue, often flecked with golden pyrite and sometimes with white pieces of limestone matrix or calcite. It’s one of the few “gem” materials that can massively change composition from stone to stone.
The classic use of lapis by the Egyptians shows what can be done with this stone. These days it’s a bit harder to find, especially when there’s a lot of conflict in the Middle East. A lot of the best lapis lazuli is held in locations like Afghanistan. Modern geopolitics and a long history of mining make the good stuff a bit more scarce than in the past.
Lapis is actually rather expensive when high-grade so there’s a lot done to imitate that. Usually, dyes are applied, but sometimes reconstituted material is sold as natural to unwitting rockhounds. That said, its common use through much of human history puts it in a place of high regard!
Chalcedony is amorphous quartz, but it makes up an impressive array of gemstones found in jewelry and collections. These range from fantastically colorful Turkish agates to the rare and expensive chrome chalcedony. It’s an incredibly common feature of many of the minerals cut by lapidaries.
Chalcedony’s wide range of different colors and inclusions make up hundreds of distinct sub-types of gemstones. They’re very common in silver jewelry and among wire wrappers, and some varieties are even found in fine jewelry. Onyx, for instance, is actually a chalcedony variety!
With such a wide range of different stones held under one banner, it’d be foolish to underestimate the popularity of these stones. Whether a simple polished stone for a collector or integrated into jewelry that borders on art… chalcedony has you covered as one of the most common gem materials on the planet!
Read More: Top 20 Rarest Gemstones In The World