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The Ultimate Guide to Color Gemstones

The Ultimate Guide to Color Gemstones

Many stunning varieties of gemstones can be found all over the world. The sheer number of choices available to use in jewelry can be overwhelming, and you might feel like you need to be an expert to make a selection. Don’t worry! We’re here to make the process easy to understand.

Maybe you’re looking for an engagement ring that stands out from a traditional clear diamond, or you want a special gem to celebrate an anniversary or birthdate. Maybe you just want some extra color in your life to accessorize your wardrobe. Our guide will help you select the perfect gem for every occasion.

Gemstone Hardness is a Factor in Jewelry Design

When you’re choosing your gemstones, keep in mind that different gems naturally vary in terms of hardness, which can affect the setting in the surrounding jewelry. The ranking for hardness is called the Mohs scale. For daily wear, you’ll want to select gemstones that are at least a 7 on the Mohs scale. Pieces that are worn only occasionally can be softer, but they’ll need some extra reinforcement in the setting to make sure they don’t get lost or damaged. Your jeweler can help you find the right strength and settings for your gems.

The Mohs scale ranking also affects how the gems can be cut, shaped, and faceted. Diamonds are a 10 on the Mohs scale, the highest rank. This means they can be highly faceted in a minimal setting to show off some extra sparkle. Don’t forget that diamonds can come in a variety of colors, too!

Best Setting Styles Based on Hardness

While it’s true that any stone can be set in any style by a talented jeweler, there are some standard rules that you can consider when designing your ring based on the hardness of the gem being set. When a gemstone is set it can be placed under extreme pressure and we need to take that into account. This chart can serve as a guide:

Channel Set Tanzanite Engagement Ring

Setting StyleGemstone Hardness
Prong Setting5.5 Hardness or higher
Bezel Setting6.5 Hardness or higher
Flush Setting7 Hardness or higher
Tension Setting8.5 Hardness or higher

As an example of exceptions to the rules, we were able to create an eternity band with channel set, princess cut, tanzanite gemstones. This was one of the most challenging settings that we have ever created from a technical perspective. Tanzanite has a hardness all the way down at 6 and is incredibly delicate, but, handled with skill, can be used in amazing way.

A Rainbow of Colors

Different colors of stones can be symbolic of moods and desires. Certain gems are associated with birthstones or important events. Your jewelry can do more than just look pretty. It can also be filled with personal meaning and sentimental value.

Let’s take a look at the variety of color options for gemstones.

Black

Black GemstonesYour jewelry will be sure to make a striking impression with a rich black stone.

Tourmaline, spinel, and onyx all come in black. You can even get a black diamond! Black diamonds can be translucent or completely opaque. They’re as hard and enduring as the clear variety, but often have a lower price tag.

STONEMOHS RANK
Black Diamond10
Black Spinel8
Black Onyx6.5-7
Black Tourmaline7-7.5

Blue

Blue GemstonesBlue gemstones evoke feelings of peace and tranquility.

Sapphire is one of the best-known blue stones, and the birthstone for September. March’s birthstone, aquamarine, is a beautiful light medium blue. Many shades of topaz are blue, such as Swiss blue topaz, sky blue topaz, and London blue topaz. Turquoise is a bright opaque blue, and often found in fashion jewelry. It’s one of December’s birthstones. Lapis lazuli is another blue stone that was the traditional birthstone for December.

STONEMOHS RANK
Sapphire9
Topaz8
Aquamarine7.5 – 8

Brown

Brown GemsTry a brown gemstone for an understated, earthy fashion statement.

Diamonds and topaz can come in brown hues, and these subtle shades may be more affordable than their brighter varieties. Tiger’s eye stones come with bold stripes of brown. Nature enthusiasts might enjoy brown stones made from petrified wood, amber, fossils, or parts of meteorites.

STONEMOHS RANK
Smokey Topaz8
Tiger Eye7
Amber2-2.5

Clear / Colorless

Colorless GemstonesClear gemstones can display a rainbow of sparkles with the right cut. A flawless stone can be best appreciated when it’s perfectly colorless.

Diamonds are the standard for clear gems for their classic sparkle and enduring strength, symbolizing a strong relationship. Of course, diamonds can’t be beaten for durability, but they aren’t the only option for engagement rings. Moissanite has also become popular in recent years, and with a 9.25 rating on the Mohs scale, it’s nearly as hard as a diamond. First discovered in meteorites, and now also created in labs, moissanite can be a great gift for science enthusiasts. Sapphires can also come in a clear variety, or with a very pale yellow, grey, or blue tint. White topaz is also an affordable diamond alternative. Clear quartz jewelry can be an affordable fashion statement for the budget-conscious.

STONEMOHS RANK
Diamond10
Moissanite9.25
Sapphire9
Topaz8

Green

Green GemstonesGreen symbolizes growth and new beginnings. Green gemstone jewelry is perfect to celebrate life’s important milestones.

Emerald is one of the best-known green stones, and it’s the birthstone for May. Peridot is an unmistakable bright yellow-green, and the birthstone for August. Alexandrite, one of June’s birthstones, shines green in the daylight and shifts to purple at night. Other green gemstone options include topaz, garnet, moldavite, and tourmaline,

STONEMOHS RANK
Emerald7.5 – 8
Peridot6.5 – 7
Green Tourmaline7 – 7.5
Tsavorite Garnet7 – 7.5
Alexandrite8.5

Orange

Orange GemstonesOrange gemstones make a bold statement with a feeling of warmth and energy.

Orange gemstones include topaz, morganite, citrine, and fire opal. Fire opals live up to their name, with bright flashes of light as the stone is turned. It’s the perfect birthstone for October! Sardonyx is a bright orange and was the traditional birthstone for August.

STONEMOHS RANK
Citrine7
Mexican Fire Opal5 – 6.5
Spessartite Garnet7 – 7.5
Peach Morganite7.5 – 8
Topaz8

Pink GemsPink

Pink is a bright, flirty color that is sure to get attention. Many classic gemstones have rare pink varieties, which can make stunning and unusual jewelry.

Did you know that sapphires come in shades of pink? Try a pink sapphire, champagne sapphire, or padparadscha sapphire. Each variety can be lab-created to better fit a budget. Morganite, topaz, spinel, and tourmaline can also come in pink.

STONEMOHS RANK
Sapphire9
Spinel8
Pink Topaz8
Pink Morganite7.5 – 8
Pink Tourmaline7 – 7.5

Purple GemsPurple

Purple is the color of royalty, and you’ll feel very regal when wearing gems of this hue.

A well-known purple gem is amethyst, February’s birthstone. Tanzanite, December’s birthstone, is also purple. Mystic topaz and iolite present other purple options.

STONEMOHS RANK
Amethyst7
Tanzanite6 – 7
Iolite7 – 7.5
Alexandrite8.5
Topaz8

Red GemsRed

Red is considered the color of love, and red gemstones are a perfect way to express your feelings for your favorite people. Several birthstones are red gems, including January, July, and November.

Rubies are probably the best-known red gems, and are the July birthstone. Although natural rubies can be very expensive, lab-created rubies can offer significant savings and can be nearly indistinguishable from natural rubies. In addition to their use in jewelry, lab-created rubies are also used in lasers. Your ruby jewelry can definitely be a conversation piece!

Spinel is another red gemstone that was commonly mistaken for ruby in the past. Many of the most famous “rubies” in the world are actually spinel. Garnet is another stunning red gem with a rich, dark red color, and is January’s birthstone. November’s birthstone, topaz is very rarely found in red, making these stones especially valuable.

STONEMOHS RANK
Ruby9
Mozambique Garnet7 – 7.5
Madeira Citrine7
Red Topaz8

White

White GemsWhite symbolizes elegance and purity. White complements every other color, and can be the perfect accessory to any outfit.

Two of June’s birthstones, pearl and moonstone, are mainly white, although they can have tints of other colors. Several varieties of jade are bright white. Although onyx is usually associated with the color black, it can also come in bright white. Selenite and milky quartz are a translucent white color. Milk opals are translucent white, with flashes of other colors. Jasper can also come in white and is the traditional birthstone for March.

STONEMOHS RANK
Pearl2.5
Quartz7
White Onyx6.5 – 7
Milky Opal5 – 6.5

Yellow

Yellow GemsYellow gemstones are sunny and bright, bringing joy to the wearer and all who see them.

Imperial topaz is one of the best-known stones of this color, but sapphires and diamonds can be yellow as well. Yellow diamonds are called canary diamonds and can be quite valuable. Lemon quartz is an affordable option for those seeking yellow stones.

STONEMOHS RANK
Canary Diamond10
Yellow Sapphire9
Honey Topaz8
Lemon Quartz7

Multi-colored / Color Change

Color Change GemsSometimes a single color isn’t enough! Several types of gems contain multiple colors, or change colors, making especially fascinating jewelry.

Opals shine with an iridescent variety of colors, and can come in a number of shades. Alexandrite appears to be different colors, depending on the lighting conditions. In daylight, alexandrite tends to appear greenish-blue, while in the nighttime, the stone takes on a purple-reddish shade. Salt and pepper diamonds have flecks of black or grey within the clear stone.  Moonstones are slightly opaque, but pink and blue hues shine through the gems.

A World of Gemstones

Although we’ve talked about some of the most popular and sentimental gemstones, there are thousands of other varieties! If you’re interested in a particular type of stone, feel free to connect with us to create some beautiful custom pieces. We’ll be happy to help you design the jewelry of your dreams.

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