Gemstones such as diamonds and rubies are regularly used in jewellery because they are both rare and unique. For the same reasons these beautiful stones come with enormous price tags which means that there use is reserved for jewellery that marks special occasions, e.g. engagement rings and for luxury products. I am sure that you will have noticed that many items of costume and fashion jewellery are often described as containing semi-precious gems and that there prices are remarkably less. So what exactly are these semi-precious gems? Well like all gemstones they are naturally occurring and mined from in the ground which means that they have all the uniqueness of diamonds as no two pieces are the same.
What defines semi-precious is more to do with the quality and availability of the stones than their actual chemical make up. In fact even some rubies and diamonds can be sold as cheaper semi-precious grade. So semi-precious stones have all the natural beauty of gemstones but because they are not as rare they are able to be sold at much lower prices and this makes them perfect for use in handmade costume jewellery where they can enhance unique and personal items.
Turquoise- an opaque blue-green stone is often classed as semi-precious. It has a stunning and beautiful colour which has meant that it has been given ornamental use for thousands of years and was greatly used by ancient cultures for adornment – especially those of ancient Egypt and China. The Aztecs also made great use of turquoise as part of mosaic inlays for masks, shields, weapons and sculptures and also of course for jewellery. This ancient gem has always remained fashionable thanks to its fresh and attractive colour.
Quartz is a crystalline rock which is composed of silicon dioxide and is itself very common but it occurs in many varieties and some are very beautiful. Citrine is a yellow form of quartz and this can occur in the same stone as amethyst- the most beautiful of quartzes. Amethyst is a translucent purple, mauve or violet stone and the very deep and rich varieties are incredibly striking and seductive. This stone is believed to have protective properties, especially against drunkenness an d for protecting crops and driving out evil spirits. It is also thought to inspire intellect and as a stone of friendship. Jade is another beautifully rich stone and this one is green with a subtle lustre. It has been known to man since prehistoric times when it was valued for its toughness which made it a perfect material for weapons and tools. In China jade has always been appreciated aesthetically and has had special significance as ‘the royal gem’ and used for making fine and luxurious objects. Perhaps due to its calming green hue, jade has been known as the stone of inner peace, harmony and balance.
Carnelian is a red or reddish brown variety of chalcedony which is semi-transparent and has a waxy lustre. It was used widely by the Romans for signet and seal rings because of its unusual property that hot wax doesn’t stick to it. Carnelian is believed to encourage friendship and cheerfulness and is also recommended to timid people because it is said to give them courage. All semi-precious gems have a unique beauty of their own and I believe that they will always be popular for this reason. I think that their affordability together with their individuality makes them ideal to use in handmade costume jewellery where it is important for pieces to be both personal and unique.