Traditionally, the difference between precious gemstones and semi-precious gemstones depended on the gems characteristics and its classification. Gems that were rare and not easily accessible to the masses were considered, ‘precious’, in part because they were scarcely known outside of the connoisseurs who sought them out. The value, plus exclusivity of these jewels is what made them highly desired. The privileged people who adorned themselves in precious gems in previous times were the aristocrats who were able to afford such luxuries. In contrast, semi-precious Tansanit gemstones were known more for being organic or possessing healing properties rather than for their value.
Originally, the first five precious gems were diamonds (of course), emeralds, rubies, sapphires and amethysts (which were later reclassified because they were too common to be considered precious after becoming more widely available). Nowadays, if one refers to a precious gem, it is assumed to be one of the four previously mentioned. Quality diamonds still command top prices, but some would argue that the price of diamonds is more related to the supply rather than their aesthetic beauty. Although diamonds are still quite revered, emeralds and rubies can also be extremely expensive, especially if they are flawless and of fine color. Both are considered very exotic stones. Sapphires, though most commonly thought of as a deep blue stone, actually come in a variety of colors that are very valuable, with prices set at a premium. The amethyst, with its rich, seductive purple color is a member of the quartz family and is said to have healing properties.
The list of semi-precious gemstones could actually extend beyond 130, but ones that are commonly used and come to mind in today’s jewelry making process are: turquoise, peridot, topaz, agate, aquamarine, jade, coral, tanzanite, alexandrite and all of the members of the birthstone family. Although some gems are classified as semi-precious, their rarity makes them command prices as high as rubies and sapphires. In today’s market, you can find gems like topaz or apatite beautifully combined with diamonds to create very exquisite semi-precious gemstone jewelry pieces.
Though many people still seek out high quality jewelry at affordable prices, the distinction between precious and semi-precious is no longer clearly made. This is due to the previous difference between the two having more of a historical context and not necessarily reflective of a gems true value. There are many pieces of fine jewelry that are now made with semi-precious gemstones such as topaz, jade, or peridot that can be quite expensive.