Quite a few people ask me: Florence how is it possible that a diamond is a precious stone, but not rare at all? The diamond is called a precious gemstone, but there are so many diamonds? Other gemstones are less available and they are called ‘semi-precious’. What is the difference between a precious and a semi-precious stone?


My answer is maybe a disappointing one for me. Because there is no real difference between a precious and a semi-precious gemstone. Actually, it is a marketing trick, that dates back to the 19th century. But of course, there is more to it. Here is the story:

What is a precious or semi-precious gemstone?

Let me explain first what precious and semi-precious stones really are: it is a classification of gemstones and they are both parts of a mineral, used to make jewelry or embellishments. The difference is a commercial one and only exists in the Western World.

Precious gemstones are extremely rare, have an extraordinary color or brilliance. And they have a high qualification on the Scale of Mohr. That means that precious gemstones are very hard and difficult to scratch. Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are considered precious stones, and all the other ones are considered semi-precious.

Blog Post Emerald Necklace

To the green emerald necklace

Looking at the history of gemstones

Looking back in history the current so-called precious stones are not the only ones that are regarded as precious stones. In China jade and pearls are very precious and in Greece amethyst has this status. But amethyst has lost that status when they discovered large deposits of amethyst in Brazil and Uruguay. In Tibet, coral and pearls are regarded as precious. The Tibetans have to buy them for a lot of ‘money’ (or yaks) also because the coral and pearls come from far away (there was no sea in sight, where you can find coral or pearls).

The biggest marketing trick on the precious gemstone market

But what about diamonds? At the moment people consider them as THE precious gemstone in this world. Although diamonds have great color and marvelous brilliance ánd they are hard to scratch (10 on the Scale of Mohr). But they are not rare; there are tons of diamonds available in the South of Africa. So they should not have the qualification of a ‘precious stone’.

Still, you get a diamond ring for a wedding or engagement. Diamond is a big symbol for love and wealth: ‘diamonds are forever.

Blog Post Herkimer Diamond Necklace

The Herkimer diamond is beautiful and called diamond, but it is not. It is a quartz of a very high quality.

To Herkimer diamond crystal necklace

This is all marketing!

The big diamond company DeBeers (S.Africa) controls the market and looks after the number of diamonds that comes on the market. Diamonds are kept rare by DeBeers But between us: there is no doubt about the other criterion: brilliance and color. Diamonds are ‘precious’ according to the public that buys the diamond. The marketers are doing a great job!

Should we hold on to the difference?

Is it fair to hold on to the difference between precious and semi-precious stones? So-called semi-precious stones like tanzanite (only one mine in the world) or alexandrite, large aquamarine beads or spinel, high-quality tourmaline or tsavorite are just as expensive and rare and beautiful as ruby or sapphire. The American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) mentions that the difference is confusing and can be abolished.

A better answer to the question ‘Is the diamond a precious stone, because it is not rare at all’ or ‘Is there a difference between a precious and a semi-precious gemstone’ is no, but…. ‘

  • Marketing tricks keep the diamond as precious stone number ONE, although they not rare at all;
  • There are more gemstones that are rare, have great color and a lot of brilliance and therefore more expensive than precious stones, but still are called semi-precious.
Blog Post Jade Pearl Necklace

According to the Chinese view, jade is very precious, but according to Western standards, jade is a semi-precious stone.

To blue jade pearl necklace


When you want to buy a jewel, don’t make a choice only because it is an (official) precious stone. Make your choice because you love the stone, you like the color and brilliance. Gemstones have also something to do with emotion, with feelings for the person who buys a jewel for you. Or the occasion you are buying the jewel for.


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