Trust Me! There’s No Such Thing As Semiprecious Gems!

Imagine you’re in a jewelry shop, fancying a tasteful, classic necklace with gold and blue beads, and in your mind, you’re going “I like it. And it’s kind of a bargain.” But the price almost sounds too good to be true, and so you ask: “Are these real stones?”.

To which the jeweler on the other side of the counter replies: “Quite real, and you have impeccable taste. You see, those beads are lapis lazuli beads. Lapis is a semiprecious gemstone. It’s not a major league gem, and so the price gets more affordable to designers. You should take it. It even matches that jacket you’re wearing today.”

Have you noticed the red flag on that jeweler answer?

There’s one single word there that can be a sign of him trying to mislead you.

To say the least, that jeweler’s not that well informed.

Shall we have a closer look at it?

The allure of precious jewelry, with precious gemstones…

Whenever I hear the words “precious gemstones,” my mind immediately goes to kings and Queens, their crowns, jewels, precious treasures, Ali Baba, “Open Sesame,” caves full of golden treasures, and some other precious childhood memories. It also takes me to two of my favorite movies as a young boy.

I’m talking about “The Thief of Bagdad,” and “Sinbad, the Sailor.”

I know you can’t see, but right now my teeth are cringing because I’m feeling old as hell. While searching for this post, I found out that these two movies I liked were made in the 1940Β΄s! Boy, do I feel old right now… But that’s one of my brain connections to the word precious what can I do?

I’ve added a link to the trailer of one of those movies. Look at all that spectacle of grandeur, all those exotic fabrics, all that luxurious gold, and all those precious jewels on Maureen O’Hara – “the jewel of Persia who had flames on her hair.” πŸ™‚

Sinbad, the Sailor (1947)

Just for the record, I was born in 1978, and I had those movies recorded in VHS tapes. Dahm that didn’t sound that much younger, did it?

Moving on. If you look closely at the text above, you’ll notice that I’ve written the word “precious” several times. Nine times, to be exact. But have you noticed how many times I’ve used the words “semiprecious”? Let me save you the work. Apart from this last one, only twice, and I’m including the title.

That was intentional. I want you to forget that expression once and for good. There’s no such thing as “semiprecious gemstones.”

If you look at the word “semiprecious” in a dictionary you’ll find the following: “A semiprecious stone is one that is used for making jewellery but is not extremely valuable: Jade and turquoise are semiprecious stones.”

That definition alone should be more than enough for you to abandon that wording – “not extremely valuable?” And that final part on Jade is just crazy!! In 2014, Christie’s actioned a necklace by Cartier made only of Jade beads, breaking several world records with a value of $27,4 Million. Not extremely valuable? Yeah, right!

In the old days, “precious gemstones” was a way of referring to a small group of four gemstones: diamond, ruby, sapphire, and emerald. 

In those days, all other gemstones used to be cataloged as “semiprecious.” The division of gems in those two categories is quite childish and has no real value in our current reality. It may have some historical reasons behind it, but they’re not the case anymore.

Nowadays, the word “precious,” due to its link to value, must be properly used or it becomes misleading and deceiving. Among those big four that some still call “precious gemstones,” you’ll find quite frequently crystals that are anything but good quality, and retail for almost pennies of a dollar.

On the other hand, you have colored gemstones, that used to be placed under the category of “semiprecious gemstones” that get sold by the thousands of dollars.

I could go on, and on, but let me present my case in a more obvious way.

Three “precious” gemstones: emerald, ruby, sapphire

In the picture above you have, from left to right: an emerald, a ruby, and a sapphire. Three of the gems from that famous club of four. All of them are natural, although one of them has been heavily treated. Bellow, you can find more info on them:

  • Emerald: 1.47 ct – 7.3 x 6.3 mm – natural untreated – 25 USD per carat
  • Ruby: 1.87 ct – 8 x 6 mm – treated with lead glass filling – 3 USD per carat
  • Sapphire: 1.45 ct – 8 x 6 mm – natural treated with heat – 28 USD per carat


Now, let’s have a look at the second group of gemstones and their info:

Three “semiprecious” gemstones: tourmaline, garnet, tanzanite


Again from left to right, you can see a tourmaline, a garnet, and tanzanite.

  • Tourmaline: 0.96 ct – 7 x 5.6 mm – natural untreated – 200 USD per carat
  • Garnet: 1 ct – 5.6 x 5.6 mm – natural untreated – 100 USD per carat
  • Tanzanite: 1.2 ct – 7.7 x 5.3 mm – natural treated with heat – 175 USD per carat

According to that older categorization, the gems in the second group, three beautiful gems, would have to be considered “semiprecious.”  However, look at them! Aren’t those colors appealing, and stunning?

All of these six gems have been in my collection for quite some years. If you look closely at the numbers, you can immediately see that the so-called precious gemstones have quite a low value per carat. Although they’re all natural, the total amount paid for a ruby, an emerald, and sapphire is way less than what I’ve paid for any of the gems in the second group.

This alone serves as evidence that the wording “semiprecious” to describe tanzanite, garnets, or even tourmalines is not only wrong, but it can be deceiving. Instead of semiprecious gemstones, they should be called “fine gemstones,” or simply “colored gemstones.”

Keep in mind that just because someone listed a gem, or jewel, as having a “precious ruby,” it doesn’t make it precious. Be careful about that.

Take my word for it, there’s no such thing as “semiprecious” stones, only stones of different values.

Remember this semiprecious red flag the next time you enter a jewelry store, and you’ll be on a much safer place for buying.

Now it’s up to you:

Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever seen a so-called semiprecious gem, and fell madly in love with it.

And just so that I don’t feel that old, and alone, let me know if you’ve ever seen a movie through VHS tapes, will’ya?

Talk to you next week,