One of the most common questions we get asked here at Freya Branwyn, is what exactly is the difference between a gemstone and a crystal?
With so much contradicting terminology on the internet, we know that it can be a hard question to navigate, but as passionate jewellers with an admiration for pure crystals we love sharing our knowledge with you so that you can understand the incredible natural beauty that these treasures hold.
We will try to keep the science simple, so read on to unearth exactly what separates a gemstone from a crystal.
To get your head around the specific differences, it’s best to start off by getting a good grounding in how each item is unique.
When it comes to gemstones, or gems, as they are sometimes referred to - you are looking at a rare mineral that has been polished and perfected to fit into a piece of jewelry.
Most commonly gems have mineral bases such as ruby or diamond, however, they can also have an organic base such as amber.
Categorised as precious or semi-precious, gemstones are classified by their chemical composition and must have the following attributes; colour, translucency and hardiness.
At present, geologists use the chemical composition of a gemstone to classify it. The price of the gemstone then depends on the rarity, colour, composition and cut. Which explains why your Tiffany jewelry costs a fortune.
Gems are essentially a raw natural stone that is found in the earth, which is then polished and transformed to make it appealing to the eye.
Examples include; Sapphire, diamond, emerald, and ruby.
The Branwyn Labradorite Ring
Unlike its sister stone, crystals are pure substances whose atoms, molecules and ions are arranged in such an ordered pattern that they extend in three dimensions. This is what gives them their truly unique structure.
The creation of this crystal structure is formed by what is termed as crystallisation or solidification. To get a little scientific, crystallisation refers to the way that the atoms gather to make this tightly connected structure, often happening when a solid separates from a liquid or a gas.
Crystals are most commonly categorised by their shapes. These include hexagonal, cubic, orthorhombic, tetragonal, rhombohedral and monoclinic
Examples include; Rose Quartz, Amethysts, Citrine, and Tiger’s Eye.
The confusing part, and where everyone gets stuck, is that a gemstone can be a crystal, but a crystal cannot be a gemstone. This is due to the fact that gemstones can take a crystal structure, where as a crystal cannot be created into a gemstone composition.
The biggest similarity between the two, and why many people get confused, is because the colours of the gems and crystals can be both pure and impure.
Both gemstones and crystals gain their colour from the light that passes through them. The difference in colour is based on the atomic structure of the stone, this why many crystals and even gemstones can come in a variety of colours. For example a Sapphire can come in both blue and pink formations.
The reason for the purity in colour in gemstones and crystals, is because many jewelers will put them through a heat process that will remove any impurities. Depending on the type of treatment and longevity, this can then affect the price of the stone.
In essence the fundamental difference is the chemical formation.
Many people believe that it is the powers of the stones, for example the fact that crystals are used for their healing properties, but while it’s not commonly practiced, gemstones are also used for gemstone therapy around the world.
We hope you find this piece informative - why not tell us what you think?
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