Silver jewellery with gemstones and crystals has been our work and passion for more than eight years. The most frequent questions that we have been asked over the years are, for instance, as follows, “Why is this amethyst lighter in colour than that one?” or “The rock in this ring is opaque or it has a crack, is it broken?” and “Why does a large rose quartz cost 2 euros in a crystal shop and a much smaller one in your silver ring 75 euros?”
The colourful world of precious stones is undoubtedly enchanting. And although the healing power of crystals is discussed quite often, considerably less is said about how crystals are born, how they get their colour, what determines their quality and price, and why some rocks are more perfect than others. Before buying jewellery with precious or semi-precious stones, it is worth taking a moment to visualise how the gem beauties are formed in the Earth.
Gemstones and crystals take millions of years to form. The differences in their appearance are due to various geological processes that influence their growth. The heat and pressure of the lava, the chemical elements circulating in the mass, physical bubbles, parts of rock and plants – all they contribute to the formation process providing the gem with its characteristic chemical composition and crystal structure.
However, this does not mean that the same rock always looks the same. For instance, garnet can vary from red to green. Moonstone, favoured by many women, can be found both in Mexico and India and the crystals mined in various locations look completely different. And then there is the red ruby and blue sapphire – these actually come from the same mineral corundum. But if there was chromium present in the final formation stage, it became a ruby, and if there was titanium, it became a blue sapphire.
As said above, the appearance and form of the stone depend on its condition when it is discovered. Malachite is mined in huge blocks, while emerald is generally very small and even a piece of two centimetres is considered a large and rare find.
One of the key aspects of the stone’s value is its uniqueness, that is, its amount in the ground. Rarer gemstones cost more, while more common ones cost less. For the given reason, the price of amethyst has fluctuated considerably as it used to be as rare and expensive as ruby or emerald, however, an extensive mine was opened in Brazil in the 19th century and the price soon dropped.
Other factors include the colour, clarity and cut of the rock. In order to differentiate the less expensive ones from expensive rocks, you should learn about the so-called preferred features of various rocks. For instance, in case of moonstone, we want the centre to be as clear as possible and the light to refract in blue or various colours (the so-called rainbow moonstone).
Many people’s favourite rose quartz is usually translucent while the more expensive rocks are as large and clear as possible (that is, with as few nodules as possible, see the photo of rings in various price range). The choice largely depends on your taste and feeling – also rose quartz with nodules is highly beautiful when the lovely cut is set tastefully in the jewellery. The more affordable price is a mere bonus!
The price also depends on how the rocks are delivered to us from the mines. There are treasure hunters who travel around the world looking for large, rare and expensive (semi-) precious stones and trade with single rare crystals. Such gemstones usually never reach the shops as they are much too expensive. So where do the jewellery shop crystals come from?
The rocks in retail shops usually come from tradesmen who buy the entire production of a mine and divide the crystals into various quality and price categories.
The first and largest part of the catch includes low-quality rocks. It means that the rock is real, it has all the features of that crystal (that is, the chemical composition and crystal structure) but it lacks, for instance, the smooth and beautiful colour and clarity. Such rocks cannot be used in jewellery and most of them will be sold in esoteric shops in a bowl of tumbled stones or used in mass-produced bracelets.
The next quality category includes rocks that can be used in jewellery. These will find their way to a lapidary and then to the commercial world. But also the given gemstones will be divided into various heaps: some only yield small pieces that can be used for beads and various smaller pieces of crystal, while the larger and prettier stones will be polished beautiful and used either in mass-produced jewellery or little bric-a-brac.
The next category includes the so-called jewellery stones – the ones mostly found in silver jewellery or gold jewellery. Here we also have further subcategories based on the colour and clarity – less expensive ones are semi-precious stones including marks of nature such as some natural attributes, a small crack or bubble, more expensive ones have a smooth solid hue and no cracks.
And here usually lies the reason why some pendants with rose quartz cost 70 euros while others 100 euros or more – it all depends on the size, clarity and often also the cut of the stone that either accentuates its best features or does it a disservice.
The rare and exquisite rocks of the top category find their way to designer jewellery and top-class jewels. If you find a highly expensive and beautiful gemstones in the WildWoman designer collections like WildMe and Crazy Woman, we have usually set it in a very simple frame to allow its natural beauty to speak for itself!
On its way from the mine to the jewellery shop, the crystal thus makes numerous stops from the hands of factory workers and sorting stations to the jewellery designer and eventually to the salesperson. And so it can happen that the same mine can provide an amethyst that costs 3 euros and one that is 300 euros.
But how did it happen that precious and semi-precious stones that used to be the privilege of the rich only is now available for everybody? This secret has been kept well in the crystal world for centuries.
People have always contributed to the beautiful appearance of crystals. For instance, crystals with fainter hues are heated (sometimes in an open fire even today) as high temperature provides the rock with a brighter colour. With the technological development, also more sophisticated methods and machines have been invented and there are numerous ways to process gems.
For instance, the equipment making use of heat allows the reproduction of natural processes in industrial machines providing rocks with poorer hues with a better colour and clearer appearance. For example, coral is often waxed in jewellery thus giving it a deeper colour and sheen. Also oils, chemical processing etc are used.
If we compare a processed and unprocessed precious stone, the unprocessed one is always considerably more expensive merely because the natural bright colour is far rarer. Then again, processing does not alter the composition and structure of the crystal. To put it simply, we are thus simply given a chance to buy a wider selection of beautiful crystals at an affordable price.
There is no reason to fear processed gemstones as when compared to clothing industry – if we wore unprocessed textiles, we would all walk around in identical grey tow cloth. Instead, we should be grateful that such a large number of lovely crystals have been made available for us. If there was no processing, the price scale of gemstones would be completely different and the selection considerably smaller.
We in the WildWoman jewellery shop are one of the few specialising in the sale of semi-precious gemstones in Estonia. All our gems are selected by the certified specialists with a US diploma in gemmology who always try to find as good stones as possible. Our selection includes proper average quality gems as well as truly rare crystals – all framed by hand either in silver or gold and ready to adorn you.
Marika Tamm and Mairi Tamm
WildWomen with diplomas in gemmology