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Frequently asked questions

Can gemstones be scratched?

Yes. A mineral can be scratched by a mineral equal or harder than it on the Mohs scale.  The Mohs scale of hardness is system that grades minerals from softest to hardest on a scale of 1-10.  Talc is the softest material at 1, whereas diamond is the hardest at 10.  For example, a diamond can scratch a sapphire (which measures 9 on the Mohs scale), but a sapphire can’t scratch a diamond. Diamonds can scratch each other.

Can gemstones melt?

It’s possible to melt a gemstone, but only at an extremely high temperature and pressure.  However, though they won’t melt under your hairdryer, some gemstones like opal and amber are still susceptible to heat and sun damage.  Don’t leave heat sensitive stones on a sunny windowsill!

Can gemstones be harmful?

Gemstones are safe to handle in normal use.  Though some gemstones contain small amounts of toxic substances, this is only an issue if you ingest them or regularly inhale dust from grinding gemstones.  

Can gemstones be damaged?

Yes, some gemstones can be irreparably damaged.  The softer your gemstone, the more likely you are to damage it through everyday wear and tear, incorrect storage or unsuitable cleaning methods.  When you buy a gemstone or piece of jewellery, always check how to care for it properly.

When were gemstones first discovered?

Humans have collected gemstones since time immemorial, so we cannot say for sure when early societies first discovered and valued beautifully coloured stones.  However, archaeologists have discovered jewellery items dating back tens of thousands of years, and even some made by earlier human species than ours.

How do gemstones get their colours?

We perceive colour depending on which light waves are absorbed by an object and which are reflected back to us.  Some gemstones are actually colourless and only appear coloured because of the way their mineral structure refracts light.  In other gemstones, trace impurities within the structure affect how the light is refracted.  The colour of some gemstones can be altered with heat, radiation or dye treatment. 

How much do gemstones cost?

How much do you want to spend?  There are gemstones available for every budget.  The most important thing is to decide on a budget before you approach anywhere that sells gemstones.  Arm yourself with a ceiling figure before you start or, in the heat of the moment, you may end up spending more than you want or can afford.


Why are gemstones so expensive?

There are many factors that determine a gemstone’s value. The cost of mining, the rarity of the gem, and its size, quality and origin all contribute to the price.  Even clever marketing plays a part—think of what ‘A Diamond is Forever’ did for De Beers!

Where are gemstones found?

Most gemstones form below the earth’s surface in the crust, typically, 3 to 25 miles below.  Diamonds form far deeper than this, way down in the earth’s mantle.  They are brought nearer the surface by volcanic eruptions.

Which gemstones are toxic?

Some gemstones contain metals or other minerals such as copper, aluminium and sulphur. It is also known that some gemstones contain mercury or asbestos. But on the whole, gemstones are safe when worn as jewellery.

Which gemstones are most valuable?

A gemstone’s value depends on many factors, which vary from gemstone to gemstone. However, a good rule of thumb is this: the rarer, the bigger and the more naturally beautiful a gemstone is, the more it will be worth. 


Which gemstones are porous?

Many stones are porous and can be damaged by water.   You should take gemstones such as opal, pearl, amber or emerald to a professional to be cleaned and never wear them in the bath or pool!


Which gemstones can be worn together?

If you are mixing gemstones, think about the durability of the different gemstones.  Remember gemstones can get scratched. A gemstone can be scratched by a gemstone equal or harder than it on the Mohs scale.  

What gemstones can be found in Great Britain?

Though Great Britain is probably best known for its jet, amber and Blue John, a number of other interesting gemstones and minerals have been found across England, Scotland and Wales, including zircon, amethyst, pearl, topaz, tourmaline, turquoise and serpentine.

What gemstones can be found in Scotland?

Scotland is the area of Britain richest in gemstones.  It is particularly famous for quartz, garnet, serpentine and sapphire.

What are gemstones?

To be classified as a gemstone, a stone must be beautiful, durable and rare.  Most gemstones are minerals, though some develop from a biological process involving animals or vegetables.  These are known as ‘organic’ gemstones and include amber, pearl, jet and coral. 

What are synthetic gemstones?

Synthetic gemstones are virtually identical to natural gems in that they have the same chemical makeup, structure, and optical and physical properties.  The difference is that a natural gem forms in the earth’s crust whereas a synthetic gem is formed in the lab in conditions that mimic the natural process.

What are conflict diamonds?

A conflict diamond is defined as an illegally traded diamond mined at some point within the last 50 years. Established by the United Nations in the year 2003, The Kimberly Process was designed to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the mainstream diamond market.  It enables legitimate traders to certify their diamonds as ‘conflict free’. 

Are gemstones a good investment?

If you ask the opinion of three different people, you’ll probably get three different answers. There is no simple answer to this question and you should bear in mind that all investments involve some degree of risk.  I strongly recommend that you seek the advice of a financial advisor before you part with large amounts of money. 

Are gemstones ethical?

There are many ways to ensure your gemstone is ethical, but if you’re concerned about environmental impact or human rights issues, buying a synthetic gemstone is a very easy and straightforward way to put your mind at rest. 

Who cuts gemstones?

Lapidaries, also known as gem cutters. In many countries you will be able to have a rough stone beautifully cut and set within hours.  Seeing your gemstone transformed from its rough state to a finished piece of jewellery can give it even more sentimental value.


Who certifies gemstones?

In a gem lab, experts using high-tech equipment will be able to give you a lot of information about your stone.  The cost of having your stone analysed in a lab will vary.  Something you need to be clear about is the difference between a certificate of authenticity and a grading report. A certificate of authenticity simply tells you that your stone is genuine. A grading report gives you more detailed information about it.  In some labs the cost of a grading report or certificate of authenticity will depend on the carat weight of the gem.  Others have a more standardised price list.

Will vinegar hurt gemstones?

Some people advise cleaning jewellery with vinegar to give it a better sparkle. Vinegar is slightly acidic, so I don’t advise you to take the risk. In most cases, it is best to clean your jewellery using warm water and a soft cloth.

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