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Understanding the Difference Between Crystals and Gemstones

Hey there, fellow gem enthusiasts! "Is that a crystal or a gemstone?" I’m often asked to explain the difference. They are often confused with each other, but they are two distinct things.

Think of crystals like the cool, chill older siblings of gemstones. They're both formed from the earth's awesome mineral magic, but crystals are all about the internal structure, like a perfectly repeating geometric party. A crystal is a solid material with a highly ordered, repeating arrangement of atoms. This arrangement gives crystals their characteristic shape and properties. Some form distinct geometric shapes. Think snowflakes or quartz clusters.

This flourite mineral specimen (picture below) has a cubic crystal structure.

Gemstones, on the other hand, care more about the bling factor – they've gotta be pretty, sparkly, and able to cut and polish like a rockstar. In other words, gemstones are crystals that have been cut and polished to enhance their beauty and brilliance. Think diamonds, emeralds, and rubies – the rockstars of the mineral world.

Photo: A Hollywood makeover. A dazzling Burmese ruby and diamond gemstone necklace.

Gemstones and crystals are close cousins, but not twins.


Key Aspects

Not all crystals are gemstones. While many gemstones are crystals, not all crystals have the desired properties, such as beauty, durability, and rarity, to be considered gemstones.

Here's an analogy: Think of fruits. All apples are fruits, but not all fruits are apples.

Gemstones are typically formed from minerals, which are naturally occurring inorganic solids with a definite chemical composition and crystal structure.

The value of a gemstone is determined by its rarity, beauty, durability, and cut.

For example, a diamond is a crystal and a gemstone. It is a rare, hard, and beautiful mineral that is highly prized for its use in jewellery.

Key points to remember:

  • Formation: Both crystals and gemstones form naturally through geological processes, but gemstones need specific conditions for their desirable qualities.

  • Properties: Gemstones are typically harder, have a higher lustre (sparkle), and come in a wider range of colours than regular crystals.

  • Uses: Crystals are used in various industries, while gemstones are mainly valued for their beauty and adornment.


The distinction often lies in human intervention and purpose. A rough crystal becomes a gemstone when cut and polished for aesthetic value.

I hope this clarifies the relationship between these two fascinating masterpieces from nature!

Kim Rix GG GIA

Gemstone Detective

Be sure. Be smart. Buy with confidence


PS – want to take your gemstone learning further? On February 6th, Kim Rix will be giving a talk on gemstones and their potent whispers of well-being. This isn't just about rocks, folks – it's about harnessing the power of gemstones to transform your wellness journey.

Crystals and Gemstones - A talk by Kim Rix GG GIA

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