Natural Indian Minerals
Precious and Semiprecious Minerals

Precious and semiprecious minerals are a piece of mineral crystal which, in cut and polished form, is used to make jewelry or other adornments. However, certain rocks or organic materials that are not minerals such as amber or jet are also used for jewelry and are therefore often considered to be gemstones as well. Most precious and semiprecious stones are hard, but some soft minerals are used in jewelry because of their luster or other physical properties that have aesthetic value. Rarity is another characteristic that lends value to a precious and semiprecious minerals. Apart from jewelry, from earliest antiquity engraved gems and hardstone carvings, such as cups, were major luxury art forms.

The traditional classification in the west, which goes back to the ancient greeks, begins with a distinction between precious and semi-precious; similar distinctions are made in other cultures. In modern usage the precious stones are diamond, ruby, sapphire and emerald, with all other gemstones being semi-precious. This distinction reflects the rarity of the respective stones in ancient times, as well as their quality: all are translucent with fine color in their purest forms, except for the colorless diamond, and very hard, with hardnesses of 8 to 10 on the Mohs scale. Other stones are classified by their color, translucency and hardness.

The traditional precious and semi-precious distinction does not necessarily reflect modern values, for example, while garnets are relatively inexpensive, a green garnet called tsavorite can be far more valuable than a mid-quality emerald. Another unscientific term for semi-precious gemstones used in art history and archaeology is hardstone. Use of the terms 'precious' and 'semi-precious' in a commercial context is, arguably, misleading in that it deceptively implies certain stones are intrinsically more valuable than others, which is not the case.

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