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The Myths and Reality surrounding Precious and Semi-Precious Gemstones

Everyone who is conversant with the gemstone market will know that there is an assumption that some gemstones are more precious than others. Due to their fantastic color and brilliance, and the fact that they are very rare, the precious stones, such as Diamond, Sapphire, Ruby and Emerald, usually go for a very high price on the market.

Traditionally, precious stones are more famous, and deservedly so; however, there is a lot of misconception and myth that surrounds the convention that is used to determine which stone can be termed as precious and which ones are semiprecious. It is time that the myth was separated from the reality.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that which says that there has been a distinction between what can be termed as precious or semi-precious that goes back several centuries. However, this is not true since it was not until the 19th century that the two terms started being used to tell the difference between these gemstones. In fact, the first time that the term semi-precious was ever used to mean that the stone is one of a lower commercial value than that of a true precious stone, can be traced back to 1858.

There is another glaring misconception that states that the list of precious stones, named above, is one that goes way back in history.  One would be surprised to learn that the list of precious stones was comprised of a lot more than the four gemstone normally mentioned in it. It would be a surprise to know that the pearl and opal were once included in this list of precious stones. Going way back in history, to ancient Greece, the Amethyst was also considered to be a true precious stone. It was not until large deposits of amethyst were found in Uruguay and Brazil, that the stone was termed as a semi-precious stone simply because it was no longer rare; this happened on the early part of the 19th century. It is at the time that the amethyst deposits were found that the term semi-precious was officially recognized in the English dictionary, or vocabulary.

Surprisingly, the diamond is the precious stone that is surrounded with the most mythical tales. Oddly enough, these are not myths that were conjured up in the past, but these have more recent origins. It a well-known fact that the colored precious stones such as ruby and sapphire were better valued in the ancient world, and this was because it was easy to get diamonds. But come the 20the century, and a lot happened to change this status; to start with, there were large deposits in South Africa, from which gem quality diamonds could be mined. Oddly enough, in the years preceding this find, there was a marked increase in the price of diamonds, and it was now at the top of this list of precious stones. But this was a true oddity, given that these deposits, just like those that affected the amethyst, should have made diamonds to be classified as semi-precious gemstones, since they were no longer rare.

At the start of the 19th century, it was very hard for the collective production of diamonds, from all mines in the world to go above a few pounds per annum. When the South African diamond mines found a huge deposit of this precious stone, in the year 1870, the production went up, to more than a ton. It was such a sensitive time, given that the production of diamonds went through the roof, and the demand for the precious stone nose-dived, until the British financiers of this mine feared that they would lose their investment. The solution to this was the creation of a cartel, known as De Beers, which controlled the production and supply of diamonds, and still do so to this very day. It is not hard to get high quality diamonds coming out of the ground, but the De Beers cartel controls how many of these stones actually get into the market every years, thereby keeping prices very high.

It was the De Beers consortium which also helped in making the diamond top the precious gemstone list. They carried out an advertising campaign that ran on for many decades, in which the diamond came to be associated with marriage, courtship and love, under the famous slogan, "Diamonds are Forever". It is now said that when courting a lady, one must give her a Diamond engagement ring, a tradition that was not known at all, even in Europe until the De Beers consortium ran this advertising campaign. Therefore, in reality, the diamond came to top the list of precious stones through social engineering and monopolistic economics, and not through the true requirements that govern this list.

It is a known fact that some of the gemstones in the semi-precious stones list should be added to the precious gemstones list since they are very rare. Stones such as Tsavorite Garnet, Demantoid Garnet, Alexandrite and Tanzanite are just as costly as the Sapphire or ruby. Large aquamarine, spinel and fine tourmaline also go for very high prices on the market. This means that the terms semi-precious and precious, when used in describing these gemstones is a great travesty of justice for the gemstones. The United States Federal Trade Commission has, on several occasion, thought that the two terms should be abolished so that consumers do not get confused. The American Gem Trade Association, has actually amended their Code of Ethics and has added a new rule that bans all registered members from ever using the two terms when classifying their gemstones.

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