A gemstone is a naturally occurring material, desirable for its beauty, valuable in its rarity and sufficiently durable to give lasting pleasure. Attractive crystals and minerals have caught man’s eye since the beginning of time. As we collected these rare beauties they became valued, and what we now call gemstones. There are more than 30 popular varieties of gemstone minerals, and many rarer collector types of gemstones. Whilst we normally associate certain colours with certain gems, in reality most gemstones occur in a variety of colours. There are a number of exceptional gemstones that should be mentioned specifically. Their rarity and unique characteristics have elevated them above the level of most precious stones.
Fine ruby is the rarest of coloured gems; those from the mines in the Mokog Valley in north central Burma are the best of them all. The finest colour is known as 'Pigeon's Blood' in the trade due to the vivid red colour. It is widely accepted that sapphires from the Padar region of Kashmir set the standards by which all others are judged. Their 'velvety' blue colour is considered sapphire heaven to connoisseurs. The mines are 5500m above sea level and are usually snowed in, as a result the mining season is only two months’ long. Colombian emeralds were made famous by the Spanish conquistadores following an expedition to the Muzo region of Colombia nearly 500 years ago. Colombian emeralds have a warmer, far more intense green colour than emeralds from other parts of the world. They are without doubt the finest and rarest available. ‘Golconda’ is a historic term that refers to the area around the city and fort of Golconda in south central India. The name Golconda has now become a byword for the finest, rarest and purest of diamonds – the dream possession of every serious gem collector. The mines have been mined out for over 250 years. Natural saltwater pearls are unique in this list, being the only organic, as opposed to mineral, gem. There are records of commercial harvesting going back over 2500 years. The gems are incredibly rare; only one in several million shellfish will ever produce a pearl. A large pearl with good colour, good form and a thick, high-quality nacre (the outer layer) will command a very high price in today's marketplace.