Semi-precious Beads

Written by Sarah Provost
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The world of semi-precious beads and gemstones is vast and very confusing. Diamond, ruby, emerald and sapphire are considered to be precious gems. Any other mineral, rock, or petrified organic material (such as amber) which can be polished or faceted and is durable enough to be used in jewelry is considered semi-precious.

There are more than 130 species of minerals that can be used for jewelry, and most species have many varieties. Quartz, for instance, can be divided into many different gems, such as rose quartz, milk quartz, citrine, tiger's eye, jasper, carnelian, agate and onyx. Amethyst, too, is a variety of quartz. Until fairly recently, amethyst was classified as a precious stone, but large deposits have been discovered, which have substantially lowered its price.

Lapis lazuli, jade, turquoise, agate, moonstone and opal are a few of the opaque varieties of semi-precious gemstones. Their structure is such that they cannot be faceted, but can be carved and polished into beads and other forms. Many opaque gemstones are not classified as minerals. Lapis lazuli, for instance, is defined as a form of rock, since it comprises several minerals.

Organic Materials for Semi-Precious Beads

Some organic materials such as ivory, pearl, coral, tortoiseshell and amber are often used as gemstones. Amber is fossilized resin from tree sap, ivory comes from the tusks of animals, coral is the exoskeleton of a sea creature, and pearls are produced by oysters. As for tortoiseshell, it is exactly what its name implies.

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