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Gemstones of a Different Color

By  Judith Anderson  GG, CGA

Many of my readers and customers have asked what gemstones can be substituted for the more expensive "big three"  -  rubies,  sapphires and emeralds.  Few people know that there are literally hundreds of gemstones matching the entire spectrum of colors,  and that there are several gems that rival "the big three" in reds,  blues and greens.

For example,  several gemstones occur in a vibrant red that can be confused for ruby.  These fiery gems include red spinel,  rubellite tourmaline,  pyrope and rhodolite garnet and red beryl.

Blue gemstones can be chosen from several minerals including sapphire,  tanzanite,  indicolite tourmaline,  iolite and benitoite.  Each of these blue gems has a characteristic color,  luster and brilliance.  The purer the hue,  the better the blue,  and the more valuable the gemstone!

As for the color green,  consider emerald,  tsavorite garnet,  chrome tourmaline and peridot.  Tsavorite garnet comes closest to resembling the pure green of emerald,  while chrome tourmaline and peridot have pleasing a yellowish-green hue.

One must also consider the durability of these gems and how they are to be worn.  Tourmaline is not as durable as ruby,  while garnet,  although not as hard as ruby,  is still quite durable and can be worn in exposed jewels like rings and bracelets.

Tanzanite,  iolite and benitoite are softer stones which require gentler treatment.  They wear better in pendants and earrings.  Sapphire,  of course,  is the best choice for exposed or active jewels,  like rings and bracelets,  that are worn every day.

Emeralds are beautiful, but quite soft.  Because they are rare and valuable,  emeralds should be set in bracelets and rings only if the jewel is designed to protect the gemstone.  As for earrings or pendants,  emeralds can be worn daily without concern.  Tsavorite garnet offers a brilliant,  more durable substitute for emeralds at a fraction of the cost.  Chrome tourmaline is also a less costly than emerald and is not as fragile.

When considering colored gemstones,  you should compare several factors that affect value:  cut,  color,  clarity,  durability,  rarity and place of origin.  Each gemstone species is affected by these factors in varying degrees.  However,  color is usually the most important feature of all.

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