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Buying a gemstone is often a very different experience than buying a diamond. Gemstones are bought based on favorite colours, wardrobe matches, personality, and fashion trends. While gemstones are judged using the 4Cs, just as diamonds do, each is judged separately. For example, a sapphire is compared to another sapphire, but wouldn't be compared to an emerald or aquamarine. Choose your gemstone jewellery based on your personal preferences.
Gemstone colour is different from judging the colour of a diamond. Every gemstone has a range of colour that runs from light to dark and more vivid to less vivid, with a small range of colour considered preferable. All of the families of colour are represented by gems of different types.
Gems also have internal characteristics called inclusions. Some gemstones are known for having many inclusions like emerald or for having few inclusions like citrine. Each gemstone will be graded for clarity differently.
Like diamonds, gemstones are measured using carats. A carat is equivalent to .2 grams or .007 of an ounce. Unlike diamonds, each gemstone has a different density, which determines its weight versus its measured size. A one carat citrine won’t measure the same as a one carat sapphire.
A reference guide to each month's representative gemstones.
The garnet group of related mineral species offers gems of every hue, including fiery red pyrope, vibrant orange spessartine, and rare intense-green varieties of grossular and andradite.
Purple variety of the mineral quartz, often forms large, six-sided crystals. The birthstone for February, the name of the gem comes from a Greek word that means "not drunk."
Blue to slightly greenish-blue variety of the mineral beryl. Crystals are sometimes big enough to cut fashioned gems of more than 100 carats.
This hardest gem of all is made of just one element: carbon. It’s valued for its colorless nature and purity. Most diamonds are primeval—over a billion years old—and form deep within the earth.
The most valued variety of beryl, emerald was once cherished by Spanish conquistadors, Inca kings, Moguls, and pharaohs. Today, fine gems come from Africa, South America, and Central Asia.
Produced in the bodies of marine and freshwater mollusks naturally or cultured by people with great care. Lustrous, smooth, subtly-colored pearls are jewelry staples, especially as strands.
It’s the color-change variety of the mineral, chrysoberyl. Bluish green in daylight, purplish red under incandescent light; hard and durable.
Traces of chromium give this red variety of the mineral corundum its rich color. Long valued by humans of many cultures. In ancient Sanskrit, ruby was called ratnaraj, or “king of precious stones.”
Yellow-green gem variety of the mineral olivine. Found as nodules in volcanic rock, occasionally as crystals lining veins in mountains of Myanmar and Pakistan, and occasionally inside meteorites.
Although frequently confused with ruby, spinel stands on its own merits. Available in a striking array of colors, its long history includes many famous large spinels still in existence.
Depending on their trace element content, sapphire varieties of the mineral corundum might be blue, yellow, green, orange, pink, purple or even show a six-rayed star if cut as a cabochon.
Opal’s microscopic arrays of stacked silica spheres diffract light into a blaze of flashing colors. An opal’s color range and pattern help determine its value. Legend says that it is especially good for the eyes.
Tourmaline's name comes from the Sinhalese word "turmali", which means "mixed". Occurring in more colors or combinations of colors than any other gemstone, tourmaline lives up to its name.
Colorless topaz treated to blue is a mass-market gem. Fine pink-to-red, purple, or orange gems are one-of-a-kind pieces. Top sources include Ouro Prêto, Brazil, and Russia’s Ural Mountains.
Citrine’s color comes from traces of iron. It’s perhaps the most popular purchased yellow gemstone and an attractive alternative for topaz and yellow sapphire.
It is rare and valuable in finer grades and has been prized as a gem and ornamental stone for thousands of years owing to its unique hue. The turquoise occurs as vein or seam fillings, and as compact nuggets; these are mostly small in size.
Colorless zircon is known for its brilliance and flashes of multicolored light, called fire. These zircon properties are close enough to the properties of diamond to account for centuries of confusion between the two gems.
Named for Tanzania, the country where it was discovered in 1967, tanzanite is the blue-to-violet or purple variety of the mineral zoisite. It’s become one of the most popular of colored gemstones.
A free informational guide to other popular gemstones.
Fossilized resin, color of the burnished sun–orange or golden brown. Amber might trap and preserve ancient life, including insects.
Only one in every 10,000 diamonds possesses natural color and is referred to as a fancy color diamond. They are purchased almost exclusively for the intensity and distribution of the diamond's color.
Known in the jewelry trade as iolite, this mineral is known as cordierite to geologists and mineralogists. Iolite is strongly trichroic, meaning that it shows three colors when viewed from different angles.
Prized by civilizations from ancient China to the Aztecs and Mayans of Central America, jade is crafted into objects of stunning artistry. Beauty and wide-ranging expressiveness.
Lapis lazuli is a gemstone of the kind that might have come straight out of the Arabian Nights: a deep blue with golden inclusions of pyrites which shimmer like little stars. Stone of friendship and truth.
Feldspar prized for its billowy blue adularescence, caused by light scattering from an intergrowth of microscopic, alternating layers. Favored gem of many Art Nouveau jewelry designers.
Like its cousins emerald and aquamarine, morganite is a variety of the beryl mineral species. This gem gets its subtle blush when a trace amount of manganese makes its way into morganite’s crystal structure.
This gem comes in white, reddish brown, brown and banded. Black is timeless and never goes out of style, which is why you can never go wrong with black onyx. Its appealing rich black color can be both classic and contemporary.
Microscopic mineral inclusions cause the pink color and translucence of rose quartz. Well shaped, transparent pink quartz crystals are rare. An irresistible addition to your jewelry wardrobe.
Sunstone, a member of the feldspar group, can be an orthoclase feldspar or a plagioclase feldspar, depending on chemistry. Both can show aventurescence. “Sunstone” applies to the gem’s appearance.
Published by the American Gem Trade Association.
Enhancement: Any treatment process other than cutting and polishing that improves the appearance (colour/clarity/phenomena), durability, or availability of a gemstone.
N: The "N" symbol appears on the chart only for natural stones which are not currently known to be enhanced; however, the "N" symbol can also be used for other natural gemstones in the event that a gemstone has received no enhancement and the seller will provide a guarantee that there has been none.
E: The "E" symbol indicates that a gemstone has undergone its traditional enhancement process.
The use of heat, light and/or other agents to lighten or remove a gemstone's colour.
The use of such surface enhancements as lacquering, enameling, inking, foiling, or sputtering of films to improve appearance, provide colour, or add other special effects.
The introduction of colouring matter into a gemstone to give it new colour, intensify present colour or improve colour uniformity.
The filling of surface-breaking cavities or fissures with colourless glass, plastic, solidified borax or similar substances. This process may improve durability, appearance, and/or add weight.
The use of heat to effect desired alteration of colour, clarity, and/or phenomena (if residue of foreign substances in open fractures is visible under properly illuminated 10X magnification HF should be used.
The use of heat and pressure combined to effect desired alterations of colour clarity and/or phemonena.
The impregnation of a porous gemstone with a colourless agent (usually plastic) to improve durability and appearance.
The use of a laser and chemicals to reach and alter inclusions in diamonds.
The filling of surface-breaking fissures with colourless oil, wax, resin, or other colourless substances, except glass or plastic, to improve the gemstones appearance.
The use of neutrons, gamma rays or beta particles (high energy electrons) to alter a gemstones colour. The irradiation may be followed by a heating process.
The use of chemicals in conjunction with high temperatures to produce artificial colour and/or asterism-producing inclusions.
The impregnation of a colourless wax, paraffin, and oil in porous opaque or translucent gemstones to improve appearance.
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