Guide to Semi-Precious Stones

Stones can be categorized as either precious or semi-precious. Precious stones, like diamonds and rubies, are more rare and expensive than their semi-precious counterparts. Though semi-precious stones are not as valuable, they are prized for their beauty, and many ancient civilizations used them to make jewelry. Semi-precious stones are still used in jewelry and ornament crafting today, and their various colors allow artisans to be creative in their designs.


Amethyst is among the most valuable of semi-precious stones. A completely pure and perfect amethyst is transparent and has no color, but most people desire amethysts for their more common purple hues. Typical amethysts have a range of purple colors, some of them more red-purple, and some more blue-purple, and all variations are used for jewelry. The amethyst has been popular and desired throughout history partially because purple used to be the color reserved for royalty. Many rulers owned jewelry made with amethysts, and the collection of British Crown Jewels contains some amethysts. There are myths dating back to ancient Greece that claim amethysts have healing and protective properties, and that they can ward off intoxication. Some Latin American cultures believe that certain amethyst artifacts have psychic abilities.


Moonstone has a range of potential physical characteristics. These stones are soft and gentle in appearance, and are usually milky white or pink. They can be transparent or transluscent, and they are usually slightly irridescent. This sheen causes moonstones to reflect silvery-blue light, reminiscent of the full moon. Ancient Romans loved moonstones, especially since they believed these stones were crafted by the moonlight itself. India still considers moonstone to be sacred, and a perfect gift for lovers to give to each other. Moonstone is also popular with Wiccans and people who practice forms of New Age spirituality because mooonstone is said to have powers of healing and protection.


Iolite is a transparent gem that occurs in various shades of blue. It has a crystaline structure, and one of the interesting characteristics of Iolite is that it appears to change colors depending on how the light hits its surface. Iolite is sometimes called "The Vikings' Compass" because ancient Viking sailors used navigation tools made with lenses of iolite to determine the exact position of the sun. Iolite has been used in jewelry making for centuries, most traditionally in pendants.


Turquoise ranges in color from blue to green, and most stones are teal in color. They are completely opaque, and usually have black or gray veins running through them. Turquoise stones are often left unfinished, and their irregular shapes heighten their beauty and mysticism. Oftentimes, turquoise is set in sterling silver since silver accents the blue-green of the turquoise more beautifully than other metals. Turquoise has been used throughout history by many civilizations, including the Ottoman Turks, the Egyptians, the Persians and the Native Americans. Turquoise bracelets have even been found on the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs. Some Native American tribes regarded this stone as sacred. Many believed it had healing powers, and some tribes used turquoise jewelry as part of ceremonial garb.

Lapis Lazuli

Lapis lazuli is a deep-blue rock that has been labeled as a semi-precious stone for millenia. Completely pure lapis lazuli stones are an even, uniform blue in color, but most stones have flecks or swirls of yellow, white or gold in them. Lapis lazuli was worn by royalty in ancient Egypt and Babylon, and people of the Persian empire regarded it as a sacred stone. Lapis lazuli has been used for jewelry for thousands of years, but it has also been carved into decorative sculptures and used in Italian renaissance-era mosaics.