There are various coloured minerals in nature, but not all of them are gemstones. So, what is a gemstone, then? Only durable, rare stones with a certain hardness deserve that name. The four gemstones are diamond, emerald, sapphire and ruby, each with their own specific meaning and strength. Other beautiful stones used in jewellery, such as topaz, citrine and amethyst, are seen as ordinary coloured stones.

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What is a gemstone?

Various Types of gemstones - BAUNAT
A gem is a scarce mineral crystal with particular aesthetic properties and a certain hardness. The beauty is determined by what the naked eye can see:

  • the colour
  • the lustre
  • the "fire"
  • the clarity
  • the translucency

Durability refers to the hardness (according to the Mohs scale), brittleness and chemical resistance of the stone.
According to the most commonly definition, there are four gemstones: emerald, sapphire, diamond and ruby. The ancient Greeks devised this classification based on the scarcity of the stones. They are always minerals, who are more or less translucent, with a striking crystal structure.

Certificates are issued nowadays for diamonds in terms of the 4Cs. These stand for carat, colour, clarity and cut. This is used to tell exactly what quality of diamonds you are buying.

According to legend, each type of precious and coloured stone has its own meaning. Wearing gemstones brings a certain energy. This is something to take into account when you choose a stone.

Read more about the significance of gemstones here

How are gemstones formed?

The earth is full of gemstones, which usually originate 5 to 40 km under the earth’s surface. Diamonds, however, originate even deeper: 150 to 250 km below the surface. Diamond is not only the hardest gemstone, it is also the hardest material on the planet. Sapphires, rubies, topaz and quartz come next. But where do gemstones originate from?

Most gems were formed between three billion and a few tens of millions of years ago. There are various types of mineral in nature, which can form gems in one of three ways.
Gemstones are formed by various means - BAUNAT
The most attractive and clearest minerals are formed when magma cools deep beneath the earth's surface, forming crystals. The presence of certain metals (aluminium, chrome, iron...) gives a splendid, intense colour: red for the ruby and green for the emerald. Underground shifting movement brings these "igneous rocks" to the surface.
"Sedimentary rocks" are formed from rock eroded by wind, rain, freezing cold and heat. For instance, pieces break off (called sediment), which rivers carry off to the bottom of the ocean. There, the sediment forms increasingly thicker layers, the weight of which compresses the rock.
Some minerals are formed caused by a meteor strike.
When a rock goes even deeper under the earth's crust due to landslip and is heated again at high pressure, it hardens. Marble is a typical example of just such a "magma or metamorphic rock".

Find out more about diamonds, the best-known gemstone

The various types of gemstones

In addition to diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds particularly enjoy great fame and popularity. Other coloured stones used to be called semi-gemstones, but these are also natural gemstones. What is the difference between gemstones and coloured stones? The latter are not as hard, and not so scarce. The best known are purple amethysts, blue or pink topaz, light blue aquamarines and brown-red garnets.
Engagement ring with solitaire diamond, a variety of gemstone - BAUNAT


The diamond is of course indispensable in the finest jewellery. With diamonds, you can go every way in terms of colour, shape and price. As they are often colourless, they are just a little easier to incorporate into various jewellery than other gemstones. Most of the diamonds which are set into jewellery these days come from Russia, Australia, Canada and southern Africa.

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A ruby ring, a variety of gemstone with its own energy - BAUNAT


Bright red rubies have been known since immemorial as symbols of love and passion. These red gems are mined in Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Cambodia. You pay the highest price per carat for natural, unheated rubies. These gemstones are a colourless variety of the mineral corundum. It is the presence of chromium that provides the typical red colour. The rubies known as Burmese rubies (from the Mogok region in Myanmar) are natural rubies in their purest form. They are among the finest of their kind and therefore, not surprisingly, also the most expensive.

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A sapphire necklace, a variety of gemstone with its own energy - BAUNAT


Sapphires are also a kind of corundum. It is the combination of iron and titanium which produces the blue colour. The less valuable sapphires with a pronounced dark shade are mined from areas rich in basalt, such as Cambodia, Thailand and Australia. The finest specimens hail from the Kashmir region of Pakistan. They are characterised by a velvety lustre, cornflower-blue colouration and tiny inclusions.

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An emerald ring, a kind of gemstone with its own meaning - BAUNAT


Ancient Egyptians used to mine emeralds. Most of them today come from Zambia and Zimbabwe, but the intense blue-green specimens from Colombia take the crown. Emeralds are more prone to damage during grinding, polishing and setting. You can often see inclusions with the naked eye, but this is precisely where the unique character of this gemstone lies. The emerald cut, a well-known diamond cut, was originally conceived to emphasise the beauty of emeralds and other gemstones.

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The most valuable gemstones

Diamonds do not necessarily take first place. The value of coloured gems depends on a number of clearly defined criteria. Firstly, colour is the most decisive factor. After which come, in order of importance, the quality of the cut, the purity of the crystal structure and the carat weight. Sometimes the place of origin can affect the value, too.

There are several gemstones, such as Alexandrite or Taaffeite, which are more expensive per carat than even diamonds. But what turns out to be most valuable, are uniquely coloured diamonds. Certain colours are so rare that they are worth several million euros per carat.

The various gemstone cuts

There are various cuts for gemstones, but we can subdivide them into two major styles of cut. A convex shape, such as a brilliant, or an angular shape with facets, as with the princess cut.
The gem cutter assesses the stones for their colour, colour distribution, inclusions, optical properties, fracture and cutting surfaces
The optical properties include the shine (or 'lustre'), the light show (or 'twinkle'), the sparkle (or 'brilliance') and the fire (or 'dispersion'). Hardness also plays a part when cutting.

The perfect gemstone for an engagement ring

 BAUNAT diamond engagement ring - BAUNAT
Having seen all these various gemstones, it probably hasn't got any easier to choose. It is certainly important to choose the right gemstone for an engagement ring, which is going to be worn every day.
A diamond engagement ring is really classic and timeless. Just think of the well-known expression "Diamonds are forever". Still, you can safely add a little colour if your fiancee likes it. Sapphires, rubies and emeralds each have their own symbolic meaning, which can be a nice little extra to the engagement ring.

What is the best way to mix and match various colours? Always make sure they are complementary colours. You could also add colourless diamonds to make your coloured gemstone sparkle a bit more.

Browse BAUNAT engagement rings with gemstones here

What are birthstones?

Although it is often thought that birthstones are related to particular star signs, their meaning is mainly based on the month someone was born. Some people give their loved ones jewellery with a specific coloured gem as an original present. Specific properties are ascribed to each gemstone, which relate to the person wearing the gem. Which coloured stone or gem matches your birth month?

  • January: garnet - courage, power and authority

  • February: amethyst - devotion

  • March: aquamarine - love, hope and security

  • April: diamond - wealth and healing

  • May: emerald - wisdom and patience

  • June: moonstone - inner sensitivity

  • July: ruby - love, passion and fortitude

  • August: peridot - self-confidence and strength

  • September: sapphire - honesty

  • October: opal - peace and hope

  • November: citrine - energy and joy for life

  • December: topaz - fights depression and anxiety

Broaden your knowledge about gemstones

Now you know the basics behind the various types of gemstone and their meaning. If you want to delve further into it, then be sure to take a look at the following blog articles:
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