The history of precious stones  The appearance of the science about minerals inseparably relates the history of precious stones. The finds of archeologists prove that the ancient people were aware of flint, pearl, amber, lazurite and some other precious stones. The most ancient excavations of ancient tribesĎ stands indicate that such decorations were used in 12 thousands years BC. Beads, rings, bracelets and pendants made of precious stones were used by ancient Sumerians and Assyrians. Ancient Babylonians wore finger rings cut of agates and chalcedonies. The study of pyramids and burial places in the valley of Nile, showed that ancient Egyptians well knew such precious stones as agate, turquoise, emerald and jasper. For example, the pupil of left eye on the famous bust of Nefertiti was made of onyx.
The most antique handwritten source of information about precious stones that has reached us is the composition of Theophrastus "About stones" dates back 315 year BC. Approximately at this time the machine for processing stones was invented. Curious information about precious stones, which was known to ancient Hindus, were found thanks to campaigns of Alexander Macedonian (343 - 323 BC). The manuscripts of saint Indian books "Aˇurveda" (10 century BC) describe diamond, pearl, emerald, ruby, sapphire and topaz. One can find a lot of interesting information about medical properties of precious stones out of treatise "Aˇurveda". In China one of the most ancient compositions about mineralogy (San-hey-Din) was written around 500 BC.
One can get extensive knowledge about the history of precious stones and semi precious stones, so-called cameos. First cameos appeared on the territory of Apennine peninsula in the end of 4th century BC. The texts of Bible tell about 12 stones that decorated breastplate of high priest of Aaron. Bible mentioned 31 stones in total. For the historians it is valuable information that tells that ancient Jews knew precious stones.
Curious information about mystical and medical properties of precious stones is presented in medieval original brief descriptions that became popular in medieval Europe after Crusade. There had an impress of influence of Arab culture on the system of European knowledge.
The sphere of scientific knowledge about precious stones is called Gemology. This term was introduced into the scientific lexicon relatively recently, in 1982. It was formed from English word Gem, which has several meanings: precious stone, jewelry, and semi precious stone and made from Sanskrit word Gemo that was used to describe some precious stones.
A live interest to mystic and medical properties of stones is again reviving in our times. Each of these precious stones and minerals leaves its own trace of legends and beliefs. One can differently relate this historic heritage. Many modern scientists think that ancient information about special properties of minerals is a part of secret knowledge that was obtained by humankind as a result of mystic penetration of consciousness into hermetic informational areas or as a heritage of civilizations that existed long before forming of contemporary humankind. Some scientists search for the rational explanation of the influence of precious stones on the psychic and physiology of the man. They speak about thin informational influences, resonances on the level of magnetic fields or effects of small portions of radiation that some minerals possess. The skeptics exist that deny that minerals have some magical or medical properties. From their point of view, any influences of precious stones on the behavior or health of the man are only the consequence of autosuggestion and belief.
Anyway, the knowledge about different properties of precious stones, including their mystic and medical properties, could enrich our perception of the world. They make it richer, including each of precious stones into its historical content.
The classification of precious stonesTo answer to the simple question "Is this stone precious or not?" is difficult. The point is that in gemology there is no natural classification of precious stones, basing on objective physical, chemical and crystallographic data. In other words, mineralogy has its own periodic system of semi precious stones. I doubt whether it will ever be created. However, the attempts to systematize the precious stones used in jewelry were undertaken not once. The contemporary scientists take into consideration geological origin of different minerals, their composition, and presence of most c typical elements such as iron, aluminum, copper, etc., the type of chemical bond and the data of crystallography. However, this data give little to the jewelers who work with specific stones and defining their costs. It is clear, that the last characteristic is the most valuable thing during evaluation of whether the stone is precious or not. Therefore, no wonder that namely these criteria of high prices were laid in the foundation of any kind of minerals' classification.
One of the first classifications of precious and semi precious stones was suggested in 1860 by German mineralogist K. Kluge. He divided semi precious stones into five classes. The first three classes included truly precious minerals, the last two - only standard precious minerals. The first class according to Kluge consists of diamond, corundum, chrysoberyl and spinel. The second class consists of beryl, noble opal, garnet, topaz, tourmaline and zircon. The stones of the last fifth class include hematite, jadeite, malachite, nephritis, serpentine and some other similar minerals.
The similar classification was suggested in 1902 by German professor of mineralogy G. Gyurich. He united all transparent minerals used for making jewelry, into the stones of the first category. A separate group included semi precious stones.
The jewelers know the classification of precious stones adopted in 1896 by M. Bauer. According to this classification all semi precious stones were divided to precious stones, semi-precious stones and the stones of organogenic origin. The last category included amber, pearl, and coral. Each category was divided into groups. For example, precious stones included alexandrite, uncut diamond, noble spinel, emerald, ruby and sapphire. Aventurine, agate, amazonite, mountain crystal, twilight quarts, labradorite, malachite, nephrite, rhodonite, jasper, and some other minerals ranked with semi precious stones of the first order.
All of above-mentioned and other similar classifications have a common shortage. The point is that the price of the same stone that falls into any of suggested categories can vary greatly. What effect the price of the stone?
Jewelers know the "4s rule" named after the names of 4 terms describing the quality of precious stones. The first characteristic is color. Experienced jeweler can evaluate the color and add some number characteristic to it. The second important criterion is clarity. Even very small inclusions sometimes unseen by unaided eye could reduce the price of the precious stone on one or even two orders. The correlation of color and clarity usually expressed by fraction and the higher the value of numerator and denominator, the lower the quality of the stone. For example, the cut diamond with characteristic 3/3 is considered good, but with characteristic 9/12 says that the stone has very low quality.
The third criterion - is cut. There are certain methods of faceting of semi precious stones. They are aimed at maximum revelation of beauty of play of light. The perfection of faceting can substantially influence the price of stone. At last, the crucial criterion is weight or mass expressed in carats.
It is appropriate to mention that one carat equals to 1/15 of a gram. For instance, cut diamond weighing less than 0.3 carats is considered as small, the one that is less than 1 carat is considered as medium and the one that is greater than 1 carat is considered as large. Usually the weight of stone expressed in carats is shown up to the second digit after the comma.
It is worth to mention that the mass of the stone of low quality doesn't substantially influence its cost. On the contrary, if you deal with the stone that is blameless in terms of color and transparency, then the decisive factor in its evaluation will be the number of carats. For instance, even large brilliant weighing 5 carats and with characteristic 9/12 will cost not higher than $200-300. The price of the same stone with characteristic 1/1 will equal to $200-300 thousand. The smallest cut diamonds of lower quality will cost not higher than $1. In other words, even the cut diamonds could be inexpensive. Thus it is worth to mention that strictly saying, there are no precious and semi precious stones. The stones could be either cheap or expensive. In any world market of semi precious stones you can find precious stone that will cost very little in accordance with its price. On the other side, the price of jadeite could reach $20-30 thousand per carat, though this stone in all suggested classifications falls into the category of semi precious stones.
In strict correspondence with the rules of the market the price of some semi precious stones is evaluated by their rarity. Thus, so-called "national" stones that are found on the limited part of any country are highly valued. As an example we can take such African semi precious stones as tanzanite and tsavorite. The former competes with blue sapphire, which takes the leading place among other semi precious stones, in price and popularity. Bentonite, a stone similar to sapphire, is a national stone of the United States of America. The cost of the bentonite equals to $400 -600 per carat. The boxes and vases made out of Russian national stone charoite are quite expensive.
Taking into account the above-mentioned it is worth to say that there are no semi precious stones that could be unambiguously called precious or semi precious stones, because the price of definite stone is affected by a number of factors. It may seem strange, but the subjective factor is more reliable criterion in evaluating precious stones. In other words, even cheap stone that you like could be valuable for you. Namely this stone will be a precious stone for you.
Which stone to choose?Precious stones and minerals are rare and amazing creations of lifeless nature. From ancient times they attract people. Perhaps, the tradition to use natural semi precious stones in making decorations and gifts will not disappear. The counters and windows of modern jeweler's provide a wide range of articles with precious stones. At the same time the range of prices for the decorations with definite semi precious stone could be very broad, because the cost of stone depends on many reasons. For example, the ring with faceted cut diamond can cost from ten dollars to several thousand dollars and more. Which one to choose? Which criteria to use when choosing the gift in a form of jewelry with precious stones? First of all you should decide what sum of money you can spend on acquiring the decoration. Even if it will be very small you will have a lot of choice. Therefore you should take into account the main consideration - the decoration with precious stone that you will like. Get rid of other motifs. Do not pay attention to the temporary popularity. When making your choice you should listen to your feelings. Only they could tell you if this decoration is really yours. Unfortunately, people in the entire World acquire jewelries for emphasizing their financial independence. At the same time other considerations of choice go to the background. This is a big mistake. There are many other ways to demonstrate the wealth. The decoration that you will acquire could become your partner in life and therefore you should select the stone basing on your sympathy.
Quite often the decoration with precious stone is acquired for other person and it is not always clear how he/she would perceive it. Which criteria to use in this case?
There are a lot of them. There is a popular belief that the coloring of the precious stone should be in harmony with the color of the eyes and hair. But this is not the only requirement that should be taken into account. Each stone that is used for making amulets and decorations has different legends. This information can help you to make your choice. If the precious stone is taken for making gift, then the future owner will be interested to listen about the history, magical and medical properties of stones.
Many people believe in astrological properties of precious stones. Astrological data will let you select the gift to the person if you know the date and month of his/her birthday.
Inexpensive precious decoration with stone that you like will bring you more joy and satisfaction, than expensive jewelry that you have to wear to show your wealth or for some other reason.
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