Gemstone Families

Gemstone Families with Named Varieties

Many beads are made from gemstone material. This section of Learn About Beads includes a detailed list of gemstones with meaning of gemstones names, chemical composition, color, hardness, specific gravity, mining, and historical information.

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Gemstone Families

Some gemstones are known by more than one name. In some cases, sellers have given descriptive names for marketing. Trade names may include the name of another gemstone. This practice causes confusion.

A number of well known gemstones are named variations of the same basic gemstone.They are usually different colors. More confusion. This gemstone chart may help in understanding the relationships of the gemstones in the list. The group names are the actual basic gemstone names.

  • Corundum group
    • Ruby
    • Sapphire
  • Beryl group
    • Emerald
    • Aquamarine
    • precious Beryl
    • Morganite
    • Heliodor
  • Garnet group
    • Pyrope
      • Rhodolite
    • Almandine
    • Spessartine
    • Grossular
      • Hessonite
      • Tsavolite or Tsavorite
    • Andradite
      • Demantoid
    • Uvarovite
  • Tourmaline group
    • Tourmaline
    • Indicolite
    • Rubellite
  • Spodumene group
    • Kunzite
  • Quartz group
    • Cryptocrystalline or Chalcedony
      • Agate, many varieties
      • Fossilized wood
      • Chalcedony
      • Chrysoprase
      • Heliotrope or Bloodstone
      • Jasper, many varieties
      • Carnelian
      • Onyx
      • Sard
    • Macrocrystalline or Crystalline
      • Amethyst
      • Quartz
      • Aventurine
      • Rock crystal
      • Blue quartz
      • Citrine
      • Hawk’s eye
      • Prase
      • Prasiolite
      • Cat’s Eye quartz
      • Smoky quartz
      • Rose quartz
      • Tiger’s Eye
  • Opal group
    • Opalescent opal or Precious opal
      • White
      • Black
      • Boulder
    • Fire opal or Mexican opal
    • Common opal
  • Jade group
    • Jadeite
    • Nephrite
  • Zoisite group
    • Tanzanite
    • Analite
  • Feldspar group
    • Potassium
      • Moonstone
      • Orthoclase
      • Amazonite
    • Plagioclase
      • Labradorite
      • Aventurine feldspar or Sunstone
  • Organic Gemstones
    • Coral
    • Jet
    • Ivory
    • Amber
    • Pearl
      • Natural or Genuine
      • Cultured
        • Sea water
        • Freshwater
      • Mother of pearl

coquette with bookmark 

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Gemstone List A to C

Gemstone List
This list of gemstones contains many, but not all of the gemstones that are used for beads. Information includes the meaning of the gemstone’s name, chemical composition, Mohs hardness number, specific gravity, color, mining locations, historical information, well known varieties. Not all trade named varieties are included.

In my jewelry descriptions, I have used the names given by my bead suppliers. Sometimes they are trade names.

The list is divided alphabetically: Use these links, or scroll down.

A – C D – G H – K L – O P – R S – Z
Gemstones A-C
Name may be for the Greek word meaning happy or from the Greek name of a stone found in the Achates River.

SiO2     hardness 7      specific gravity 2.61

Variety of colors and patterns determined by impurities
Some varieties have distinct banding
Porous and often stained or dyed

Found in volcanic lava
Mined in Oregon, Germany, Mexico, Madagascar, Italy, Egypt, India, China, Scotland
Was mined in Idar-Oberstein, Germany for 700 years until the 20th century. Today the mine is divided into a research area, a collector’s area, and a visitor area with a museum.

Ancient lore: Guards from danger, makes the wearer agreeable, persuasive, and prudent.
Averts storms and lightning.
Cure for insomnia and bad dreams.
In the 1800s a variety of black or brown with a white ring was popular. The ring was a symbol of an eye. It was worn to neutralize the power of the Evil Eye and encourage the watchfulness of a guardian spirit.

In 1709 Vienna, a print was published of a drawing showing an airship invention. At the top of the ship was a large amount of coral agate. It was supposed to acquire magnetic power from the sun’s rays and raise the ship.

Varieties of Agate:
Natural Agate – black and browns with white banding
Botswana – from Africa, dark and light banding, usually combinations of black, gray, white, brown, occasionally pink.
Crazy Lace or Mexican Lace – multi color, usually grays, browns, rust, yellow
Blue Lace from S. Africa – light blue with bands of colorless
Fire – brown caused by iron oxide, with iridescent multicolor patterns
Moss – translucent colorless, white, or gray with inclusions that resemble moss
Tree – white base with green leaf like inclusions
Wood – brown with veining that resembles wood
Montana – creamy yellow to clear with brownish red to black inclusions
White – little or no banding
Blue – dyed various shades of blue
Green – dyed various shades of green
Red – some banding, heated and dyed
Fossil agate – from petrified wood, various shades of brown, some with different color inclusions


Named after the Amazon River.

KAlSi3O8      hardness 6      specific gravity 2.6

Color: blue green
Opaque to translucent

Mined in India, Colorado, Canada, Russia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Namibia


Alternate names include: Succinite – from Baltic coast, Burmite – from Myanmar, Simetite – from Sicily

mostly C10H16O      hardness 2 – 2 1/2      specific gravity 1.05 – 1.08

Organic, fossilized resin of trees, may contain trapped insects or bubbles.
Often reconstituted to make it harder and more practical for jewelry.

Color is usually light to dark golden yellow or golden orange, occasionally green, red, violet, or black.
Transparent or translucent

Found in Baltic coast regions for several thousand years. Also comes from Dominican Republic, Mexico, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Romania, Canada, Czech republic, U.S.A.

Ancient Lore
Various beliefs about the formation of amber include juice of the setting sun, hardened in the sea and washed up on shore; tears of a god; solidified urine of the lynx.
It was carved into animal forms to enhance its powers. It symbolized divinity. If a man kept a piece of amber on him he would never be sexually impotent.

Construction of an amber room was begun in 1711 in Prussia, moved, and finished in 1763 in the Catherine Palace in Russia. It was considered the 8th wonder of the world. During world War II it disappeared. Restoration was finished in 2003.

Varieties of Amber
Ambroid formed by heating and pressing scraps of amber.

Care of pure amber requires special treatment because it is so soft. It is sensitive to chemicals, abrasives, alcohol, perfume. It is flammable. Clean it with a soft cloth and room temperature water.



SiO2      hardness 7      specific gravity 2.65

Color – purple, lilac, mauve
Transparent to translucent.

Mined in Brazil, Russia (reddish), Canada (violet), Sri Lanka, India, Uruguay, Madagascar, U.S.A., Germany, Australia, Namibia, Zambia.

Ancient Lore
The name amethyst may have come from an ancient story. The god Bacchus was going to have a pure maiden, named Amethyst, devoured by lions. She was saved from this horrible death by the goddess Diana, who turned her into a white stone. Bacchus angrily poured his wine over the stone. It turned from white to a beautiful violet color.

Amethyst was believed to have many powers:
Controlled evil thoughts, quickened intelligence, gave shrewdness in business matters.
Caused a sobering effect on those overpowered by love passion.
In battle, it preserved soldiers from harm and gave victory over enemies.
Assisted hunters in capturing wild animals.
Protected from contagious disease.
Guarded against drunkenness and promoted a sober, serious mind.

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Name is a combination of amethyst and citrine.
Crystals that are part amethyst and part citrine produce a combined color of violet and yellow.
Name from the Greek apate meaning deceit. Refers to its similarity to the crystals of other valuable minerals.

Ca(F,Cl)Ca4(PO4)3      hardness 5      specific gravity 3.20

Color – usually blue green, also colorless, yellow, violet
Transparent to opaque

Mined in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Russia, Canada, E. Africa, Sweden, Spain, Mexico,

Asperagus stone – yellowish green from Spain


Name means sea water

BeAl2(SiO3)6      hardness 7 1/2      specific gravity 2.69

Color: sky blue from traces of iron is considered best, also colorless. Usually heat treated to enhance color.
Transparent to translucent.

Mined in Brazil, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nigeria, dark blue in Madagascar, Mt. Antero in Colorado (the highest gemstone locality in North America)

Ancient Lore: Amulets were made of it and engraved with the god Poseidon to protect sailors.
The beryl group of gemstones helped against foes in battle and made the wearer unconquerable and amiable.
It improved intellect, cured laziness, and reawakened the love of married people.


Named for Aragon, Spain

CaCO3      hardness 3 1/2      specific gravity 2.94
chemically identical to calcite

Color: pure is colorless or white, impurities cause yellow, blue, pink, or green
Transparent to translucent.

Mined in Czech Republic, Turkey, Spain, France, Mexico, Morocco, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Japan, England, Colorado

SiO2      hardness 7      specific gravity 2.65

Color: many colors determined by inclusions of small crystals
green from green fuchsite mica, brown from pyrite, greenish brown from goethite, reddish brown from hematite, bluish white, bluish green, orange from other inclusions

Mined in Brazil, India, Russia, Japan, Tanzania, Vermont


Name comes from the same Persian word as Lapis, lazhuward, meaning blue

Cu3(OH)2(CO3)2      hardness 3 1/2      specific gravity 3.77

Color – azure blue from copper, usually inter grown with green malachite
Transparent to translucent

Found in copper mining areas, Australia, Chile, Russia, Africa, China, Mexico, Australia, Morocco, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico

Chessylite is the name given to the variety from France

In the 15th to the 17th century, it was used as a paint pigment.

Name comes from the red spots in the green color.
HELIOTROPE name from the Greek helio meaning sun and trepein meaning turning

SiO2      hardness 7      specific gravity 2.61

Color: green with red spots from iron oxides identical to red jasper

Mined in India, Brazil, China, Australia, USA

Ancient lore includes many different powers.
In the Middle Ages, it was believed that the red spots were the blood of Jesus Christ.
It could turn the sun blood red and cause thunder, lightning, rain, and wind storms.
It was thought to bring respect and guard against deception, have a calming influence and remove anger.
It was used to tell the future.
Its healing powers included preserving health and stopping hemorrhages.

(Mg,Fe)2(Si2O6)      hardness 5-6      specific gravity 3.25-3.35

Color: dark greenish brown with bronze like luster

Mined in Austria, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Russia, Greenland

Name is from Latin word chaix, meaning burned lime

CaCO3      hardness 3      specific gravity 2.71
Color: pure is colorless, pale colored, or white, impurities cause all colors
Transparent to translucent

Mined in USA, Germany, England, Italy, almost world wide
Found in limestone, marble, stalactite, and stalagmite.

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SiO2      hardness 7      specific gravity 2.61

Color: reddish orange shades from iron oxide, may have banding
Long sun exposure can change the brown to red.
Stained dark using chalcedony from Brazil and Uruguay

Mined in Brazil, Scotland, USA

Ancient Lore:
Brings good luck.
Protects from evil or envious people.
Protects against injury from falling houses or walls.
Calms the temper.
Gives courage in battle.
Helps timid speakers to be eloquent.

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Name may be from Khalkedon, an ancient port in Asia Minor (now Turkey)

SiO2      hardness 6 1/2 -7      specific gravity 2.61

Color: bluish, white, gray, usually does not have banding

Mined in Brazil, India, Madagascar, Namibia, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, California

Ancient Lore: protects against demons, melancholy, and black magic.


Named for the Chara River in Siberia or the Russian word sharo, meaning beautiful

K(CaNa)2Si4O10(OH,F)H20      hardness 5-6      specific gravity 2.54-2.7

Color: lilac to violet, inclusions make white or black spots
Translucent to opaque

Found in 1976 during work for the Trans Siberian Railroad. Recognized in 1978 as an independent mineral.

Mined in Siberia.

Named for the light line that shows across it.

SiO2      hardness 7      specific gravity 2.65-2.7

Semi translucent

Cat’s Eye – grayish yellow, inclusions of crocidolite (blue asbestos) cause the white line.
Mined in Sri Lanka, India, Brazil

Tiger’s Eye – black, inclusions of iron oxide give yellow and golden brown stripes
Mined in South Africa, Australia


Name is from the Greek words chrysos for gold and kolla for glue

(Cu,Al)2H2Si2O5(OH)4.n(H2O)      hardness 2-4      specific gravity 2.20

Color: bright green or bluish
Translucent to almost opaque

Can be inter grown with malachite or turquoise

Mined in Chile, Russia, Zaire, China, and other copper mining areas

Name is from the Greek words chrysos and prase meaning golden leek

SiO2      hardness 7      specific gravity 2.61

Color: apple green from nickel, can fade in sunlight

Mined in Australia, Brazil, Russia, Austria, California

Ancient Lore: strengthens eye sight and relieves internal pain.
16th century – protects against thirst for gold
Has been used since prehistoric times.


Name is from the old French word citrin meaning yellow
Sometimes called Brazilian Topaz

SiO2      hardness 7      specific gravity 2.65

Color: pale to dark yellow from iron.
Most being sold today is either amethyst or smoky quartz that has been heat treated to turn it yellow.

Mined in Brazil, Spain, Madagascar, Russia, Scotland, India, France, North Carolina


CORAL Organic

CaCo3      hardness 3      specific gravity 2.68

Color: red, pink, white, blue, black, may have a pattern like a wood grain
Most sold today is dyed.

Comes from coral reefs that are made from skeletal remains of marine animals.
Found in the warm waters along the coast of Japan, Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Malaysian waters.

Ancient Lore: Could still a tempest, cure madness, give wisdom, stop the flow of blood from a wound, predict illness, protect children.
Would help the wearer cross rivers safely.
Could gain or lose its vigor and became pale if the wearer was threatened with severe illness or poison.
Lost its power if broken.

Greek legend was that it came from drops of blood shed when Perseus cut off the head of Medusa.

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Gemstone List D to G

Gemstones D-G
Named after M.E. Dumortier, a French scientist.

Al7(BO3)(SiO4)3O3      hardness 7      specific gravity 3.28

Color: usually violet and blue from titanium, can also be reddish brown, red or pinkish red
Transparent to translucent

Called dumortierite quartz when inter grown with rock crystal.

Mined in Nevada, France, Madagascar, Norway, Sri Lanka, Canada, Poland, Namibia, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Japan


Name from the Greek word smaragdos, and was given to several green stones.

Be3Al2Si6O18      hardness 7 1/2 – 8      specific gravity 2.6-3.0

Color: green

Mined in Columbia, Europe, India, Russia
In Egypt, it was mined as early as 1300 B.C. The area became known as Cleopatra’s Mines after the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great.

Ancient lore:
Egyptian symbol of fertility and life
Aztec symbol of seasonal renewal
Europe: prevent epilepsy, assist women in child birth, protect the chastity of the wearer, good for eye sight, the enemy of sexual passion.
There was a story that in the 13th century, when King Bela of Hungary embraced his wife, his emerald broke into 3 pieces.


Name from the Latin word fluere meaning to flow. It melts easily when used for refining metals.

CaF2      hardness 4      specific gravity 3.18

Color: white, yellow, blue, pink, green, purple, black, often more than one color in a stone.

Blue John is a name given in England to a purple and yellow banded variety.

Mined in Canada, USA, South Africa, Thailand, Peru, Mexico, China, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Norway, Germany.
At the beginning of the 18th century, miners accidentally found old Roman mines in England.

Used for carvings in ancient Egypt and China.

Ancient healing: cured kidney disease


a variety of muscovite

K(Cr, Al)2(AlSi)3O10(OH,F)2      hardness 2 1/2      specific gravity 2.8-2.9

Color: green from chromium
Transparent to opaque

Mined in New Hampshire, Canada, Russia

Fuchsite Ruby contains inclusions of ruby

There are 15 varieties of garnet. Not all are included here.


Name from Greek for fire and to appear

Mg3Al2(SiO4)3      hardness 7 1/4      specific gravity 3.6-3.7

Color: blood red from iron and chromium, usually no visible inclusions
Swiss and South African is lighter red than Bohemian
Transparent to translucent

Mined in Arizona, South Africa, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Myanmar, Scotland, Switzerland, Tanzania

Named for the former Alabanda, Turkey

Fe3Al2(SiO4)3      hardness 7-7 1/2      specific gravity 4.3

Color: dark red to black
almost opaque

Most common variety of garnet, used for Bohemian jewelry in the 19th century.

Mined world wide.

Ancient healing: cured melancholy and warmed the heart

Ca3Al2(SiO4)3      hardness 6 1/2 -7      specific gravity 3.7

Color: orange brown from manganese and iron
Called cinnamon stone if from Madagascar.

Mined in Sri Lanka, Brazil, Canada, Russia, Maine, California, New Hampshire.

PINK GROSSULAR (same chemical composition)
color caused by iron impurities
Mined in Mexico and South Africa

GREEN GROSSULAR (same chemical composition)
Two varieties:
Tsavorite transparent green found in Kenya
Massive green grossular resembles jade, may have black specks of magnetite, found in Africa

Named for Spessart, Bavaria, Germany

Mn3Al2(SiO4)3      hardness 7      specific gravity 4.16

Color: pure is bright orange, red from iron, Pure is rare, usually mixed with almandine.

Mined in Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Brazil, Sweden, Australia, Myanmar, Virginia, Montana

ANDRADITE GARNET Garnet Ca3Fe2(SiO4)3 hardness 6 1/2 specific gravity 3.85
Demantoid – emerald green color from chromium with fine inclusions of asbestos. from Russia

TAPAZOLITE – pale to dark yellow found in the Swiss and Italian Alps

MELANITE – dark red to black from France, Elba, and Italy

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Gemstone List H to K

Gemstones H-K
Name from the Greek word heima meaning blood

Fe2O3      hardness 6 1/2      specific gravity 5.2

Color: gray to black, can show blood red when cut into thin slices.
Opaque with metallic luster

Mined in USA near Lake Superior, Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, England, Switzerland, Brazil, Germany, Elba

Hematine is reconstituted hematite.

Ancient Lore:
It was associated with Mars, the god of war. If a warrior rubbed his body with it, he became invulnerable.
Protected from bleeding.


Name from Greek hemi meaning half and morphe meaning form. Refers to the crystal formation.

Zn4Si2O7(OH)2.H2O      hardness 5      specific gravity 3.4-3.5

Color: blue, green, colorless, often blue-white banded or mixed with dark matrix.
Transparent to translucent

Formerly called calamine in the USA

Mined in Algeria, Australia, Italy, Mexico, Namibia, Austria, USA


Named in 1868 for Henry Howe who discovered it.

C2B5SiO9(OH)5      hardness 3 1/2      specific gravity 2.58

Color: chalky white, often with black or brown veins
Translucent to opaque

Very porous, often dyed to imitate other gemstones.

Mined in California, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Russia, Turkey

IOLITE Name from the Greek word ios meaning violet and lithos meaning stone
Also called Cordierite

Mg2Al4Si5O18      hardness 7      specific gravity 2.63

Color: violet blue, can look colorless from another direction
Transparent to translucent

Mined in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Madagascar, India, Namibia, Tanzania, Germany, Norway, Finland


Name from Spanish piedra de ijada meaning loin stone

2 varieties: Nephrite and Jadeite
Until the late 16th century all European jade was nephrite. Because they thought it had healing powers, the Spanish took jadeite back to Europe from the Aztecs in Mexico. In 1863 the difference between jadeite and nephrite was discovered.

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Na(Al,Fe)Si2O6      hardness 7      specific gravity 3.33

Color: The best is called imperial jade and is green from chromium. Pure is white. Other impurities cause lilac, pink, brown, red, blue, black, orange, yellow
Transparent to translucent

Mined in Myanmar, Guatemala, Japan, California

Ancient Lore: Jadeite had great value for the Indians of Mexico, Central, and South America.
It was a symbol of water and plant life growth.
Used for masks, statues of gods, and ritual items.
For burial, a piece placed in the mouth of an important person was supposed to be his heart in after life.

It was ground into powder and mixed with herbs for healing. Could cure fevers and fractured skulls. Could resurrect a dying person.

Named in 1780, from Latin meaning kidney, because in Europe it was used to treat kidney disease.

Ca2(Mg,Fe)5Si3O22(OH)2      hardness 6 1/2      specific gravity 2.96

Color: dark green from iron to cream color from magnesium. Can be a single color, blotchy or banded, other colors.

Mined in Alaska, Canada, New Zealand, Myanmar, Siberia, Russia, China, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Taiwan, Zimbabwe, Italy, USA

Ancient lore: There were many Chinese beliefs. In the structure of Chinese feudal society, stones were assigned to the different classes of nobility.
Jade was a symbol of sovereignty and power. It was important in rituals and used in burial. It guaranteed immortality and had life giving qualities. Could prevent suffering from heat, cold, thirst, or hunger.

Healing: If a piece of jade was handled, its virtue was absorbed into the body. It could strengthen the heart, lungs, vocal organs, and muscles. Purified blood and hardened the bones. Calmed the mind.

Name from the Greek word iaspis, meaning spotted stone

SiO2      hardness 7      specific gravity 2.61

Colors: reds from hematite, white or gray from clay, brown or yellow from goethite, greens, and mixtures

Mined in USA, Russia, France, Germany

Many names have been given to describe the colors or patterns in the stones. Suppliers sometimes give their own names. The same stone may be found with different names, or the same name for different stones.
The red varieties are usually a brick red. The yellows are golden yellow. Greens are often shades of olive green. Whites are off white to yellowish white. A stone may include several colors. Other varieties may have various single color stones.

Variety names include: apple, autumn, black, brecciated(same colors as poppy), conglomerate, chocolate, dalmation, fancy (assorted single color), flower, golden wooden, golden horse, gray, rainbow, green sediment, green water, imperial (assorted colors), Kambaba, leopardskin, lepidolite(similar to the lepidolite gemstone), lilac, Mongolian, Ocean, Peridot(similar to the gemstone), picasso, picture, pink, poppy( dark colors), purple, rainbow, red, red bend, red flake, red silver leaf, red zebra, sesame( 2 varieties), silver leaf( grays, black, brown, white), spicy, star (also chrysanthemum), tiger skin, turtle, white, wild horse, wood, yellow, zebra.

Ancient lore: Jasper has been used for jewelry since Paleolithic times. Colors were important for the healing power of stones. Jasper has so many colors that it was very valuable.
In the 4th century it could bring rain and protected the wearer from snake bites. It could absorb poison.
The Babylonians believed it cured women’s diseases and made it a symbol of child birth.
In the 11th century when all stones were believed to be alive, jasper was a female stone.

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Name is from the name of a town, Gagates, or the Gagae river in Asia Minor.

Organic, fossilized wood, a form of brown coal.

Carbon      hardness 2 1/2      specific gravety 1.33

Color: dark brown to black

Mined in England, Spain, France, Germany, Poland, India, Turkey, Russia, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah

Ancient Lore: Carved ornaments were found in prehistoric caves.
The Romans carved it into beads.
Irish women burned it to protect their husbands when they were away.
In Medieval times, powdered jet in wine or water, had medicinal properties.

Named for G. F. Kunz who described it in 1902.

variety of Spodumene

LiAlSi2O6      hardness 6 1/2 -7      specific gravity 3.0-3.02

Color: pink or lilac from manganese
Transparent to translucent

Mined in Brazil, Pakistan, Afghanistan, California

Formerly named disthene

Al2SiO5      hardness 5,7(varies with direction)      specific gravity 3.68

Color: blue, white, gray, green, uneven color with darker at center
Transparent to translucent
Formerly named disthene

Mined in Myanmar, Brazil, Kenya, European Alps, India, Australia, USA

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Gemstone List L to O

Gemstones L-O
Name for Labrador where it was first identified in 1770 at Paul Island by Moravian missionaries.

(NaCa)(Al,Si)4O8      hardness 6-6 1/2      specific gravity 2.70

Color: colorless, gray to gray-black, brownish, may have blue or green schiller (play of color)
Transparent to opaque

Spectrolite is a name for a high quality variety from Finland

Mined in Canada, Norway, Russia, Finland


Name from the Persian word lazhward meaning blue

(NaCa)8(Al,Si)12O24(SO4)Cl2(OH)2      hardness 5 1/2      specific gravity 2.80

Color: best quality blue from Afghanistan and Argentina, pale blue from Russia and Chile, light blue from Canada, darker blue from USA
The blue color is from the mineral lazurite. inclusions of pyrite make gold specks.
Translucent to opaque

Ancient lore: Information is probably confused with other blue stones.
Jewelry found in Egypt dates from 3100 BC.
Ground into powder to use as a cosmetic, pigment in paint, and medicine.
Ancient Romans and Greeks thought it cured eye diseases and set prisoners free.
It was an old Assyrian cure for melancholy.
It also protected the wearer from the "evil eye." In 55 AD it was used as a cure for snake venom.
Ancient Buddhists thought it brought peace of mind and was good for dispelling evil thoughts.


Name from the Greek lepidos meaning scale and lithos meaning stone.

K(Li,Al3)(AlSi3)O10(OH,F)2      hardness 2 1/2 – 3 1/2      specific gravity 3.0

Color: usually pale lilac, can be colorless, pale yellow, gray
Transparent to translucent

Mined in Russia, Sweden, Australia, Germany, Czech Republic, Canada, Brazil, Japan, USA


Name is from Greek for mallow, referring to its green color

Cu2(OH)2CO3      hardness 4      specific gravity 3.80

Color: alternating bands of light and dark green from copper
Translucent to opaque

Mined in Zaire and worldwide where copper is mined.

In the 19th century it was mined in Russia and used for decoration in building interiors. Spectacular examples are the Malachite Room in the Winter Palace and St. Isaac’s Church in St Petersburg.

Ancient lore: In Egypt it was used as eye paint and was supposed to prevent eye infection.
It was worn to ward off danger and illness.
It was a talisman for children. When attached to a cradle, it kept evil spirits away.

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Name is of Arabic or Moorish origin. The name was used by miners for common pyrite until about 1800.

FeS2      hardness 6-6 1/2      specific gravity 4.9

Color: pale bronze-yellow, darkens with exposure.

It is brittle and easily cracked. Much antique jewelry substituted pyrite or steel imitations. It was usually faceted.

Mined in Illinois, Oklahoma, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, Germany, England, France, Czech Republic, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Bolivia, and other locations.

Used by the ancient Greeks and Incas of Central America. It was popular for jewelry in the 18th century and in the 19th century Victorian era.

Named for its moon like opalescent appearance

KAlSi3O8      hardness 6      specific gravity 2.57

Color: opalescent with blue or white sheen caused by reflection of light from its internal structure of alternating layers of albite and feldspar. The body of the stone may be colorless, white, beige, blue or reddish brown.
Transparent to translucent

Feldspars that are moonstone are anorthoclase, orthoclase, sanidine, albite, oligoclase.

Mined in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil, USA, Mexico, Tanzia, European Alps.

Ancient lore: The moonstone was sacred in India.
If lovers placed it in their mouths during the full moon, they could see their future.
In 11th century Europe, it could bring about reconciliation of lovers.


Named after J. P. Morgan, a banker

Be3Al2(SiO3)6      hardness 7 1/2-8      specific gravity 2.80

Color: soft pink to violet, salmon or orange
Color is improved by heating.
Transparent to translucent

Mined in Afghanistan, Brazil, China, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Utah, California


mostly CaCO3      hardness 3      specific gravity 2.70

It is made of the inner layer of a mussel or snail shell. The substance is nacre, a combination of the mineral aragonite and the organic material conchiolin

Color: white from the cultured pearl farm mussels, blue-green from the Paua mussel in New Zealand. Can be other colors. Often dyed.
Opaque with luster

Comes from the clams in pearl farms.


variety of Jasper

SiO2      hardness 6 1/2-7      specific gravity 2.58-2.91

Color: red, brown, gold, white, mixed from clay and iron oxide

Mined in Australia


Also called common mica or potash mica

KAl2(Si3Al)O10(OH,F)2      hardness 2-3      specific gravity 2.8

Color: pink, colorless, silver white, yellowish, greenish, brown, light gray
Transparent to translucent with a silvery sheen

Mined in South Dakota, Russia


Named for a Roman Obsius, who probably discovered it in Ethiopa

Consists of rock or natural glass from volcanic rock

mostly SiO2      hardness 5      specific gravity 2.35

Color: black, gray, brown, rarely red, blue, green

Varieties: Mahogany – mix of dark brown and black, Snowflake – black with gray-white inclusions

Mined in Oregon, Hawaii, Japan, Java, Indonesia, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Ecuador

Ancient people used it, in addition to decoration, for tools and weapons because it could be chipped to make it sharp.
The Aztecs and Greeks used it for mirrors.


Name is from the Greek word onux meaning nail or claw

SiO2      hardness 7      specific gravity 2.61-2.7

Color: single color gray or gray and white banded, black or brown with white bands.

There is much disagreement among gemstone authorities concerning the definition of "true" natural onyx.
The name is given to 2 different natural varieties by suppliers of beads.
One is transparent to translucent gray.
The other is opaque black and white.
Most black onyx used for jewelry is dyed. Other colors are dyed blue, green, and white.

Ancient lore:
For the black and white onyx, it was a common belief that it caused discord and separated lovers.
In India if worn on the neck, it cooled the ardors of love.

Looking for ONYX JEWELRY? Click here for BLACK ONYX

Name is from the Roman word opalus, a version of the older Sanskrit upala meaning precious stone.

SiO2.nH2O      hardness 6      specific gravity 2.10

There are 3 kinds of opals:
Precious Opal – rainbow iridescence changes with direction of viewing, not often used for beads
Fire Opal – orange, no opalescence, from Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, USA, Australia
Common Opal – translucent to opaque, no play of color, variety of colors and trade names. Rose opal comes from France


Opalite is opalized quartz and is man made.


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Gemstone List P to R

Gemstones P-R
Name from the Latin word perula meaning pearl

mostly CaCo3      hardness 2.5-4.5      specific gravity 2.6-2.78

Color: A pearl has 2 colors: a body color and an overtone color in the sheen. Body colors are white, cream, any other delicate shade, black
Color depends on the mollusk and its environment.

Pearls grow inside the shells of mollusks (saltwater oysters and freshwater clams). When a tiny foreign object gets inside the shell, the mollusk coats it with layers of aragonite, or mother of pearl material. Eventually the pearl is formed.

Natural pearls are found by fishing for the mollusks. Salt water pearls are often called Oriental Pearls. Natural fresh water pearls were harvested in China before 1000 BC. They have been found in the rivers and streams of China, Bavaria, England, Ireland, and the Mississippi River in the USA.

Coquette with fish
What are cultured pearls? Some people use the term to distinguish between genuine pearls and imitation glass based pearls. Cultured means genuine pearls that are grown on pearl farms in either salt water or fresh water. A small sphere, usually mother of pearl, is implanted inside the mollusk. The pearl is formed in a short period of time.
The sizes and shapes of pearls are determined by sorting.
The shapes of fresh water pearls are given descriptive names such as potato, button, rice.
They may be natural colors or dyed.
Most pearls on the market today are cultured.


Name from the 13th century English word peridota.

(Mg,Fe)2SiO4      hardness 6 1/2      specific gravity 3.34

Color: olive green from iron
Considered a variety of olivine
Transparent to translucent

Mined in Pakistan, Egypt, China, Myanmar, Brazil, Norway, Australia, South Africa, Hawaii, Arizona
Mined for more than 3,500 years in Zebirget, an island in the Red Sea.
It was made into beads as early as 1580 -1350 BC in Egypt.

Ancient Lore: May have been grouped with other green stones.
From ancient times to the Middle Ages, it was a symbol of the sun.
According to an 11th century French bishop Morbodious, a peridot stone had to be pierced, strung on the hair of a donkey, and then attached to the left arm. It could then protect against evil spirits or dissolve enchantments.
It could cure asthma and prevent nightmares.


Named for Sid Pieters who discovered it in Namibia, Africa
also called Eagle’s Eye
variation of Tiger Eye

Color: browns

Mined in Africa and China


Name from the Greek word prason, meaning leek, referring to its color.

SiO2      hardness 7      specific gravity 2.61

Color: green, not as bright as chrysoprase, from actinolite inclusions

Mined in Germany, Finland, Austria, Scotland

Named for Hendrik von Prehn who discovered tit.

Ca2Al2Si3O10(OH)2      hardness 6-6 1/2      specific gravity 2.87

Color: pale to mid green, tan, pale yellow, gray, white
Transparent to translucent

Sometimes called Cape Emerald

Mined in Canada, Australia, Scotland, Germany, and many other countries


Name from the Greek pyr meaning fire

FeS2      hardness 6-6 1/2      specific gravity 4.90-5.0

Color: pale brass yellow

Known as fool’s gold

Gives off sparks when struck by iron.

Mined in Spain, Mexico, Peru, Italy, France, world wide.

Used by North American Indian medicine men

Name from the Greek krustallos meaning ice
Rock Crystal name started in the late Middle Ages to differentiate it when other glass was made and called crystal.

Colorless transparent variety:
SiO2      hardness 7      specific gravity 2.65-2.7

Mined in Brazil, Swiss and French Alps, Madagascar, Russia, USA

Ancient belief: It was ice formed by the gods.
Used for crystal balls to predict the future.

Varieties of Quartz:
Milky – inclusions of gas and liquid bubbles
Black and White
Frosted – surface treated
Ice Flake or Cracked- heated to produce internal cracking
Rose – pink or peach color from titanium, usually cloudy or cracked
Rutilated – needle like rutile crystals of red, black, or brassy yellow
Smoky – grayish brown. Can be irradiated rock crystal. Black called Morion.
Tourmalated- inclusions of black tourmaline in needle like crystals

Man made quartz is many colors including aqua, blueberry, cherry or strawberry, moss green, pineapple, pink, ruby, sea foam, topaz. This is not glass.

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Name from the Greek rhodokhros meaning of rosy color

MnCo3      hardness 3 1/2 -4      specific gravity 3.60

Color: pink from manganese
Usually opaque with bands of rose and white. Transparent is rare and gem quality.

Mined in Montana, Colorado, Argentina, Mexico, Russia, Japan


Name from the Greek rhodos meaning rose

(Mn,Fe,Mg,Ca)SiO3      hardness 6      specific gravity 3.60

Color: pink or rose red, often with black veins from manganese oxides
Translucent to opaque

Mined in Australia, Russia, Sweden, New Jersey and many other countries

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Name from the Latin ruber meaning red.

Al2O3      hardness 9      specific gravity 4.0-4.1

Color: red from traces of chromium, often heat treated to improve color.

Mined in Sri Lanka (since 8th century BC), Burma, Thailand, Afghanistan, Madagascar, Vietnam, Cambodia, North Carolina, Montana

Ancient lore:
a talisman of good fortune and invincibility.
It could banish sorrow, restrain lust, resist poison, and stop bleeding.
An old Russian belief made it good for the heart, brain, vitality, clearing the blood.


Also know as Cuprite

Metamorphic rock containing copper and masses of quartz

hardness 3.5-4.0      specific gravity 5.8-6.1

Color: green to pink with reddish hues and brown in streaks or patches

Mined in Pennsylvania, Utah, Montana, Colorado

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Gemstone List S to Z

Gemstones S-Z
Name for the Latin word for blue

Al2O3      hardness 9      specific gravity 4.0-4.1

Color: colorless, blue from titanium and iron, pale green, yellow, brown from iron, pink from small traces of chromium, pink orange variety is called padparadscha.
Color and transparency are changed by heating or radiation.

Mined in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Thailand, Australia, Brazil, Kashmir, Cambodia, Kenya, Colombia, USA

Ancient belief:
In ancient Greece and in Europe during the Middle Ages, it cured eye diseases and set prisoners free.
In the East, it was a charm against the Evil Eye.


a blend of sard and onyx.
The name sard is from the Greek Sardis, capital of ancient Lydia

SiO2      hardness 7      specific gravity 2.61-2.7

Color: bands of white and brownish red
Translucent to opaque

Mined world wide.

Ancient lore for sard:
Made the wearer fearless, victorious, and happy.
The red color was supposed to drive away the bad influence of onyx which caused bad dreams and melancholy.
In the 11th century it was a protection against sorcery.
In the 4th century it cured wounds.

Named for the mottled color that resembles snake skin.

Mg6(OH)8Si4O10      hardness 5      specific gravity 2.60

Color: predominately green
Translucent to opaque

Bowenite – translucent green or blue green.
Williamsite – translucent oily green with veined or spotted inclusions.
New Jade – apple green.

Mined in England, USA, Germany, Canada, China, Afghanistan, South Africa, Italy, and many other countries.

From 3000 BC to 1100 BC carved into vases, bowls, and other objects by the Minoans on Crete.

Ancient healing: Protects from snake bite, and when put on the wound, draws out the poison.


Named in 1811 for its high sodium content

3NaAlSiO4NaCl      hardness 5 1/2 -6      specific gravity 2.27

Color: all shades of blue with streaks of white calcite
Transparent (rare) to translucent

Mined in Canada, Brazil, India, Namibia, Russia, Germany, Maine, New Hampshire, Arkansas


Named for Ken-ici Sugi who discovered it in 1944.
It was recognized as a mineral in 1976

KNa2(Fe,Mn,Al)2Li3Si12O30.H2O      hardness 5 1/2- 6 1/2      specific gravity 2.7-2.8

Color: pink to purple from manganese, purple from iron, pale to deep pink from aluminum, brownish yellow
Translucent to opaque

Mined in Canada, Japan, South Africa, Italy


common name for aventurine feldspar

KAlSi3O8      hardness 6-6 1/2      specific gravity 2.6

Color: orange, reddish brown, metallic glitter caused by hemitite or goethite
Translucent to opaque

Mined in India, Canada, Madagascar, Norway, Russia, USA

Ancient belief: associated like the sun with health, physical energy, passion, and courage


Named for James Smithson, English founder of the Smithsonian Institute

ZnCO3      hardness 5      specific gravity 4.35

Color: usually bluish green or green, colorless, pink from cobalt, yellow from cadmium, white, brown
Translucent to opaque

Mined in Namibia, Zambia, USA, Spain, Greece, Sardinia, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Australia

Named for Tanzania where it is mined
variety of zoisite

Ca2Al3(SiO4)3(OH)      hardness 6-7      specific gravity 3.2-3.4

Color: sapphire blue from vanadium, looks more violet in incandescent light. Heat treating enhances the color.
Transparent to translucent

Found in 1965 near Mount Kilimanjaro

Mined in Tanzania, Pakistan


Name from the ancient Sanscrit word tapaz for fire or from the name of the legendary island of Topazios off the coast of Egypt in the Red Sea.
Ancient name was chrysolite.

Al2(F,OH)2SiO4      hardness 8      specific gravity 3.54

Color: yellow, pink, colorless, blue, green. Heat treating and irradiation make a large range of blue.
Transparent to translucent

Mined in Brazil, USA, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Russia, Australia, Tasmania, Pakistan, Mexico, Japan, Africa

Ancient healing beliefs: Cured dimness of vision
15th century – cured the plague
16th century – protected against sudden death

Name from the Singalese word turamali meaning gem pebbles

Na(Li,Al)3Al6(BO3)3Si6O18(OH)4      hardness 7 1/2      specific gravity 3.06

Elbaite – yellow, emerald green, greenish yellow
Schorl – opaque black
Indicolite – dark blue
Siberite – lilac to violet blue or reddish blue
Dravite – dark color, usually brown
Achroite – colorless
Watermelon – pink and green
Rubellite – pink or red
Often color zoning.

Mined in Sri Lanka, Brazil, Namibia, Tanzania, Russia, Madagascar, USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia, South and East Africa


Name means Turkish stone because the trade route to Europe was through Turkey.

CuAl6(PO4)4OH8.5H2O      hardness 5-6      specific gravity 2.80

Color: sky blue, bluish green, apple green, depends on the amount of iron and copper, usually interspersed with black, dark gray, or brown veins of host rock or minerals

Natural color can be damaged by light, perspiration, oils, cosmetics, and household detergents. Stabalizing by soaking with artificial resin hardens the surface. Most turquoise being sold has been stabalized.
Chalk turquoise is dyed.
Imitation turquoise is made by dying howlite.

Mined in Iran, Tibet, China, Egypt, Chile, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico
Turquoise was one of the first gemstones to be mined. Beads dating from 5000 BC were found in Mesopotamia (Iraq).

Ancient lore: It was believed to warn the wearer of danger or illness by changing color.
A person who looked at a turquoise after looking at the moon on the first day after a new moon, would get great wealth.
The American Indians in Arizona buried many beads with the dead. The Pueblo Indians thought a piece attached to a bow or gun assured perfect aim.
13th century, it protected the wearer from falling, or getting injured from a fall off a horse. Later from a building or a precipice.
14th century, it protected horses.

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Named after the place of discovery in South Carolina

Aggregate of quartz and pink feldspar with greenish epidote.

Color: pink and green

Mined in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, in the Blue Ridge Unaka Range


Named for Variscia, the old name for the German district of Voightland, where it was discovered.

AlPO4.2H2O      hardness 4 1/2      specific gravity 2.6

Color: pale to apple green

Mined in Austria, Czech Republic, Australia, Venezuela, North Carolina, Utah, Arizona

Named for Baron von Zois who discovered it in Austria.

Ca2(Al,OH)Al2(SiO4)3      hardness 6 1/2      specific gravity 3.35

Color: usually green
Transparent to translucent

Variety: Ruby in Zoisite – green variety containing ruby inclusions

Mined in Spain, Germany, Scotland, Japan,

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