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What are gemstones?

The precious materials most widely used in jewelry are gems any precious or semiprecious stone. By definition this group also includes some animal and vegetable products with precious characteristics, such as amber, pearls, and coral.

Gemstones have attracted humankind since ancient times, and have long been used for jewelry. The prime requisite for a gem is that it must be beautiful. The beauty may lie in color or lack of color; in the latter case, extreme limpidity and "fire" may provide the attraction.

A gem must also be durable, if the stone is to retain the polish applied to it and withstand the wear and tear of constant handling.

In addition to their use as jewelry, gems were regarded by many civilizations as miraculous and endowed with mysterious powers. Different stones were endowed with different and sometimes overlapping attributes; the diamond, for instance, was thought to give its wearer strength in battle and to protect him against ghosts and magic. Vestiges of such beliefs persist in the modern practice of wearing a birthstone.

The physical properties of gemstones, their hardness, their specific gravity or density and they way they break, depend on chemical bonding and the atomic structure within the stone.

Inclusions are internal features of gems. The may be solids, liquids, or gases that the crystal enclosed as it grew, or cleavages, cracks, and fractures that filled after the host material finished growing.

The most usual method of fashioning a gem is to cut the surface into a number of flat faces, known as facets. This gives the stone its final shape and "cut"

Finally, color is the most important factor in determining the value of gemstones and its the most obvious visual feature, but in fact it is just one of many optical properties, all of which are dependent upon light.

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