Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Changing the term "semi-precious" stones

But I don't know of any stones that are "by far, more rare,
more expensive, and beautiful, than those termed "Precious.",
either. Perhaps the poster was referring to such gems as Tanzanite
and Paraiba Tourmaline? 

Richard Hart put this issue in a pretty good perspective - there is
a value in being able to break up the marketplace into categories,
and it really doesn’t matter much which words are used. There’s a
stone dealer just down the hall who handles cz’s, $10 rubies,
anything quartz, and much more. He tops out at around $1500 stones
or so. Three doors down the other direction is another dealer who’s
inventory STARTS at that level. We could say they are both stone
dealers, but how do I describe that one works in one echelon, and
the other is different? I don’t use the word semiprecious either,
but I believe that is or was the original intent of the word - those
people deal in agates, those people deal in emeralds. I agree with
all - Daniel in particular - that the term has some negatives
attached. I personally don’t think it’s that big of a deal, though.
I’d put this thread on a level of the “who buys copper?” thread -
your basic tempest in a teapot. People buy anything and everything,
but gold IS a “precious metal” and copper IS a “base metal” in the
marketplace - it’s how we communicate with each other, everthing is
NOT the same.

And no, neither tanzanite nor any tourmalines are “far more rare AND
more expensive AND more beautiful” than the so-called precious
stones at their best. Rare, somewhat pricey, beautiful to most of
us, yes. I would add Malayan garnet and Tsavorite to that list, too.
One other criterion of “precious” is hardness, which neither of
those has either. But this is all just a silly discussion/argument
in the end. Fine things are fine things… The marketplace decides,
ultimately.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com

The term simply indicates probability of encountering a minerals
randomly going through the rock. 

Leonid, with all due respect I have NEVER, in any gemological book
or magazine, seen the terms semi precious and precious used this way.
Perhaps you could enlighten us as to where you have found that use of
the terms (preferably in a scientific treatise written within the
last 20 years).

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers
www.spirerjewelers.com

As a writer in the jewelry world for more than thirty years, this has
always been one of my pet peeves. In my writings, and speeches, I
have steadfastly and consistently used the term "colored gemstone"
and have never used the ridiculous “semi-precious.” It’s my own
little attempt to clarify and describe gem materials. “Colored
gemstone” is descriptive while “semi-precious” is pejorative and, as
noted by others, something akin to “semi-pregnant.” It makes no
sense.

Ettagale Blauer

The term simply indicates probability of encountering a minerals
randomly going through the rock. 

I’ll say again that I on the side of “this is a pretty nonsensical
discussion” in the world at large. Perhaps the term will be changed
over time, perhaps it won’t - I doubt it will ever vanish
completely, myself. But in the interest of understanding…

What Leonid says above is true, and at the same time it’s not. Today
it represents what he says, but not in the beginning. I tried a
minute to find references online, with no luck, but it’s my
understanding that the story is true - this whole thing was invented
by Tiffany some time around the turn of the last century. and
probably Frederick Kunz had a hand in it - it was certainly the Kunz
era. That’s also the time that standardized lists of birthstones
were devised (which Kunz opoposed), also by Tiffany. Old birthstones
include cabs - the “new” list is all faceted stones. Anyway, they
devised a list of the heirarchy of more common mostly for
marketing purposes. Some of you may recall that in the 60’s-70’s
Tiffany’s was lobbied to put tanzanite into the “precious” category,
which they refused to do. And ---- the reason there is
"semiprecious" is because there are actually three categories, which
people forget - precious, semiprecious, and non-precious. At this
point the world just about doesn’t care about all that anymore, but
the words have stuck in the vocabulary just the same…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com

Interesting book available online about this very topic:


(by the way a “jargoon” is a zircon…)

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com

After being absent from Orchid for several years I am stunned that
this topic still even merits discussion in a forum dedicated to
jewelry professionals. As Daniel Spirer and others have commented,
why in the world would jewelers use language that devalues any
beautiful product we sell?

I happen to be involved with so-called “semi-precious stones” on a
daily basis as a gem merchant. Colored gemstones are a never-ending
source of mystery, wonder and beauty to me. They are too often traded
at prices far below their intrinsic worth and rarity. One poster
mentioned that GIA has campaigned to end the semi-precious
designation. That’s true but the recognition of “semi precious” as a
misleading classification began in Europe long before GIA was a major
force in the gem world.

Robert M. Shipley, founder of GIA and AGS, notes in his 1951
"Dictionary of Gems and Gemology" that a then-prominent European gem
and jewelry trade organization recommended that the “term be
eliminated in the principal European languages and replaced in
English by ‘gemstone.’” I’m good with that, or any other superlative
that gives these lovely gems their due.

Rick Martin
http://artcutgems.com

with all due respect I have NEVER, in any gemological book or
magazine, seen the terms semi precious and precious used this way. 

As I stated before the term semi-precious is simplification. If you
want to get into the subject, people to read aRe: Kluge, Fersman,
Sobolevsky, and many others. The elements comprising gems are
distributed in the earth crust in different concentrations. What make
emerald so valued is that chromium (what makes emerald green) is so
rare in the earth crust. The same applies to precious corundum and
others. Of course we have to separate value from price. Price depends
on market condition, but value remains constant. In my opinion, most
of confusion comes from mixing these two concepts.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com

http://www.farlang.com/gemstones/church-precious-stones/page_011
(by the way a "jargoon" is a zircon....) 

Hiya John, Folks…

Zircon has lotsa names, depending on who’s selling (or sold)
it…

Hyacinth and Starlight…

Ceylon diamond…and Matura diamond… Siamese aquamarine…

My ref had “jargon”, but I always thought that was stone junkie
talk……

Regards…

Gary W. Bourbonais
L’Hermite Aromatique
A.J.P. (GIA)

why in the world would jewelers use language that devalues any
beautiful product we sell? 

I would take an issue with the statement that language can devaluate
anything, but one of the reasons because it is stating the facts as
they are. The value of the gemstone is constant. Market price can
vary based on supply and demand equation. Description of the any
product should serve only one purpose; to inform a customer. What you
are talking about smacks of deception. Jewellery business is all
about trust. No trust, no business, as simple as that. But let me
address this concern that somehow the term semi-precious would
destroy the industry. An interesting historical parallel comes to
mind. The word platinum come from spanish platina which is a
diminutive for plate. In another words, the platinum means little
silver. I also recall ( I hope correctly ) than upon introduction of
platinum, Cartier was offering his designs in silver and in
platinum. When Dutchess of Winsor was given a choice (on crown
design), she selected silver. Hundred years later, platinum doing
quite alright, regardless of it’s “pejorative” (not my choice of
words) name and humble beginning. So, the concern that semi-precious
would somehow destroy the industry, is not based on fact. There is no
evidence whatsoever, that the name alone can influence the sales.
Before you jump to you keyboard to hammer a response to the above
statement, stop and think what does it tell about your jewellery if
all its value lies in a nuance of terminology.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com

I sort of chimed in on this before.

Leonid, it has nothing to do with drilling probability or Sugilite
would be considered Precious as well as any rare earth substance.

Anyway, this Semi-Precious/Precious thing is entirely Victorian, is
arbitrary, is outmoded. We just don’t need such a division AT ALL.
It’s like gemstone Racism or Eugenics. Really. Snobby, Snobby,
Snobby.

Some already list Tourmaline as Precious. I’ve heard Ellenburg Blue
Agate is Precious too. Hey, it’s just something I’ve heard.

I’ve also heard that Quartz Crystal is Jade to the Chinese.

TL Goodwin
Lapidary/Metalsmith
http://thepacifikimage.com

it has nothing to do with drilling probability or Sugilite would be
considered Precious as well as any rare earth substance. 

Sugilite is a silicate, and therefore cannot be precious. In South
Africa it goes under the name wesselite and they cut tiles from it
for their bathrooms.

Anyway, this Semi-Precious/Precious thing is entirely Victorian,
is arbitrary, is outmoded. We just don't need such a division AT
ALL. It's like gemstone Racism or Eugenics. Really. Snobby, Snobby,
Snobby. 

Newton laws are pre-Victorian, but we still using it. As far as
gemstone Eugenics, what do you think we do when we synthesize
gemstone. Gemstone racism is a new concept for me. You are not
proposing addition to the Title Seven that all gemstones must be sold
at the same price, do you?

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com

Leonid,

What you are talking about smacks of deception. 
Before you jump to you keyboard to hammer a response to the above
statement, stop and think what does it tell about your jewellery
if all its value lies in a nuance of terminology. 

By your own admission you aren’t actively selling jewelry (or at
least you don’t need to make a living from it) so I’m not clear that
you have a real grasp of the marketplace today and what is actually
involved in selling jewelry on a day to day basis. It is no longer
good enough to set up a little shop somewhere and throw a few pieces
out and tell the people, Oh I make high quality jewelry. People now
want (and are used to) shopping “experiences”. They want services
that weren’t asked for twenty, thirty or fifty years ago. They think
they can go online and with a click of a button buy a “custom” made
piece. They want to be romanced, have their hands held, use you as a
therapist, and make a connection with the designer. They want the
value created for them by their experience in your store. They also
know (or have bad knowledge, thanks to the internet) a lot more than
they did long ago.

Whether you like it or not, jewelry (no matter what the quality–you
think Harry Winston doesn’t use well trained salesmen???) doesn’t
sell itself. Someone has to sell it. A long time ago when I was
quite young, a very astute businesswoman told me that you should
never bad mouth your competition, no matter what they did or said
about you. Her reasoning was that if you were willing to say
something negative about the competition, what would the customer
think you might say about the customer themselves? Also, by being so
negative, how did it make you look? Basically she was saying, though,
that if anything you do in interacting with the customer is negative,
it becomes very hard to make any of the sale a positive experience.
Using positive terminology, watching an individual’s body language,
saying things like “my pleasure” instead of “no problem”, not using
the term “semi precious” in describing gems, and making a customer
your friend is NOT deception. Deception is when you say a diamond is
ideal cut and the crown angle is 32 degrees. Deception is selling a
heavily heat treated ruby and not disclosing the treatment. Deception
is telling a customer that the piece they want to buy for $500 is
really worth $1000 but you can give them this special “deal” even
though $500 is your regular price.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
www.spirerjewelers.com

There is no evidence whatsoever, that the name alone can influence
the sales. 

No evidence, other than examples given to illustrate the point, such
as the lady who was very interested in the “emerald” bracelet until
she found out that it was in fact set with green garnets! She was no
longer interested because garnet is considered by the buying public
to be “semi-precious”, and therefore sub-standard.

My mother-in-law looks down her nose at gems like garnet and
tourmaline because of the ingrained snobbery the industry has
perpetuated for so many years. The jewellery trade (or at least the
chain store “jewellers” who don’t even make jewellery) has told the
public that there are four precious diamond, sapphire,
ruby and emerald. Everything else is apparently “semi-precious” and
therefore probably only fit to be set in silver for a much lower
price. Fortunately there are still plenty of people who will
appreciate any gem for its beauty, no matter which category it
belongs to - but there is a lot of ignorance on the part of the
public and I don’t think they’ll change their minds until the status
of the more lowly gems has been elevated by jewellers and the message
clearly sent that all gems are precious.

Helen
UK

The elements comprising gems are distributed in the earth crust in
different concentrations. What make emerald so valued is that
chromium (what makes emerald green) is so rare in the earth crust 

If this is the interpretation you’re using then you can call stones
rare or semi rare, but precious is a different word and doesn’t
refer to rarity. Precious, as defined by Merriam Webster, is defined
as: “of great value or high price”. By this definition a $5 ruby is
not a “precious” gem and certainly a $20,000 tourmaline is not semi
"precious". Since the leading organization in the world dealing with
the science of gemology (GIA) has repeatedly railed against the use
of this term’s use as not a scientific one, I would have to go with
them, over some older and outdated authors. If we only believe the
science from one hundred years ago, we might just as well give up on
any modern advancements in any field.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
www.spirerjewelers.com

Precious, as defined by Merriam Webster, is defined as: "of great
value or high price". By this definition a $5 ruby is not a
"precious" gem and certainly a $20,000 tourmaline is not semi
"precious". 

I would not recommend Merriam Webster as a source of gemological
knowledge.

Since the leading organization in the world dealing with the
science of gemology (GIA) has repeatedly railed against the use of
this term's use as not a scientific one, I would have to go with
them, over some older and outdated authors. 

Blindly trusting anybody is a dangerous habit, and there are signs
that GIA coin has lost it’s shine. Let me tell a story. My
understanding that you subscribe to Gems & Gemology, so everything
what follows can be verified.

Sometime ago GIA published that a blue garnet was discovered.
Understandably, it got everybody very exited and the world of
gemology was changed forever, or was it ? Later on they published
another article where they say that they tested one of the crystals,
and surprise surprise, it happened to be a fluorate. They also said
that since other crystals from the find were no longer available( I
wonder why), and that was the only one tested, they cannot be sure
anymore.

This leads me to the following conclusions which kind of
unbelievable, but there are no alternatives.

  1. Why would any gemologist upon finding a blue-green crystal
    belonging to cubic system assumes that it is garnet. Without any
    testing equipment, the conclusion must be fluorate, until proven
    otherwise. I understand that not everybody reading this a gemologist,
    so in simple terms; If you go to a jungle and encounter and large
    grey
    animal with big ears and a trunk instead of a nose, would you assume
    that it is some kind of a previously unknown alligator, or you say “
    this is just an elephant”. Apparently GIA decided to proclaim “an
    alligator”.

  2. They discovered their mistake by using Raman spectrography. Well,
    to continue my alligator analogy, this is like using DNA test to tell
    elephant and alligator apart. Garnet and fluorate have such a
    distinct indexes of refraction that even a blind man should spot the
    difference.

  3. Once mistake was discovered (put aside publishing anything without
    proper testing), instead of coming out and saying “sorry, but we
    screwed up”, they tried to hide behind Raman spectrography, like
    there is no other way to separate between the two.

The third conclusion is quite revealing of their thinking and
explains very well their push for use of colored stones terminology.
They obviously great believers in putting words in front of the
facts.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com

Hi Leonid, Folks…

Sugilite is a silicate, and therefore cannot be precious. In South
Africa it goes under the name wesselite and they cut tiles from it
for their bathrooms. 

Emerald is a beryl species, and also a silicate…
Emerald is not one of the so named precious stones…

Gary W. Bourbonais
L’Hermite Aromatique
A.J.P. (GIA)

I would take an issue with the statement that language can
devaluate anything, 

Leonid, the English language is incredibly rich. There are many words
that have the same meaning, but can bring out very different emotions
in people. Words like “inexpensive” versus “cheap”. “Laboratory
grown” versus “fake”. “Clarity characteristic” versus “flaw”. All of
these pairs of words have very similar meanings but carry very
different connotations. Use of one devalues it’s object far more than
the other, but both could be an accurate description of a specific
thing, with neither being deceptive. Someone far smarter than I am
once said “perception is reality”. Much of what we consider to be
value is perceived. If you perceive and present something you make to
be a high quality, precious, rare and exceptional thing, you would be
accurate and your customer will share your perception. If you
perceive the same piece to be a hunk of metal with shiny rocks stuck
in it, and speak of it in those terms, you would also be describing
it accurately but your customer will form a very different perception
of it’s value. And you will be rewarded accordingly.

Description of the any product should serve only one purpose; to
inform a customer. What you are talking about smacks of deception. 

Is there a quantifiable factual difference if I gingerly take a
valuable piece of jewelry out of the case with white gloves, gently
polish it with a clean cloth and carefully place a pad under it as I
hand it to a customer compared to if I yank it out with bare hands,
toss it towards them and say “Here! Catch!”? Is one deceptive and the
other not? I promise you the customer will assign very different
values to a piece based on these two presentations. Use of the
language is just as important when describing the features of a
particular piece of jewelry.

There is nothing whatsoever deceptive about using appropriate,
accurate and well chosen language to enhance the value of what we
make and sell. To do anything else would be selling yourself and what
you make cheaply, and at the same time would do a disservice to a
customer that wants to own and cherish a thing of beauty, value and
creativity, and feel good about it. You can tell the truth without
having to use negative terminology.

There is no evidence whatsoever, that the name alone can influence
the sales. 

My friend, I beg to differ. There is much evidence to the contrary
in all walks of life. All it takes is a trip to the supermarket to
find it. Who’s gonna buy a breakfast cereal named “Heavily Sugar
Coated and Artificially Colored Corn Meal Flakes”? Do you seriously
contend that if Tiffany & Co. changed their name to “Joe’s Junk” but
continued selling exactly the same merchandise in exactly the same
way that they would be doing the same business in three years? How
about “Polished Chunks of Slightly Flawed Crystallized Carbon are
Forever Unless You Whack Them”? That’s got a nice romantic ring to
it. It’s far more accurate than the deceptive slogan engineered by
DPS that we are all familiar with, too.

Before you jump to you keyboard to hammer a response to the above
statement, stop and think what does it tell about your jewellery
if all its value lies in a nuance of terminology. 

If all of the value in your jewelry lies in the metal and stones and
there is no added value coming from the fiber of your being or your
enthusiasm about your creations and you consequently find yourself
unable to accurately describe them using anything other than cold,
impersonal and depressing technical terminology while having the
entire English language at your disposal, then I feel sorry for you,
Leonid.

People buy jewelry for a myriad of reasons, almost all are
emotionally driven. This and other posts of yours indicate that you
don’t have much use, understanding or empathy for the emotions of
other people. It is probably best that you are not dependant on
retail sales for your living, and pretty obvious why.

Dave

the English language is incredibly rich. There are many words that
have the same meaning, but can bring out very different emotions in
people. Words like "inexpensive" versus "cheap". "Laboratory grown"
versus "fake". "Clarity characteristic" versus "flaw". 

Yes it is all true. But since each sale is unique combination of
events, there is no way to repeat experiment replacing just one
variable. Therefore, there cannot exist any data proving or
disproving
assertion.

Is there a quantifiable factual difference if I gingerly take a
valuable piece of jewelry out of the case with white gloves,
gently polish it with a clean cloth and carefully place a pad under
it as I hand it to a customer compared to if I yank it out with bare
hands, toss it towards them and say "Here! Catch!"? Is one
deceptive and the other not? I promise you the customer will assign
very different values to a piece based on these two presentations.
Use of the language is just as important when describing the
features of a particular piece of jewelry. 

By carefully handling jewellery, you sending a message that you
consider it valuable. Customer may or may not agree, but it would be
up to him. There is no deception. However, the term “colored
gemstone” applied to semi-precious material, is a term used to
obfuscate the fact of lack of scarcity, and therefore a deception.

All it takes is a trip to the supermarket to find it. Who's gonna
buy a breakfast cereal named "Heavily Sugar Coated and Artificially
Colored Corn Meal Flakes"? Do you seriously contend that if Tiffany
& Co. changed their name to "Joe's Junk" but continued selling
exactly the same merchandise in exactly the same way that they
would be doing the same business in three years? 

Jewellery is not a cereal, at least not yet. There is the difference
between short term commitment and a long one. If I buy a bad box of
cereal, I am not going to buy it anymore. If I buy $20000 ring and it
is not what I was led to believe, the situation is different. When we
talk about business names, we have to consider that name is the
result
of promotional campaigns, reputation, and etc. Changing name make all
obsolete and of course it will affect the sales. But we talking about
replacing nomenclature, design to express relative value of gem
material by a term, which is not only inaccurate but simply wrong,
and so far nobody presented any proof that usage of the term alone
was a definitive factor in making or breaking a sale. In my
experience, clients do extensive research before they talk to a
jeweler. So if someone asks you if Garnet is a precious stone, the
answer no it is colored will loose this client forever.

If all of the value in your jewelry lies in the metal and stones
and there is no added value coming from the fiber of your being or
your enthusiasm about your creations and you consequently find
yourself unable to accurately describe them using anything other
than cold, impersonal and depressing technical terminology while
having the entire English language at your disposal, 

Thank you for your concern. Once again, I draw a distinction between
taking literary license and deception. Sometimes the line becomes
blurry, so it is up to the individual to define the boundaries.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com

Emerald is a beryl species, and also a silicate... Emerald is not
one of the so named precious stones.... 

What makes Emerald precious is presence of chromium. When this
thread started I said than that terminology is over- simplification.
Many gems changing location in relative value scale depending on
size, clarity, and intensity of color. I cannot go in all the
details, but I can say is that this probably the greatest selling
tool that anybody can wish for. The system is complex but very
elegant and it based on what is known about gems formation. The
difficulty with the system is that it cannot be memorized, but must
be understood. Anybody can grin like character from tooth paste
commercial and repeat “colored”, but to give real story behind a
gemstone is quite another matter.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com

The third conclusion is quite revealing of their thinking and
explains very well their push for use of colored stones
terminology. They obviously great believers in putting words in
front of the facts. 

Leonoid, wonderful story about G.I.A. and the mistake they made about
mis-identification.

There is a word I really like, non sequitur, and I feel it might
apply here.

No matter how mistaken G.I.A. has been about any one issue, does not
seem to relate to the issue of using the terms precious or semi
precious.

G.I.A. Separates diamonds into one category and all other gem stones
into another category and just calls them colored stones. In this
context the terms precious and semi precious are useless and
irrelevant terms.

Your story was great, however it does not seem to be relevant as to
why the terms precious or semi precious have any meaning in a
gemological context.

I assume you are not a Graduate Gemologist. Perhaps without the
G.I.A. education and the context for their terminology you do not
understand or comprehend their usage of the term colored stones.
Since
I graduated G.I.A. in 1977, I have not found a situation in which the
terms semi precious or precious were better or more descriptive,
where the term colored stones lacked depth or meaning or caused
confusion or mis-representation or caused discomfort or irritation,
until now.

The knowledge acquired in the Gemology course at G.I.A. is used to
separate gems so it can be determined what the gem is in relationship
to anything that looks the same or similar.

The terms semi precious and precious do absolutely nothing to
separate gems geologically, and this is why as a Gemologist, I would
not use those terms. Basically useless and irrelevant terms that have
no place in Gemology.

(I personally do not believe miners use those terms)

Richard Hart