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Semi-precious stone identification


I’m looking for a book/reference to help identify the many varieties
of semi-precious stones. Eg. red jasper vs red tiger’s eye vs red
lapis or ocean vs botswana vs picture vs zebra vs dalmation jasper,

I have many rock & gem guides, but they all tend to have one page
for jasper and one for agate if you’re lucky (but large multi-page
spreads for the beryls! 8).

The rock and lapidary stores certainly seem to have labels and
little chemical/metaphysical descriptions for all their stones, but
none that I asked were able to help with a reference… Should I
stop looking in the Science/Geology section and start looking in the
Metaphysical section of the bookstore for such a guide? (hmph!)

Carol Wang


Carol, Identification by common name of cabochon gemstones is a
widespread problem in gems and minerals. I asked hobbyists clubs in
the USA to put together pictures of rough and finished pieces from
their home state. They all refused to take on the endeavor. Just
think how nice it would be to have a website you could go to that had
the pictures of rough and finished stones available by state. Any
club members out there interested? This list would contain hundreds
or thousands of different lapidary rocks. As it is now we spend a
lifetime learning the different rocks. When you start learning the
varieties of the world it becomes very complex. So, to answer your
question - I know of not one good guide to what you have asked. I
offer to you my help as time is available.

Gerry Galarneau


Carol - I, and many others, have been waiting for some years for the
Fraziers to complete their quartz master work; an entire compendium
on the quartz stones. To the best of my knowledge none now exist in
print, although there are several websites which have incredible
arrays of agates. The best general print resource for all types of
precious stones is Schumann’s GEMSTONES OF THE WORLD.

Jim Small
Small Wonders


Most of these designations of agates are entirely fanciful and vary
from person to person. Some of them are almost illegal - "red lapis"
for example. Even if you find one book another will disagree with it.
Taking a good course in gemology will make you feel a lot securer in
naming material.

Tony Konrath
Key West Florida 33040


Hi, Semi precious stone identification is always problematical simply
because the stones are of lesser value and to that extent fall
outside the scope of gemology and gemological associations. To put it
in an exaggerated way, no one cares very much what you might want to
call it.

By that I don’t mean to disparage such stones. In fact, they are
among my personal favorites. The pattern variation in agate for
example is endless and hence always offers fresh possibilities.

The names for agate and jasper tend to be descriptive: plume agate,
moss agate, picture jasper, poppy jasper, fortification agate, lace
agate, etc. Sometimes the geographical location is included in the
name, as in Nipomo tube agate, Morgan Hill poppy jasper. Sometimes
the geographical designation is all you get, as in Montana agate or
Laguna agate from Laguna Mexico.

The best way I can think of to become familiar with these terms and
stones is to frequent the shows. And even then, there’s always
something new, or one person will call his stone a moss agate and his
neighbor will cal;l the same stone a plume agate. In addition to
that, June Culp Zeitner’s “Gem and Lapidary Materials” is a good
reference. Zeitner focuses on the semi-precious to a greater extent
than the Schumann “Gemstones of the World” which has already been
mentioned and which covers both. But if you had to get only one
single reference, go for “Gemstones of the World” - in my view by far
the best and most comprehensive guide.

Ironically the very term semi-precious is frowned upon; the
preferred term is gemstone - precious, three-quarter-precious or
semi-precious, they are all But sem-precious is so much in
the lingo that it will probably never be displaced.

Hans Durstling
Moncton, Canada


hello Gerry: As a rockhound jeweler i would very much appreciate a
site location, restrictions involving the site, pictures of the area
and deposition, plus rough and finished product. The difficulty is
how many want to revel where they get their stone! perhaps a
voluntery disclosure or otherwise a rough location. It would benifit
all as we could plan trips to correspond to what is on the route
more accurately. I personally have a hard time disclosing my
locations as word has traveled and unscrupulouse individuals have
raped my sites. when i collect i never take all…and always fill
in your holes and leave a clean site…Ringman


You might try to get a copy of June Culp Zeitner’s book “Gem and
Lapidary Materials” she does the best job of anyone I know of
describing the lapidary materials and there cutting characteristics.

Dick Friesen


Bravo Hans…a good explanation on stone identification. If people
out there really want to get into the identification of
agate/jaspers…but do not want to wait for the Fraziers to finish
their monumental work, there is an outstanding site created by the
Conservation and Survey Division, Instituteof Agriculture and Natural
Resources of the Univ of Nebraska-Lincoln. The site address is:

Click on Agate Lexicon and you will get a listing that goes on
forever giving the names of various agates and jaspers, where the
name comes from, cross references etc. Excellent site…I visit it

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut1


Ringman, I never wrote to disclose the actual site of the find. What
I would like to see is a state by state, in the US, list with
pictures of rough, slabs, and finished goods. Each variety would
have a list of names for the variety, as one variety often has many
names. The goal would be for identification, not for on site
collectting. A similar list could be made by people in every country
on Earth.

Gerry Galarneau