View Full Version : Stone vs. Gemstone vs. Crystal

Rusty Neon
14-05-2003, 16:20
Hi all .... I'm Rusty and I'm a crystal newbie :). My question is basic:

What's the difference between a Stone, a Gemstone and a Crystal?

It seems that there's a lot of overlap and that many people use the three terms almost interchangeably.

:) Thanks in advance !

All Is One
14-05-2003, 20:46
Weeeellll, Rusty:

I am one of the open-minded who have found that from book to book the terms used vary. It used to confuse me a lot, but then I found out that the scientific answer is completely different from the ...well...the regular answer~~meaning that, perhaps the definition of answer lies in the community doing the answering?

I'm told that crystal is a specific formulation, etc etc ...but...I'll be interested to see the answers to your query, because~ as for myself~ I just like to look at the colours.

15-05-2003, 00:35
Hi Rusty, I'm studying gemmology (big exam at end of June--if I pass I will be a gemmologist), so hopefully I can answer your question.

A gemstone is quite often described as a "stone" or a "crystal".

"Stone" is really just a general term for any inorganic substance that comes out of the earth.

"Crystal" however, should only be used in the case where a mineral has formed a definite external shape, e.g. prism, octahedron. I am not sure how much detail you would like and I don't want to bore or confuse you, so I'll be as basic as possible and if you need more info, let me know.

Some stones are rocks ( an aggregate of several minerals, many different mineral grains which are fused cemented, or bound together) some stones are minerals (consisting solely of inorganic elements, or elemental compounds)

Some examples of rocks are: unakite, marble, sandstone, limestone, lapis lazuli.

All solid matter is composed of material which is either crystalline or non-crystalline, or a mixture of these two states.

In a non-crystalline substance, the atoms and molecules are positioned randomly throughout the material, not aligned in any special order or pattern----because of this---a non-crystalline material can never develop any naturally occurring characteristic shape-----some non-crystalline substances are: glass, amber (organic origin), jet

Majority of minerals are completely crystalline substances whose atoms and molecules are arranged in an ordered and symmetrical three-dimensional pattern or lattice. In most cases this underlying symmetrical crystal structure makes itself visible in the external shape of the mineral specimen----then you would have a crystal-----e.g. quartz prism.

But there are also a few minerals which although they are crystalline do not form an identifiable external profile---these minerals are called "massive" e.g. rose quartz is a massive crystalline mineral, does not usually occur in the characteristic shape of a quartz crystal ( although rarely it is found as a crystal), other examples of massive forms are jadeite and nephrite (polycrystalline), and agate and chrysoprase (microcrystalline.

I hope that this all makes sense. The term crystal is often used to refer to all minerals (crystalline substances), and technically I suppose this is not wrong since they are crystalline substances (made up of tiny crystals). I just think that it takes away from the fact that certain stones form amazing crystals. Amazing that the earth produces these geometric forms from the basic elements.

Hope this helps and doesn't confuse you more, don't mean to be a know-it-all, I'm just so interested in this, Ruby

Rusty Neon
15-05-2003, 15:54
ruby ... Thanks for all the helpful information. It's no wonder that people use many of the various terms synonymously, in view of the overlap or complexity of the terminology. I can see how even geologists could slip up. :)

I'm surprised to learn from your post that even basic terms like "stone" and "rock" have different nuances from each other, "stone" being the most general term there is. That really shocked me. I would have thought "rock" to be the more general term. I guess Fred Flintstone's hometown should really be called "Bedstone". :)

Where does "gemstone" fit into all this? When is a stone a "gemstone"? Can every stone be made into a "gem"?

17-05-2003, 14:08
Originally posted by Rusty Neon

Where does "gemstone" fit into all this? When is a stone a "gemstone"? Can every stone be made into a "gem"?

Hi Rusty, I would highly recommend to you the book "Crystal Power, Crystal Healing" by Michael Gienger (available at Sunnyside Bookshop in Ottawa) This man knows stones. He has a scientific background and begins his book with a solid grounding in the origins of minerals, chemistry of minerals before getting into healing with crystals. Michael Gienger's book has good pictures too. Another good book to start with is "Gemstones of the World" by Walter Schumann (available at Chapters, but cheaper on Amazon.ca). I bought this book for the pictures, but it is also a good starter gemmology book.

For a stone to be considered a "gemstone", meaning a stone that can be used in jewellery, it has to have three qualities:1. Beauty (this is subjective of course, but if a stone is a transparent coloured gem, the depth of colour and degree of transparency will be the prime factors. But in the case of a diamond beauty is determined by brilliancy, fire, optical purity, and in general the absence of any body colour)
2. Rarity---must be present in some degree --can be affected by factors such as supply and demand, and by fashion and the scarcity of the source material---some stones are made to appear more scarce than they actually are e.g. diamonds controlled by DeBeers.
3. Durability----a more practical quality than beauty and rarity. The gemstone must be able to survive day to day wear, the property of hardness is an important quality in a gemstone. E.g. fluorite is a beautiful stone but is very soft, and in plenty supply, very cheap, not used in standard jewellery, therefore not considered to be a "gemstone" although it can make a nice pendant (since a pendant does not receive the wear and tear that a ring does)

Hope this helps you, Ruby7