Merchants of many luxury products overuse the word “rare,” to create an impression about the availability of an item. They use the term to increase the value of the item in the mind of the buyer. A good working definition of a rare gemstone is one that is very difficult for an expert in that stone to find, given a reasonable amount of time.

Most gemstones are not rare. In fact, most gemstones are commonly available, even if a jeweler is not aware of how to find them. Colored gemstones are comparatively rare when it may be more difficult to find one over another at any given time. Some rarer gemstones do not always cost more. It depends on consumer demand and the size and beauty of a particular stone.

Here are several examples to demonstrate the comparative rarity of colored gemstones:


Large quantities of amethysts in almost all depths and intensities of violet color are available. Certain colors of deep and bright rose violet amethyst are comparatively rare. A Siberian amethyst of 5 carats or more and of a particular intensity of rose violet color would be considered rare.


Rubies in most carat weights and intensities of pinkish-red, purplish-red, brownish red and orangey-red color are commonly available. Pure crimson red rubies above 5 carats are comparatively rare. An example of a rare ruby would be pure crimson red with minimal inclusions, without enhancements, 5 carats and over, from the Moguk River Valley in Myanmar.

Blue Sapphire:

There are large quantities available of most carat weights and most hues, tones and intensities of blue sapphire. Pure blue sapphires from Myanmar 5 carats and up, without enhancements and minimally included are rare. Certain slightly violet blue sapphires from Kashmir, with needle-like inclusions, creating a soft velvety texture from 5 carats and up are also rare.


Large quantities and most carat weights of all depths and intensities of emerald are available. Deep bluish green emeralds from Russia with minimal inclusions and no enhancements, from 3 carats and up are rare. Medium to deep bluish green and medium to deep yellowish green emeralds from the Chivor and Muzo mines in Colombia with few inclusions and not enhanced, 3 carats and up are exceptionally rare and almost impossible to find.


Substantial quantities and most carat weights of white opal from various parts of the world, those with milky colors and gemstones with intense play of color are available. White opals with exceptionally intense blue, green and orange play of color from Czechoslovakia are rare. “Crystal” opal from Australia with the 5 major colors is becoming more difficult to find each year. There are many black opals from Lightning Ridge Australia, and many with fabulous colors. However, a black opal with all 5 colors, with emphasis on red, orange and yellow, where the colors are arranged by nature in certain shapes and patterns that move as the opal moves is rare. Extremely fine opal from Ethiopia, the newest addition to the field of opal gemology, is currently common.


Substantial quantities, most carat weights and most colors of tourmaline are available. Exceptions include deep red tourmaline over 5 carats, with minimal flaws and enhancement by heat only; or deep and intense turquoise green electrically bright tourmaline from the Paraiba Mine in Brazil would be considered rare.


Imperial jadeite, the rarest green jade from Myanmar, is one of the rarest gems on the planet. Its color compares with the finest emerald. It is semi-transparent, with absolutely no veining or inclusions or enhancements of any type. It radiates a pure liquidy deep green. Intense and medium to deep violet jadeite, not enhanced, is comparatively rare, and becoming more difficult to find each year. Certain hues and transparencies of white and mustard color jadeite are also becoming more difficult to find each year. Most colors of nephrite, the second of the two minerals in the jade group, remain commonly available.

Demantoid Andradite Garnet:

This intense and exceptionally fiery yellow green garnet from Russia has always been difficult to find in larger carat weights. It is like a brilliant sun bursting out of a deep green sea when a stone is found with optimum color and dispersion. Definitely rare.

Russian Alexandrite:

Alexandrite, the variety of chrysoberyl, which changes color under certain lights, is reasonably common in smaller sizes, from Brazil, Sri Lanka and India. However, true Russian alexandrite showing optimum color change, exhibits the pure reds and greens of one of the great gems of history and is almost impossible to find, even in Russian and European estate jewelry from the 19th century, which is one of its few sources today.

Rhodolite Garnet:

The garnet family of gemstones is interesting because there are a number of species that exhibit overlapping colors of orange, pink, brown, red and purple. The rhodolite garnet remains very popular and commonly available in small to moderate sizes in most of its tones and intensities of purplish and pinkish red. However, in larger sizes, even at 5 carats (but definitely at 10 carats) and with the optimum purplish red hue, this gemstone has become much more difficult to find; almost rare.

Summary Definition of Rarity:

To be considered authentically rare, a colored gemstone should exhibit the optimum hue, tone, saturation and distribution of color for its variety. Other aspects of the stone, including shape, cut, clarity and durability must add to its beauty and value. The stone should be free of enhancements, or in some cases, may be enhanced by heat only. Finally, even if all of the above qualities are present, if the stone is too tiny, it is not considered rare. Of these factors, color itself is the primary ingredient of cost.

Synthetic and Imitation Colored Gemstones:

A synthetic gemstone is made in a factory or laboratory, and has the same optics, chemistry and physical structure as its natural counterpart. Synthetic rubies, synthetic sapphires, synthetic star rubies and star sapphires were manufactured and appear in thousands of pieces of jewelry in the first 20 years of the 20th century. In the mid 1940’s, synthetic emerald was created. The 1970’s saw the creation of many more synthetics, including opal, turquoise, alexandrite and the quartzes. Note: synthetic diamond was created by General Electric in 1952. In 2016, multiple companies manufacture synthetic diamond, in sizes large enough to be used for engagement rings, stud earrings and other forms of fine jewelry. Historically, the introduction of all synthetics has never affected the demand for the natural gemstone. In 2016, even the most expensive synthetic colored gemstone is very inexpensive compared with its natural counterpart. Synthetic diamond is only about 25% less expensive than natural diamond of the same quality.

An IMITATION GEMSTONE is merely one that looks like the natural counterpart. The best example is glass, used for cutting transparent gemstones for 2000 years. Other imitations would include what gemology calls “assembled gemstones.” These are gemstones composed of several parts which are glued together. Opal doublets and triplets and diamond doublets are good examples seen frequently in the jewelry industry.

Learn more about Colored Gemstones:



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