Complimentary Two-Day Shipping on All Orders. See Details >

Gemstone Guide: Buying, Symbolism & Properties

gemstone hardness, gemstone jewelry, gemstones, lab gemstones
12/13/2023
Gemstone Guide: Buying, Symbolism & Properties

Have you ever considered the rich symbolism behind your favorite gemstone, or ever thought about what properties make a gemstone a gemstone? Existing for millions of years before human discovery, cultures around the world have long celebrated gemstones for their perceived powers, as well as for their valuable aesthetic that elevates beauty and mood. Just as popular in contemporary times as they were in ancient times, we still grace ourselves with the glittering gemstones that make us feel fantastic. 

Whether it’s the brilliance of a diamond or the fire of a ruby that piques your interest, you’ll want to seek guidance on the best place to acquire exceptional, heirloom-quality gemstone jewelry. This is an easy feat when you shop John Atencio, the master jewelry designer who specializes in the bold and distinctive jewelry that adorns faithful clients around the world. Read this gemstone guide for valuable information, then browse our Holiday Look Book for the gemstone jewelry that speaks to your heart.

photo of a John atencio diamond ring

John Atencio’s statement jewelry designs, including the Originate Wide Diamond Ring, are crafted in the bold and distinctive style he is known for. Showcasing the diamond, one of his two favorite gemstones, this exceptional ring is crafted with care in 14k white gold and channel-set diamonds. Also available in 14k yellow gold, this eye-catching, original John Atencio was meticulously made to be an heirloom worthy of being handed down across the generations.

photo of a John atencio emerald earrings

Sourcing Gemstones Responsibly 

Enjoying over 47 years as a master designer, John Atencio is lauded around the globe for his iconic jewelry designs. He’s also known for his widely respected stance on environmental responsibility, demanding that only recycled gold, responsibly sourced natural gemstones and lab-created gemstones be used in his creations that are handcrafted only by master artisans. 

Maintaining increased popularity, gemstones grown in the lab are just as chic as natural gemstones. John Atencio’s stunning Paloma Collection, inspired by his grandmother’s vision of world peace, proves this point with the Paloma Lab-Grown Gemstone Dangle Earrings. Meticulously handcrafted in 14k rose gold with diamonds and bezel-set, lab-created emeralds, these striking earrings are an elegant reminder that environmental responsibility is beautiful. These are also offered in exquisite white gold/lab-grown sapphire and yellow gold/lab-grown ruby versions. 

photo of a woman wearing gemstone jewelry

Different Types of Gemstones

Gemstones are also classified as precious or semi-precious, depending on their perceived rarity. Only diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds are considered precious gemstones, while the rest belong to the semi-precious category. There’s no scientific or structural difference that places a gemstone in either group, so equal consideration of semi-precious stones when acquiring gemstone jewelry is a choice that will render a larger selection of stones in a variety of beautiful hues. 

One trait the precious stones have in common is a generally higher placing on the Mohs scale of hardness than the semi-precious variety. The Mohs Scale of Hardness, developed by German mineralogist Friedrich Mohs in the early 19th century, is a scale ranging from 1 to 10, with 1 being the softest and 10 being the hardest. The hardness value of every mineral and gemstone is based on its ability to scratch another mineral. For example, an amethyst with a rating of 7 can scratch every mineral that’s rated below it, but can’t scratch any mineral rated above it. With a rating of 10, the diamond is the most durable. See where your favorite gemstones lies on the range below.

The Mohs Scale of Hardness

Diamond – 10

Sapphire – 9

Ruby – 9

Topaz – 8

Rhodolite Garnet – 7 to 7.5

Amethyst – 7

Peridot – 7

Tanzanite – 6 to 7

Emerald – 6.5 to 7

Opal – 5 to 6.5

Pearl – 2.5 to 4.5

Talc – 0

The stunning tanzanite gemstone is also one of John Atencio’s favorites. First created to celebrate his milestone of 40 years as a designer, the striking Pinnacle Collection unites asymmetrical lines with 14k white gold, sparkling channel-set pavé diamonds and a trillion tanzanite. The new derivative of this collection is the delicately proportioned Pinnacle Petite pictured above, offering everyday wear that makes layering easy. Pinnacle Petite is also offered in 14k yellow gold with a stunning green chrome diopside. Whether worn individually or as a set with the necklace, bracelet, ring and earrings, this collection is a beautiful addition to your wardrobe that you’ll enjoy wearing for every year that follows.   

photo of a John atencio gemstone ring

Understanding the Four Cs of a Gemstone

When determining the value of a gemstone, remember that it’s all about the four Cs, meaning cut, color, clarity and carat. Your gemstone is the most valuable when the properties of all four Cs join at their highest grades. 

Cut: The cut encompasses the proportions, symmetry and polish of a gemstone, and is often considered the most vital because it’s linked to the stone’s ability to refract and reflect light. With six ratings ranging from “super ideal” to “poor,” the cut is also thought to be the most difficult to grade of the four Cs. 

Color: A colored gemstone’s value increases the more intense and colorful it is, while absolute colorlessness contributes to the value of a diamond. There are five color groups with 23 ratings, but a pure and perfect diamond has absolutely no color.

Clarity: This refers to the internal and external flaws present that determine the amount of light that can pass through the gemstone. While the grading scale encompasses six groups with 11 ratings, know that a gemstone is completely flawless only when it’s still completely clear when viewed at 10x magnification. The fewer blemishes there are, the more valuable it is. 

Carat: This is the standard unit of weight measurement for a gemstone, which is equal to 0.2 grams. While a heavier carat weight of a gemstone may equate to a higher value, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s it’s more valuable because all four Cs must be considered when judging a gemstone. 

John Atencio embraces the majestic emerald cut with Sahara, his newest sterling silver and gemstone collection. Inspired by the magnificent Sahara Desert, this collection blends contemporary artistry with an exceptional emerald-cut blue topaz or amethyst, resulting in uniquely bold jewelry with the lively element of pure color. Featured above is his Sahara Gemstone Hinged Cuff Bracelet, crafted with care in sterling silver, 14k yellow gold and a glittering, emerald-cut amethyst. One look and you’ll know that being unforgettable is easy to achieve when you wear a genuine John Atencio. 

photo of a John atencio gemstone bracelet

Selecting Gemstones for Jewelry

Vibrant and glowing, gemstones are the cornerstone of modern jewelry because bold and distinctive jewelry is at the top of fashion trends. From rings and bracelets to necklaces and earrings, gemstone jewelry can influence your outfit and even your mood with a pop of color.

The color, the cut and the significance are all reasons why we are drawn to specific gemstones. Whether it fits our personal aesthetic, is our birthstone or just makes us happy to wear it, gemstone jewelry is in vogue. Another reason you might select a certain stone is due to the factor of hardness. While avoiding activities that would damage your jewelry is always advised, you may want to consider the Mohs scale when choosing gemstones for yourself or a loved one. Wearing a softer gemstone requires a little more mindfulness than wearing a harder stone, so take your lifestyle into account when making that decision or reserve it for special occasions. 

Gemstones look amazing paired together. All stones are complemented by diamonds, and different colored gemstones are exquisite together, as well. Various sizes of different types of gemstones create visual interest, which is especially evident in the wedding rings that feature larger center stones flanked by smaller side stones. 

John Atencio’s newest addition to the Paris X/O Collection mixes both metals and gemstones with the Paris X/O Gemstone Bracelet. Meticulously crafted with care with 14k white gold and yellow gold, seven bezel-set, oval blue topaz gemstones and 1.42 total carat weight in diamonds, this tennis link bracelet will “wow” everyone who encounters it. 

photo of a John atencio garnet pendant

Gemstones Have Symbolism and Meanings

More than just sparkle, gemstones have a fascinating world history with specific symbolism and meanings. Across the centuries, humankind has assigned meanings to gemstones, using and wearing them for power, guidance, protection and healing. Ancient Romans, Egyptians, Greeks and Native Americans are among the civilizations that honored gemstones for specific reasons. Ancient Romans, for example, believed that garnet showed love and loyalty, emerald reflected fertility and amethyst guarded against intoxication. And in many cultures, jade was considered to heal kidney stones. Even today, people use gemstones for purposes of healing and good fortune. 

Cultures across the globe celebrate their birth months with gemstones that correspond to them. Holding great meaning for many people, these birthstones are gemstones that represent every month, as follows: 

January – Rhodolite Garnet                                       

February – Amethyst

March – Aquamarine

April – White Topaz

May – Emerald

June – Lilac Amethyst

July – Ruby

August – Peridot

September – Sapphire

October – Pink Tourmaline

November – Citrine

December – Blue Topaz

Gemstones are also worn for meaning other than one’s birth month. As an exquisite part of John Atencio’s Signature Collection that celebrates rare and exotic gems in one-of-a-kind designs, the Signature Imperial Topaz, Rhodolite Garnet and Diamond Pendant Necklace on an 18-inch wheat chain is handcrafted in 18k yellow gold and white gold, with a pear-shaped imperial topaz, a pear-shaped rhodolite garnet and glittering pavé diamonds. This showstopper also reflects the values and ideals we desire in our lives, as rhodolite garnet is worn by many for hope, courage and love, while imperial topaz is thought to bring determination and confidence for the wearer. Along with a sparkling diamond, which is worn for purpose and clarity, these gemstones form an original necklace design that will be the center of attention on every occasion you wear it. 

photo of a John atencio jewelry gemstone cleaner

Caring for Your John Atencio Gemstone Jewelry 

When you own a genuine John Atencio, you want to protect it. Despite the normal wear and tear involved with wearing your jewelry, you can still keep it in good condition. Regular cleanings with a gentle cleanser like John Atencio Jewelry Cleaner will help you keep it free of dirt and grime between in-store inspections/cleanings. When you’re not wearing your piece of jewelry, store it in a temperate location out of the way of small children, animals and any activity that may be harmful to it. When you are wearing it, take care not to engage in activities that may damage it (i.e., painting, labor involving your hands, etc.). With proper care, your John Atencio gemstone jewelry will be the beautiful heirloom it was intended to be. 

The Jewelers Mutual Lifetime Jewelry Warranty 

To further care for your gemstone jewelry, John Atencio offers a lifetime care plan through Jewelers Mutual that’s only available to buy at the time you make your jewelry purchase. Protecting the jewelry purchases of American consumers since 1913, Jewelers Mutual has a long history dedicated to preserving the jewelry you love. Exclusions and limitations apply to every warranty, so become familiar with what is covered under the warranty and any improper care or exposure that may void the warranty. This lifetime service warranty covers the following services and issues at no additional cost: 

  • Ring resizing
  • Rhodium plating
  • Refinishing and polishing
  • Loss of stones due to defective setting
  • Broken, bent or worn prongs
  • Broken clasps, bracelets or chains
  • Cracked or thinning band or shanks
  • Replacing cracked or chipped stones
  • Broken earring posts
  • Pearl restringing

A thorough inspection by a John Atencio jeweler is suggested every six months to ensure the continued integrity of each piece. This care plan is not an insurance policy that covers loss, theft, damage or the mysterious disappearance of your jewelry. To cover these variables, we invite you to explore stand-alone jewelry insurance through the Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group and we will gladly facilitate a quote at any of our locations. Contact a knowledgeable concierge to ask about appraising your gemstone jewelry for the purpose of insuring it.

Shimmering gemstones continue to step up in popularity because they make you feel fantastic when you wear them. Desiring a gleaming new gemstone of your own or perhaps one for your favorite person? Make your wish a reality by browsing our selection of bold and distinctive jewelry gifts. Because everyone deserves a genuine John Atencio.