gemstone colors - blue zircons
gemstone colors - blue zircons

Can You Identify Gems Without Seeing Gemstone Colors?


Did you know most gem species can be distinguished without the element of color? Learn the role gemstone colors play in gem identification.

1 Minute Read

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Why?
Question:I'm getting started in gemology but I think I have a bad problem. I'm red, green, and brown color blind. I see and enjoy colors but I don't know what colors I'm looking at. I love faceting stones and have recently completed a new shop building for this purpose. However, if I can't accurately determine gemstone colors, what impact will it have on learning to make gem identifications?
gemstone colors - blue zircons
Blue zircons have a refractive index (RI) range very distinct from those of other popular blue color gemstones. Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

Answer: There are only a few occasions when gemstone colors are determining factors for gemstone identification. As you learn gem identification procedures, you'll find that you can identify most species without the element of color. However, identifying varieties within a species poses a different challenge.

Gemstone Colors and Identifying Varieties

Although you can identify gemstone species without using color, many species have notable varieties based on their color. For example, you could identify the species beryl but would need some help with gemstone colors to determine if a beryl is an emerald or an aquamarine. Emeralds are green beryls colored by trace amounts of chromium or vanadium; aquamarines are blue beryls colored by trace amounts of ferrous iron.

I would encourage you to purchase a refractometer (if you haven't already) and read our series of articles on using a refractometer. That's a major step in gem identification. While you'll still have a lot to learn before you can identify gems with authority, you can begin making separations right away. By that, I mean you'll be able to tell if a stone is or isn't a topaz, quartz, etc.

Donald Clark, CSM IMG

earrings - topaz and apatite
These earrings feature sky blue topaz briolettes and neon blue apatite rondelles. Jewelry and photo by Naomi King, Starlite Jewelry Designs.  Licensed under CC By 2.0.

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