The Big Three Gemstones: Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire

Source Amelia Prayoga via flickr

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The emerald, ruby, and sapphire are known as the big three because of their popularity due to their beautiful shades of color.


Variety: Green variety or mineral beryl; One of the rarest members of beryl family (only red variety more rare)

Moh’s scale: 7.5 to 8

Birthstone: May

Bestows: faithfulness and unchanging love, and enables the wearer to forecast events.

Note: This is not a soft stone since it ranks high on the Moh’s scale (see definition at the bottom). However, it is more brittle under more stress from fractures resulting from the violent geologic conditions under which it was formed.

Important: Handle with care when wearing or just handling since it can fracture

World’s finest: What is considered to be the world’s finest emerald, by connoisseurs comes from Columbia. Like the highest quality of emerald it has an almost pure spectral green, possibly with a faint tint of blue.

Beware: There is an abundant amount of imitations because emerald is so popular and valuable. There is glass manufactured complete with flaws, and doubles and triplets, such as, aquamarine emeralds and Tecla emeralds. New products are entering the market such as the Lannyte emerald doublet. They can make an interesting choice if the 2nd or 3rd party makes sure to mention they are doublets.

Also fine synthetic emeralds are being produced with nearly the same color, hardness, and brilliance as genuine emerald. These synthetics are not inexpensive themselves, except in comparison to a genuine emerald.

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Variety: Red variety of mineral corundum

Moh’s scale: 9

Birthstone: July

Bestows: Symbolic of love and passion; an aid to firm friendship; ensures beauty

Note: Durable and wearable

World’s finest: Color from purplish or bluish red to a yellowish red. The finest color is a vivid, almost pure spectral red with a very faint undertone of blue, as seen in Burmese rubies, which are considered to be the finest among collectors.


 Variety: Mineral is corundum (Comes in every color; red corundum is ruby)

Moh’s scale: 9

Birthstone: September

Bestows: Symbol of heavens, guardian of innocence, bestower of truth and good health, preserver of chastity

Note: since comes in almost every color it is probably the most important and most versatile of the gem families. We know the blue variety best.

World’s finest:

  • Burma and Kashmir stones are closest to the blue spectrum are some of the most valuable. If you purchase a sapphire from here it should be noted on the bill of sale.
  • The Ceylon (Sri Lanka) sapphires are pleasing, however a less shade of blue than Burma and Kashmir, they are more pastel.

More affordable than the sapphires from Burma and Kashmir:

Australia stones are dark blue but with a slightly green undertone, as are those of Thailand.

Sapphire stones also come from:

Tanzania, Brazil, Africa, and the United States

Montana sapphires are collectible because of their unusual shades of color.

Moh’s scale: International recognized standard that ranks hardness on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 the softest and 10 the hardest.

Source:  “Jewelry and Gems the Buying Guide”, by Antoinette Marlins, P.G. and A.C. Bonanno, F.G.A., P.G., A.S.A

*Featured image sourced to Amelia Prayoga via Flickr

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