Your Gemstone List - How to Identify the Different Gems

Many collectors today are investing in gemstones instead of antiques or artworks. And they are a beautiful investment indeed. If you want to start buying gemstones as an investment or a collection, it's helpful to be able to identify the different types to complete your gemstone list. And it doesn't have to be an overwhelming process. Our in-house gemstone experts are certified gemologists and have years of experience working in auctions and the jewellery trade. So they really know their stones and now they are here to help. They've explained how to identify gemstones in this helpful guide.

Looking at your Gemstone
You can tell you a lot about your gemstones just from a careful first look. You don’t need fancy tools to analyse the stone; just a loup and light will help you to examine the gem thoroughly. Have a look at the different aspects of the gem, such as the colour, clarity, size, hue, tone and cut to narrow down your options.

The first step is to simply observe what is in front of you. What colour do you recognise? By noticing the colour, you can already exclude some of the gems from the list.

The colour alone does not say enough however; also try to look at the hue of the gemstone. For example: is the gemstone yellowish-green or more of a bluish-green? Try to be as precise as possible. Check GIA’s colour wheel with 31 hues and place your stone in the right one.

Image source: GemFame

Next, look at the tone of the gemstone. Is your gem light, medium or dark? According to the GIA wheel there are 7 levels of light and by placing your stone in the right one, you are a step further in the process.

The next step is to decide the level of saturation. How intense is the colour you see? Is it flat or very vivid? Stones with warm colours are usually more flat when you can detect a brown colour. Remember for cold colours, a grey tone means the colour is more flat.  

Have a look at the clarity of your stone. Is it transparent, translucent or opaque? Can you observe inclusions? Is this affecting the colour or the brilliance of the gemstone?

Although a scale can come in handy, you can also use your hand to feel how much the stone weighs. How is the weight compared to the size of the gem? Is it very heavy or light?

To determine the lustre, shine a light on the stone. How shiny is the gem? There are different kinds of shiny to recognise, for example vitreous (‘glassy’), oily, silky, waxy or adamantine (like diamonds). Or maybe the gem is not shiny at all.

With the help of this guide, you now know how to identify gemstones. Hopefully this means you can narrow down the options for the identity of your gemstone to only a few options or a single option. If you have not gathered enough information to identify the stone, you could consider examining the absorption spectrum with a spectroscope or ask the help of an expert. Once you know what type of gemstone you have, you can take the next step and offer it up for auction on Catawiki. You can also add the next gemstone to your collection at our weekly Gemstones auction. Our gemstone experts screen all lots, so they can give you more detailed information about the gemstone you're buying.

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