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The Difference Between Crystals and Gemstones

The Difference Between Crystals and Gemstones

Crystals and gemstones have many purposes. Many people use crystals and gemstones for jewelry or aesthetics, while others believe that crystals have healing and spiritual properties. Though gemstones and crystals aren’t rare by any means, not everyone knows the difference between crystals and gemstones. The ability to discern between the two can help you make more educated decisions when choosing crystals and gemstones for your jewelry, décor, or metaphysical needs.

Definitions of Crystals and Gemstones

Although they may appear similar due to their shared beauty, the difference between crystals and gemstones is an interesting question. In many cases, gemstones are crystals, and crystals are gemstones. To fully understand the difference between crystals and gemstones, it’s first necessary to lay the groundwork for what exactly are crystals, minerals, rocks, and gemstones.

What is a Rock?

While it seems like a basic question, the term rock has a precise definition. A rock is a naturally occurring solid mass composed of single or multiple mineral types. Rocks can contain fragments from various sources. All minerals are rocks, but not all rocks are minerals because they can also contain organic and fossilized material. Knowing the definition of rock is fundamental to understanding what gemstones are.

What is a Crystal?

A crystal is a solid substance containing a uniform chemical and structural makeup. Crystals form according to their ‘crystal habit’, which is a technical term referring to the external shape in which a crystal naturally grows, such as prisms, blades, cubes, etc.

What is a Mineral?

A mineral is a naturally occurring solid inorganic substance. Minerals often, but not always, end in ‘ite’ like in hematite and calcite, or ‘ine’ as in olivine and serpentine.

The Crossover Between Minerals and Crystals

All minerals form crystals; however, all crystals are not minerals. Examples of mineral that are crystals are

  • Quartz, which forms in prisms.
  • Garnet, which form in rhombic dodecahedrons.
  • Kyanitewhich forms in blades.
  • Malachitewhich forms in grapes or hemispherical masses.

An example of a crystal that is not a mineral would be sugar because it is an extracted organic substance. Some proteins can form crystals as well.

What is a Gemstone?

A gemstone is defined as a piece of stone used in jewelry, adornments, or in spiritual practices. Gemstones are divided into two broad subcategories; semi-precious and precious. Semi-precious gemstones can be cut from a single mineral, or cut from rocks containing multiple minerals. While precious gemstones are almost always cut from single minerals.

Precious gemstones have a high degree of purity and have been cut and polished with care and precision to increase their value.  Examples of precious gemstones are diamonds and very translucent ruby or emerald with near-perfect symmetry, elegant faceting, and little to no defects in material.

Ruby and emerald can also be semi-precious gemstones, but the uniformity and clarity of material and precision of cut are of lower quality.

Semi-precious gemstones can also be made of rocks that are assemblages of minerals; examples are tourmalated moonstone, which contains both tourmaline within moonstone, or llanite rhyolite, which contains quartz, feldspar, biotite, and other trace minerals.

The Different Between Gemstone and Crystals

So back to the original question about the difference between gemstones and crystals. Both are unique and aesthetically pleasing, and crystals can be gemstones, and gemstones can be crystals. Generally speaking, however, when referring to crystals, they are commonly judged on their luster, color, and natural shape, while gemstones are judged more by their cut, clarity, and purity.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Tejas Beads is a gemstone bead store with an extensive collection of gemstone beads, pearls, findings, and jewelry-making supplies. We have over ten years of experience in the industry, so we are confident that we can help you meet all your jewelry-making needs. We want you to have a positive experience while shopping, so give us a call if you have any questions about our online store.

Comments on this post (6)

  • Jun 07, 2023

    Love all this specific gem/crystal info. Knowing is important. I shop with you All the time online and have Never Been disappointed. I am so thrilled you have a new store front. It’s a little over an hour away, but I’ll make a day trip.
    See you soon :-)

    — Loreli

  • Apr 06, 2023

    I love your inventory! The gemstones are very high quality and some are unusual shapes that I have never found elsewhere.
    Not with this quality, anyway, and reasonably priced. I am thrilled to have found this store =)

    — Laura Whipple

  • May 07, 2021

    I have been enjoying shopping with you and reading the information you have on your site. You have some absolutely lovely crystal beads! I am a Certified Crystal Healer and have learned that there are only 4 Gemstones: Diamond, Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald – they can all be counted as Crystals as well and they can be used in healing sessions. But traditionally those are the only 4 that actually count as “Gemstones”. The rest are “Semi-Precious Gemstones” (amethyst, quartz, sodalite, lapis, etc.).

    — Stacie

  • Apr 02, 2021

    Tejas Beads are gorgeous! The orders arrived very quickly and never disappointed.

    — Yvo

  • Dec 23, 2020

    Wow!!! This .awesome even more confident to purchase from you. As a first time buyer, I am already very pleased. Thank you.

    — Ernestine Koroma

  • Dec 20, 2020

    Very interesting thanks

    — Carol

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