What’s the difference between a mineral and a gemstone?

What is the difference between a mineral and a gemstone? Also what’s the difference between precious and non-precious gemstones.

Both minerals and gemstones have their own science. The science of minerals is called mineralogy and gemology is a branch of mineralogy.

Minerals occur naturally in the earth’s crust and are defined as inorganic solids that have characteristic chemical composition and crystalline structures. With over 2000 known minerals, each has its own definite chemical composition. Minerals are identified by seven properties i.e., color, luster, hardness, streak, cleavage, fracture, and crystal form.

All minerals may be refer to as stones or rocks. Rocks are divided into igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. Certain rocks e.g., lapis lazuli are also used for jewelry, and are therefore considered gemstones.

A gemstone is either precious or semiprecious stone cut, polished, and used in a piece of jewelry in an aesthetic manner. In modern usage, the precious stones are diamond, ruby, sapphire and emerald, with all other gemstones being semi-precious. Traditionally these “precious” stones command a premium price due to their extraordinary color or brilliance and extreme rarity. The category “precious” has changed with time, place, and culture. For example, the ancient Greeks considered amethysts as “precious”; however, today amethyst is regarded as a semi-precious stone because so many have been found.

Most gemstones are minerals that were selected for beauty and durability, then cut and polished for use as jewelry. Most gems are minerals but some gemstones are organics (created by living organisms) e.g., pearls, coral, amber, etc.,. A gemstone’s value is based on rarity and rare quality. Of the approximately 3,000 minerals that are admired for their beauty, cut, and polished only around two hundred are set into jewelry and are recognized as gemstones. The basic factors that contribute to the value of a gemstone are BEAUTY (color, luster, perfection of cutting, etc.) durability, rarity, demand (or vogue), tradition, and portability.

Despite the distinction between precious stones and semi-precious stones, it is not always true that precious stones are more valuable or rare than a semi-precious stone. For example, a green garnet known as Tsavorite is classified as a semi-precious stone; however, it is more valuable than an emerald. Now, value is measured by several different factors, and precious stones often do not always hold more value than semi-precious stones.

In my opinion, the label of precious vs. semi-precious is used to promote and sell jewelry.  Bottom line, chose jewelry based on what you like not based on whether it is a precious stone, semi-precious stone, or fused glass. So tell me is the pendant to the right a Red Jasper (gemstone) or Fused Glass?

*The information above is from http://www.americangemsociety.org, http://www.gemstones-guide.com, and http://geology.com/.