Difference Between Precious and Semi Precious Gemstones

Main Difference – Precious vs Semi Precious Gemstones

A gemstone is a piece of mineral crystal, especially one that is cut, polished, and used in a piece of jewelry. In the west, gemstones are traditionally classified into two main categories known as precious and semi precious gemstones. Although the two terms precious and semi precious indicate a difference in value, the difference between the two is arbitrary. Sometimes a semi precious stone can be more expensive and valuable than a precious stone. In modern usage, only four gemstones belong to the category of precious stones; they are diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and rubies. Other gemstones are considered as semi precious gemstones. This is the main difference between precious and semi precious gemstones.

1. What are Precious Gemstones? – Gemstones, Features and Characteristics

2. What are Semi Precious Gemstones? – Gemstones, Features and Characteristics

3. What is the difference between Precious and Semi Precious Gemstones?Difference Between Precious and Semi Precious Gemstones - Comparison Summary

What are Precious Gemstones

The term precious gemstones was first introduced in the mid-nineteenth century to refer to gemstones that were valuable, rare, beautiful and popular.  At that time, rare stones like emeralds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, pearls, opals and amethysts belonged to the category of precious stones. But today only emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are considered as precious stones.

This distinction was due to the rarity of these stones in the past, as well as their quality. All precious gemstones are translucent with fine color in their purest forms; they are also very hard.

Difference Between Precious and Semi Precious Gemstones

Sapphire and diamonds

What are Semi Precious Gemstones

All gemstones other than rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds belong to the category of semi precious gemstones. Gemstones such as garnets, opals, turquoise, quartz, tourmaline, amber, aquamarine, moonstone, onyx, peridot, agate and malachite are considered as precious gemstones.

Although the term semi precious imply that they are somehow less valuable than precious stones, this implication is not true. For example, tsavorite (green garnet) can be far more valuable than a mid-quality emerald.

Main Difference - Precious vs Semi Precious Gemstones

Difference Between Precious and Semi Precious Gemstones

Traditional Distinction

Precious Gemstones: The term ‘precious stones’ was introduced to designate rare, valuable, beautiful and popular stones.

Semi Precious Gemstones: The term semiprecious refer to all gemstones that do not belong to the precious stones category.

Modern Usage

Precious Gemstones: Rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds are considered as precious stones.

Semi Precious Gemstones: All other gemstones including amber, moonstone, garnet, onyx, peridot, topaz, etc. are considered as semi precious stones.

Image Courtesy: 

“Logan Sapphire SI” By Chip Clark, Smithsonian staff – Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Image Number: 95-40288 Catalog Number: G3703 and Gem Gallery (Public Domain) via

“Gem.pebbles.800pix” By Arpingstone – Arpingstone (Public Domain) via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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