Throughout the ages, the gemstones have been seen as representations of wealth and power. Symbols of supremacy like crowns and richly decorated clothes and robes have traditionally been adorned with jewels. But gemstones are not just for the wealthy or scientifically minded researcher. But these can be appreciated by common man also just to enjoy the beauty of these gems. The gemstones appeal initially due to their mysterious appeal, luster and their colour. This makes them exquisite but their rarity, hardness and durability makes them doubly valuable. Gemstones are minerals. Out of a total of more than 2500 different minerals, only about 60 odd are commonly used as gemstones. Other minerals are unsuitable as gems because they are too soft and get scratched easily.
What are gemstones : A mineral (or occasionally an organic mineral) to be called a gemstone, it must be beautiful in its appearance and colour. A gemstone has to be durable i. e. it should be hard enough to survive constant use and handling without getting scratched or damaged. Finally, it must be rare, because its scarcity makes it valuable.
Most of the gemstones are natural inorganic minerals with a fixed chemical composition and a regular internal crystal structure. A few gems like Pearl and Amber come from plants and animals and are known as organic gems.
Then there are some gems, which are synthetic. They do not have natural origin but are made in laboratories. They have very similar physical properties as the natural gems, and can be cut and polished to imitate the real thing. Sometimes these are used as a substitute in jewellery as they cost substantially less than the real gems.