A CLASSIFICATION OF PRECIOUS AND SEMI-PRECIOUS STONES

a twentieth century classification of precious and semiprecious stones by the authoritative Edwin Streeter, based on rarity and popularity

The fact that there is no standard classification of precious stones is curiously illustrated by the great variation exhibited by leading authorities on the subject. Mr. Edwin W. Streeter, the famous English author of books on precious stones, after discussing the various factors of value in several precious stones, writes in the first chapter of his book Precious Stones and Gems, as follows:

It is difficult to arrange the various Precious Stones in the order of their relative value, that order being subject to occasional variation according to the caprice of fashion or the rarity of the stones. Nevertheless it is believed that the following scheme, in which all Precious Stones are grouped in five classes, fairly indicates the relative rank which they take at the present day.

I. The Pearl stands pre-eminent. It is true that this substance, being the product of a molluse or shell-fish, is not strictly a mineral. It is, however, so intimately related in many ways with the family of true precious stones that it properly claims a place in any classification such as that under discussion.

II. In the second class, and therefore at the head of the group of Precious Stones proper, stands beyond all doubt the Ruby.

III. Then comes the Diamond. Many readers may be surprised to find the Diamond taking so subordinate a rank; but the time has gone by when this stone could claim a supreme position in the market. At the present day, the Jagersfontein Mine, in South Africa, produces Diamonds of pure water rivalling the finest stones that were ever brought to light from mines of India or of Brazil.

IV. In the fourth class comes first the Emerald, then the Sapphrie, next the Oriental Cat's-Eye, and afterwards the Precious Opal.

V. In the fifth class may be placed such stones as the Alexandrite, the Jacinth, the Oriental Onyx, the Peridot, the Topaz, and the Zircon. Some of these, especially the Alexandrite, are so beautiful that they deserve a more extended use in the arts of jewelry than they enjoy at present.

After these stones comes another class, which may be called the group of Semi-precious Stones. Many of these either lack transparency, or possess it in only very limited degree; while those which are pellucid are too common to command more than a trivial value. Such stones are frequently used for inlaid work, or similar ornamental purposes, rather than for personal decoration. As examples of such stones may be cited the Agate, Malachite, and Rock-crystal.


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