Stone Classification  |  Dakota Blog Oct 11, 2021


We often discuss what makes each stone special in our meetings at Dakota Stones. It usually comes down to the type of material, where it is mined, if it has a unique cut or if it's better in a more natural form. This week our focus was on pebbles and what qualities define what we can call a pebble. Our pebbles are classified by their size (small) and shape (natural) along with their finely tumbled surfaces. Just like any pebble found in nature, these stones have been tumbled to smooth exteriors to reveal all sorts of colors and patterns underneath.

As we dive further into the world of stone types and labels, we thought it would be fitting to talk about how stones have generally been classified in the past. These terms can be important to consider in your own search for gemstones. We try hard to be transparent about how our stones are labeled and graded, whether they are true gemstones, composites or synthetic stones, as these terms can sometimes be misused or misunderstood. We are always open to learning and growing here, and we know that gemstone classification can sometimes be subjective. Feel free to ask questions or add your comments at the end of this article!


Below are a few terms to note:


Gemstone: Any stone that’s used to make jewelry and other adornments. You could put a random rock into wire to form a ring a it would *technically* become a gemstone. As a working definition, we’ll say that gemstones are any minerals or other stones that can be cut and polished and are commonly used in the making of jewelry. The $5 strand of Fossil Coral and the $3000 diamond strand could both be considered as gemstones.



Precious Gemstone: This has historically referred to Diamond, Sapphire, Ruby and Emerald. This classification is starting to fall out of favor as it it doesn’t account for all factors that contribute to the cost of a natural stone. For example, diamonds are quite abundant, but tightly controlled by some companies to keep the prices high. In contrast, industrial-grade diamonds are inexpensive enough to be used on common tools. Lower quality Sapphire, Ruby, or Emerald can also carry a lower price tag than fine specimens of semi-precious stones like Garnet or Amethyst.



Semi-Precious Gemstone: This is a blanket term for all stones that do not fall into the Precious Gemstone category.  Literally everything else - Agate. Amazonite. Amethyst. Aventurine and on down the alphabet.


Synthetic Gemstone: Though they are pretty much identical in structure to natural stones, synthetic gemstones are always cultivated in laboratories. An important thing to understand is that some commonly accepted gemstones, like cherry quartz or goldstone, are in fact synthetic and are never found in nature. Other types of naturally occurring stones can also be artificially created in labs. All Cubic Zirconia is lab-created, for example. Don’t confuse Cubic Zirconia with Zircon. Zircon actually comes out of the ground.


Composite Gemstone: These stones have pieces of gemstone in them but are not entirely made of stone. Generally, these are made from a combination of stone fragments and resin. The stone fragments and/or the resin may also be dyed. Mardi Gras Impression Jasper or Serpentine with Bronzite are good examples of composite gemstones.


An important note on grading: There isn’t one universal system for grading gemstones. The GIA has a commonly accepted method for grading diamonds. Only a gemologist certified by the GIA for grading diamonds is qualified to assign a GIA grade. In all other stone types, terms like “A-Grade”, “AAA-Grade”, or “B/C Grade”, are subjective terms used by the seller. One vendor’s AAA-grade Amethyst may look like another’s B-Grade. Other vendors may have no grading system at all, and the price tag will tell the story. Jeff likes to take a “what do I like?” approach. Sometimes that saves money because he honestly prefers the look of some inclusions. Other times, it means that he pays an embarrassing amount for “practically perfect.”

We are always learning here. Do you have any questions or anything to add about gemstone classification? Feel free to comment below!



                                                                       - Dakota Stones