Gemstones: What's In A Name?

Every gemstone is unique and beautiful in its own way. Some are bold and colorful, others are earthy and natural, and some look like they came from outer space (and some did!) There are 16 major gemstone families and hundreds of stone types, so how did they all get their names?


Rose Quartz


Commonly, gemstones are named simply after their color. For example, Rose Quartz was named after its pink rosy hue. Moss Agate was named after the green inclusions that look like moss underwater! Selenite, which is a gorgeous pearly white color, was derived from the Greek word “selene” which means moon.



    Location found

    Gemstones can be named after where they were first discovered. Tanzanite was found in Tanzania, Africa. Labradorite was found in a Canadian region called Labrador. Also, the suffix “-ite” has a history that is up for debate, but the simplest explanation is that it comes from a stone’s main composition. For example, Granite is a rock made of grains.


    Blue Apatite


      Many stones are named after words from another language. Blue Apatite was named because the Greek word expato or apatao means “to deceive.” The stone was oftentimes confused for other stones. Malachite was named after the Greek word mallow, a bright green herb. Kyanos means “blue” in Greek, so it makes sense why Kyanite is called that!



      Named after person

      Sometimes gemstones’ names come from the person who discovered them or in honor of them. Colonel Hendrik von Prehn found a stone that would eventually be called Prehnite. JP Morgan was a rich financier and gem collector, and Morganite had its named changed to honor him. Kunzite had its name changed to honor famous gemologist George F. Kunz.



        Descriptive words

        Stones can be named for their descriptive qualities. For example, Sunset Dumortierite can look like a sunset in each bead, and Dog Teeth Amethyst has cream colored Chevron inclusions within the purple stone. Aquamarine can look just like water - the word aqua means “water” in Latin!


          Other common names

          • “Flower” - meaning there will be some color variations within the stone

          • “Rainbow” - meaning there is a wide range of colors within the stone type