Several traditional gemstone cuts—© Merriam-Webster Inc.

Any of various minerals prized for beauty, durability, and rarity. A few noncrystalline materials of organic origin (e.g., pearl, red coral, and amber) also are classified as gemstones. Of the more than 3,500 identified natural minerals, fewer than 100 are used as gemstones and only 16 have achieved importance: beryl, chrysoberyl, corundum, diamond, feldspar, garnet, jade, lazurite, olivine, opal, quartz, spinel, topaz, tourmaline, turquoise, and zircon. Some of these (e.g., beryl and corundum) provide more than one type of gem. In virtually all cases, the minerals have to be cut and polished for use in jewelry.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on gemstone, visit

Seen & Heard

What made you look up gemstone? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.