Rough gemstones were created by the forces of nature between 3 billion and several tens of millions of years ago. Over the mind-boggling number of years since their formation, some crystals happened to be transported to near the earth’s surface through shifts in the earth’s crust. Such crystals are then mined and polished, becoming a handful of valuable gemstones against great odds. These treasured gems then pass on from one owner to the next in a cycle of several decades. Because they are the beautiful results of time, space, and chance, gemstones have long been esteemed by humankind as symbols of wealth and power since over 5,000 years ago.

In Chapter 1, a complete picture of quality for 24 different gemstones was presented, shedding light on the gem-, jewelry-, and accessory-quality zones for each species. We also touched upon the history, lore, characteristics, and selection methods for each of these gemstones. In Chapter 2 we will examine these gems again, from the viewpoint of their association with people.

The earth was formed about 4.6 billion years ago, and a billion-plus years afterward the first diamonds crystallized in depths of 120 to 150 kilometers (75 to 94 miles) below the earth’s surface. Crystallizes by chance under great pressures and temperatures, some of these diamonds were transported, again by chance, near to the earth’s surface by movements in the earth’s crust. These are what we currently mine. The modes of formation can be classified into several types depending on the gemstone, but all gems share the fact that they were created by the powers of nature through a series of chance occurrences. Diamonds, along with other crystalline minerals, formed in a relatively short time, after which they spent hundreds of millions of years lying dormant deep within the earth. In contrast to these, non-crystalline or amorphous minerals like opal were created slowly over time, some 30 million years ago. Keeping in mind that they are polished into gems by human hands only after the passage of enos, one cannot help being impressed by the romance of gemstones.

n contrast to the eternity spent in waiting, rough gems taken from the earth are transformed by human hands into articles of commerce within a short period of time, and soon pass on to the consumer. It takes about one to three years from the time of mining for a gemstone to be polished, made into jewelry, and finally sold. Of course, this may take as little as a few months, and stones that take longer may still be in the distribution stages even after 10 years. This is a period of dramatic activity for the gemstone, during which it passes through the hands of numerous people.

Rough crystals that are recovered from deep within the earth are first sold to cutting operations. According to the quality of the rough, the cutter will consider how to fashion the stone to bring out its maximum beauty. Determination of cut is not simply based on beauty alone, but also with regard for commercial considerations. At times, beauty may be sacrificed to minimize weight loss of the rough. However, it remains true that quality rough yields gemstones of high value, and the choice of cut will seek to optimize the quality of the rough.

The polished gemstone is then taken to the jewelry manufacturer, where it is transformed into jewelry after consideration of design and cost. It then ends up in a store showcase and is ultimately delivered to the consumer. There are also cases where the gemstone itself becomes the final product, with the jewelry design to be decided by the consumer.

Jewelry that finds its way to the wearer is used over and over again. A piece that is especially well liked will be worn countless times. As an example, if a piece costing $10,000 is worn 100 times over a lifetime, each wearing costs $100. On top of that, after several decades a $10,000 piece of jewelry will of course still have retained its value. It is possible that inflation will even increase the piece’s value by several times. It can be said that gemstones are “half enjoyment, half investment,” and in the long run, a fine gemstone indeed has assert value.

A gemstone’s true performance begins when the user passes it on after many years. Circumstances vary- it may be given as a gift to a relative, or sold through an intermediary to someone else. Once fine-quality gemstones are in circulation, they will never be discarded. Beautiful pieces will of course be popular, appreciated by relatives or sold for high prices at auction. The value of gemstones becomes readily apparent when they change hands or are passed down.

Auctions thrive in the West. When large diamonds are seen in New York, one may be surprised to find that most of these pieces have been passed down from previous owners. For diamonds as well as other gemstones, the second major source of supply is from pieces that reenter the market. The supply of gemstones has risen dramatically during the 20th century due to this reentry market. Regardless of differences in type and quality of gemstones, current annual mining production of gemstones is only about 1/30 of total past production. Considering that gemstones mined in the past reenter the market about once every 30 years, it can be estimated that a volume close to that of newly mined gemstones reenters the market each year.

Retailers in the United States have recently begun adding estate jewelry sections to their stores, consigning pieces from individuals for resale. Quality judgment becomes necessary, and those pieces in which the main stone does not have special value must be judged by their value as articles of jewelry. The time will come in the near future when evaluation of the main stones in jewelry will be especially important.