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The Difference between a Mineral and a Gem

Okay, boys and girls, time for your weekly jewelry lesson. Sit down…and take that gum out of your mouth!

Go ahead, Mary Jane…ask your question. I can’t hear you. Speak up.

What’s the difference between a mineral and a gem? Well, Mary Jane, since you asked:

Interestingly, there is no geological definition for the word gem, because a gem is a human creation. Minerals are formed by geologic processes in rocks in their natural environment.

When we excavate precious or semiprecious stones, cut, and polish them into specific shapes, they become gems. When a gem is set into metal to be worn on the body it becomes a jewel.

Several key factors determine the value of a gem: To be considered worthy of jewelry, the mineral must have rarity, durability, attractiveness, size, and color.

Okay, class dismissed!

(above) Ocos Mineral Rock

Source: Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture