Gemstones have enchanted humans since ancient times. Gems were believed to be gifts of gods, miracles of nature or stars solidified in stone. Today, many people are attracted to crystals for their supposed healing properties. Scientists now know a great deal about gemstone formation and mining; however, gems still captivate our hearts and minds.
This article provides a brief overview of the gemstone commodity, starting with some basic definitions. Gemology is a branch of science that studies, identifies, grades, and values gemstones. It is separate from geology but closely related to the subset of geology devoted to minerals: mineralogy. A mineral is a naturally-occurring inorganic substance with a crystal structure. A crystalline material is one whose atoms are arranged in an ordered manner. Materials without crystalline structures, like rocks and mineraloids, have amorphous or undefined atomic structures.
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