Gemstones is known as Ratna in India. Gemstones are minerals with special physical properties that make them desirable for personal adornment and decoration. These are among the most valuable of all substances and have been prized since early civilization. According to S.H. Ball (In Bateman, 1950), there were about fifteen varieties known more than 9000 years ago. The earlier stones belonged to the quartz family (10000 to 75000 B.C.) then much later came the emerald (2000 B.C.), sapphire and ruby (600 to 500 B.C.), and diamond (480 B.C.).
From the days of Ramayana and Mahabharata, gemstones are regarded in India as symbols of wealth, power and aristocracy. Even with the passage of time and change in human attitude, gemstones have not lost their relevance and eminence. The gemstones which were adored and valued in ancient India include diamond, ruby, blue sapphire and emerald.
The great Roman author Pliny the elder (23-79 A.D.) had written, ‘among all countries in the world, India used to be the biggest producer of gemstones’. Properties of different gemstones and the methods of their examination have been elaborated in the ancient Sanskrit text ‘Ratna-Pariksha’. Impurities of gemstones and their accurate evaluation have been discussed in a book by Bhojraj, the twelfth-century author and gem-specialist.
Uncut stones are known as gemstones and the term ‘gem’ is restricted to cut stones.
Based on purity, size and value, gemstones are classified into three types:
Class-I: Highly priced gemstones, such as diamond, ruby, blue sapphire, emerald, aquamarine and the cat’s eye belong to this class.
Class-II: Moderately, priced gemstones, such as topaz, garnet, tourmaline, zircon, etc. belong to this class.
Class – III: The gemstones that are translucent, but have attractive colors and brilliance, belong to this class. These gemstones such as, opal, turquoise, jade, etc. can be conveniently used for ornamental purposes.
According to another classification, gemstones are divided into precious stones or noble gems – diamond, emerald, sapphire, ruby and precious opal (and pearl, through an organic substance) and semi-precious stones. In India, more than one hundred minerals have been classed as gemstones. To be prized ones, they must possess beauty, purity, durability and rarity. Bollywood Fashion is also a factor.
Pearl and coral are also regarded as gemstones, although they are organic substances.