Minerals and Gems
Date: December 7, 2004
What is the difference between a gem and a mineral?
A mineral is a naturally occurring, inorganic solid with a certain structure
and chemical composition. Some are considered gems, but most are not. Gems
are typically materials, which may be minerals, that people decided are
beautiful enough to use in applications like jewelry and often have an
increased value because of their aesthetics. Some minerals can be both
industrial/economic and gem, such as diamond. Many diamonds cannot be cut
into gems, and may be used in industrial processes. There are
classifications of gems, such as precious and semi-precious, that you could
find out more about in books and on the Internet.
There is some overlap in the use of the terms, but strictly speaking a
"mineral" is a crystalline substance that has been "mined" -- dug out of
the earth. A "gem" is a crystalline substance that has substantial monetary
value. A mineral may or may not be a gem. In common usage the terms are
often loosely used interchangeably.
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Update: June 2012