We’ve all heard that diamonds symbolize true love, but what are the symbolic meanings of other popular gemstones? From ancient times to today, gems of every hue have been imbued with significance and special powers by cultures around the world. Read on to discover the legends associated with some of the world’s most treasured jewels.
What is the definition of a gem?
A gem is a stone that is considered precious or semi-precious, particularly when it is polished or cut. Stones that have come to be defined as “gems” are well known for their unique beauty, color, patterns, or clarity. Gemstones are also typically stones considered fine enough to use in jewelry.
What do different gemstones symbolize?
Throughout history, different gemstones have been attributed with different powers, charms, or meaning. Many of these associations stemmed from mythologies from Egypt, Ancient Greece & Rome, Asia, and even the Bible. Read on to learn more about the specific meanings of some of the most popular gemstones!
What is a gemstone for love?
Many people consider pink rose quartz to be the classic stone of love. This semi-precious gemstone is believed to open the heart to love and draw romance into your life by putting you in the right state of mind to receive love – both from yourself and others.
What are gemstones for luck?
Beautiful golden hued citrine is the gemstone for luck. Its sunny yellow and amber colors have been associated with health, energy, and general good energy for centuries. Its transmutable properties are thought to reverse bad luck and bring in good luck. Citrine is also sometimes called the “lucky merchant’s stone” because it is believed to bring prosperity, wealth, and protection.
What are gemstones for healing?
Most gemstones that have been attributed with power are believed to offer healing and protection in some way. For example, aquamarines are thought to aid the nerves, liver, stomach, teeth, eyes, throat, and ears. Beads of amber are thought to help with memory loss and headaches. Jade has been used for centuries in healing meditative and massage practices. Turquoise is likewise considered a powerful healing and balancing stone. However, one of the most popular gemstones used for healing is amethyst. This purple quartz is believed to help those who suffer from insomnia, pain, arthritis, circulatory issues, and more. Because of lore surrounding its rich wine color, ancient Greeks and Romans also believed that amethyst promoted sobriety and mental clarity, helping avoid the effects of drunkenness or hangovers.
Types of Gemstones
Gemstones and semi-precious stones are typically fashioned and prepared using a few distinct methods, and people believe that these unique ways of presenting your crystals imbue the stones with different abilities or beauty.
- Clusters & Geodes: Some gemstones, particularly types of quartz like citrine or amethyst, will be presented in sparkling clusters. In addition to being beautiful to look at, many believe that gemstone clusters have powerful calming and purifying effects on the room where they are kept.
- Points or Towers: If you have ever gone into a crystal shop, you are sure to have seen sleek towers of semi-precious gemstones. Those who use crystals for healing believe that this pointed wand shape is excellent for transmitting energy.
- Slices: Stones that have beautiful marbled cross sections and patterns, like agate, will often be sold in polished slices. This allows the inner beauty of the stone to be displayed to full effect.
- Raw or Rough: Some prefer to buy their gemstones raw as untouched chunks of stone that come from the earth without being polished or cut. The belief is that when the stones are in their natural state, you will be able to connect to their energy on a deeper level.
- Polished or Cut: When displaying a gemstone’s clarity and brilliance, they will typically be cut into facets that allow them to refract light and show off depths of color. This is the most popular form for gemstones being used for fine jewelry.
Gemstones by Color
While certain gemstones are well known for one specific color, most gemstones actually come a variety of many hues. For example, diamonds are available in every color in the rainbow, and sapphires are available in every shade except red. Tourmalines are one of the most color-diverse gems and are even frequently found with multiple stripes of color in one stone.
Because color greatly affects the beauty and popularity of a gemstone, it only makes sense to categorize the most popular gemstones by color.
- Pink gemstones: Morganite, rose quartz, pink sapphire, pink tourmaline, pink garnet, kunzite, pink topaz, and pink diamond.
- White gemstones: Diamond, white jade, moonstone, opal, pearl, moissanite, white quartz, white sapphire, white tourmaline, and zircon.
- Yellow gemstones: Citrine, yellow garnet, yellow sapphire, yellow topaz, yellow tourmaline, amber, and yellow diamond.
- Purple gemstones: Amethysts, purple diamonds, purple garnet, purple jade, purple sapphire, purple tourmaline, spinel, and tanzanite.
- Blue gemstones: Sapphire, aquamarine, lapis lazuli, blue topaz, blue tourmaline, and blue diamond.
- Green gemstones: Emerald, jade, peridot, malachite, green tsavorite garnets, green agate, and green bloodstone.
- Red gemstones: Ruby, garnet, rubellite or red tourmaline, carnelian, and red diamond.
- Orange gemstones: Amber, orange sapphire, sunstone, agate, and orange diamond.
- Peach gemstones: Morganite, peach sapphire, peach diamond.
- Brown gemstones: Brown jade, amber, tiger’s eye, brown tourmaline, citrine, smoky quartz, and brown diamond.
- Black gemstones: Obsidian, onyx, black opal, black pearl, black sapphire, black tourmaline, and black diamond.
- Gray gemstones: Tahitian pearl, gray tourmaline, gray sapphire, and gray diamond.
24 Gemstones and Meanings
Agate Gemstone Meaning
Agates are stones that have beautiful interior marbling and stripes, not unlike the growth rings on a tree. These crystals are used to represent courage, strength, security, and safety. Agates are also thought to enhance mental concentration and give the user a centered and calm mind.
Alexandrite Gemstone Meaning
Alexandrite is one of the birthstones for June and has a unique color changing ability. The stone was first discovered in Russia in the 1830s by miners who mistook them for emeralds because of their deep blue-green hue. However, when they shined light on the stone and the colors changed to deep purples and reds, they knew they had discovered a new gemstone. They named the stone after Alexander II, the Tsar of Russia at the time of its discovery. Because it is a relatively new stone compared to many of the others on this list, it is not steeped in as much history and lore. However, Alexandrite is considered by many to be a good omen. Because of its color changing properties, for some it also represents the balance between the physical and spiritual.
Amethyst Gemstone Meaning
Because of its color, the ancient Greeks associated amethyst with the wine god Dionysus and believed that the gem could prevent drunkenness. In fact, the word amethystos meant “not drunk” in ancient Greek. Amethyst has also been thought to keep the wearer clear-headed and quick-witted. Famous artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci wrote that amethysts enhance intelligence and protect against evil thoughts. Buddhists have believed that amethyst enhances meditation, and the gem is often used for Tibetan prayer beads. Various cultures have associated amethyst with peace, balance and courage, and ascribed to it the ability to cure insomnia and relieve pain.
Ametrine Gemstone Meaning
Ametrine is a naturally occurring variety of quartz that is a mixture of amethyst and citrine, with pops of purple, yellow, and orange. Because of these combinations, ametrine is believed to be the perfect balance of the qualities of amethyst and citrine, making it a powerful healing energy stone. Those who believe in the metaphysical claim ametrine has detoxifying properties.
Aquamarine Gemstone Meaning
Aquamarine is believed to provide courage, mental clarity and good health. Because of its association with water, aquamarine has been said to keep sailors safe at sea, as well as purify water and work as an antidote to poison (we don’t recommend testing that theory, however). The stone is also closely tied to mythologies of sirens and mermaids, and some legends say that aquamarines first washed up to shore out of sirens’ treasure chests.
Citrine Gemstone Meaning
This gem is also known as “healing quartz,” because legend has it that citrine promotes vitality and energy in whomever wears it. And according to the Chinese feng shui philosophy, citrine creates wealth and abundance. The name for “Citrine” comes from the Latin root for “lemon,” and it’s no wonder that this sunny and golden stone has been thought to be a healing crystal that brings happiness, health, energy, good luck and prosperity. For hundreds of years, citrine has also thought to ground and remove negative energy— so this is the perfect gemstone for those seeking good vibes only!
Browse our collection of citrine fine jewelry.
Diamond Gemstone Meaning
In the first century AD, the Roman naturalist Pliny is quoted as having said, “Diamond is the most valuable, not only of precious stones, but of all things in this world.” The ancient Romans and Greeks believed that diamonds were tears cried by the gods or splinters from falling stars, and Romans believed that Cupid’s arrows were tipped with diamonds (perhaps the earliest association between diamonds and romantic love). During the Middle Ages diamonds were thought to have healing properties able to cure ailments ranging from fatigue to mental illness. Ancient Hindus used diamonds in the eyes of devotional statues and believed that a diamond could protect its wearer from danger. Additionally, many ancient cultures believed that diamonds gave the wearer strength and courage during battle, and some kings wore diamonds on their armor as they rode into battle.
Learn more about diamonds in our diamond education guide.
Emerald Gemstone Meaning
Emeralds are the stone of intuition and foresight. Legends have said that placing an emerald under your tongue gives you the ability to foresee the future (but we do not recommend that!), and that emerald protects against evil spells and can cure disease. Emeralds have also been seen as symbols of truth and love throughout time. In ancient Greece and Rome, emeralds represented the goddess Venus who was the goddess for love and hope.
Garnet Gemstone Meaning
Garnet has long been associated with clergy and nobility. In ancient Egypt the pharaohs wore red garnet necklaces, and in ancient Rome rings with carved garnets were used to stamp the wax on important documents. Garnets also have ties to Ancient Greece, as the pomegranates the goddess Persephone ate in the underworld are believed to be the source for beautiful deep red garnets. Garnets are also one of the oldest stones to be used for spiritual protection throughout time. Glimmering red garnets are also thought to encourage passion and sensuality.
Browse our collection of garnet fine jewelry.
Lapis Lazuli Gemstone Meaning
Lapis Lazuli is known as the wisdom stone because it is said to protect from psychic and mental attacks. This celestial blue gemstone is believed to bring peace, harmony, honesty, and self-awareness. When it comes to healing properties, Lapis Lazuli is thought to help with various ailments including inflammation, insomnia, depression, and vertigo.
Moissanite Gemstone Meaning
Moissanite is a gemstone born from the stars. It was first discovered in 1893 by a French scientist named Henri Moissan, who later won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He discovered microscopic particles of the gem that would eventually bear his name in Arizona, in a crater created by a meteorite that fell to Earth. He initially thought that he had discovered diamonds, but later determined that the crystals were composed of silicon carbide.
Learn more about moissanite in our moissanite vs. diamond guide.
Morganite Gemstone Meaning
This pink variety of beryl is believed to bring positive healing energy, inner peace joy, confidence, and unconditional love. It is also supposed to soothe anxiety and stress. Morganite was first discovered in the early 1900s by gemologist George Kunz, who proposed that the stone should be named after American financier and gem enthusiast J.P. Morgan. Morgan was one of the most prominent gem collectors of the early 20th century, so it makes sense he would eventually get a gem named after him!
Opal Gemstone Meaning
Because opals can exhibit so many different colors within a single stone, it has long been thought to possess supernatural powers. In ancient Rome, this gem symbolized love and hope. The ancient Greeks believed opals gave their owners the gift of prophecy and guarded them from disease. Europeans have considered the gem a symbol of hope, purity, and truth for centuries. Once, it was even thought to have the power to preserve the life and color of blond hair.
Browse our collection of opal fine jewelry.
Pearl Gemstone Meaning
The oldest precious gem, pearls are known for their beautiful shimmering color and delicate beauty. In ancient China, pearls were believed to protect against fire, and in Europe they were associated with chastity and purity. Pearls retain that association with innocence today.
Browse our collection of pearl fine jewelry.
Peridot Gemstone Meaning
Peridots have long been associated with Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians thought that peridot protected against nightmares and brought the wearer confidence, good luck, and health. In fact, it’s believed that some of Cleopatra’s famous emeralds were actually peridots.
Browse our collection of peridot fine jewelry.
Rose Quartz Gemstone Meaning
Rose quartz is a healing crystal that is believed to give off powerful vibrations of love. Rose quartz stones are often used to support emotional and relationship health. They are primarily believed to make the user more open and available to receive love in their life.
Ruby Gemstone Meaning
Ancient Hindus believed that those who offered rubies to the god Krishna would be emperors in a future life. People in India and Burma have also believed that rubies offered safety and peace, and medieval Europeans thought that these gems guaranteed health, wealth, wisdom, and success in love.
Sapphire Gemstone Meaning
Blue has long been considered the color of fidelity, and sapphires were once the preferred gem for engagement rings (before diamonds claimed that honor in the early 20th century). Sapphires are also very closely associated with royalty, as they were one of the most popular stones used in royal jewels. Sapphires are believed to attract abundance and blessings, invite spiritual clarity, promote health, and guard innocence.
Spinel Gemstone Meaning
Spinel is a gemstone that is believed to bring hope, energy, and joy for life. It is considered a high energy and healing stone that is mean to heal energy blockages and bring more vigor and vitality.
Tanzanite Gemstone Meaning
For those who believe in the metaphysical, tanzanite is the ideal stone for opening your third eye and reaching a higher consciousness. Along these same lines, tanzanite is supposed to encourage perception and intuition. There are some who believe that tanzanite can also help detoxify the body and improve physical energy.
Topaz Gemstone Meaning
Topaz symbolizes love and fidelity and is said to bestow strength and intelligence on the person who wears it, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Although topaz comes in several colors, orange topaz has been associated with fire in many cultures and eras. Like other golden stones, topaz is thought to bring good fortune and confidence.
Browse our collection of topaz fine jewelry.
Tourmaline Gemstone Meaning
Tourmaline comes in a wide variety of colors and is considered a grounding and protective gemstone. Tourmaline is also believed to be a stone of reconciliation and is said to help heal broken hearts and mend friendships and other relationships. In feng shui, tourmaline crystals are often used for protecting the energy of a room.
Turquoise Gemstone Meaning
From ancient times to today people have ascribed special powers to turquoise. Native American tribes of the Southwest wore turquoise as an amulet thought to offer protection, and in ancient Persia (and modern-day Iran) some believe that wearing turquoise can ward off the “evil eye” (other people’s ill will).
Zircon Gemstone Meaning
Folk wisdom says that zircon has the power to relieve pain, protect travelers and prevent nightmares. In the Middle Ages, this gem was thought to induce sound sleep, drive away evil spirits, and promote riches, honor, and wisdom.