A Guide To Green Gemstones
When you ask someone to name a green gemstone, their most likely answer is emerald – and not without good reason. Emerald is one of the “Big Four” gemstones most frequently used in jewelry, along with diamond, ruby, and sapphire. But did you know that there are many other green gems to choose from? Learn more about these alternatives below, along with how to assess the color and quality of green gemstones.
Before we begin, note that we have divided the list of green gemstones into three sections to make it easy to distinguish between gems that are suitable for everyday wear, those that should be reserved for special occasions, and those that are for display purposes only.
How To Assess Color and Quality in Green Gemstones
There are three factors that experts consider when evaluating the color of a gemstone. These include hue, tone, and saturation:
- Hue refers to the base color of a gemstone. It can consist of a single primary color, or it can include secondary colors as well. For green gemstones, the primary hue is green with blue or yellow secondary hues. While pure green is the most desirable color, green gems with a bluish tint are usually preferred over yellowish-green stones.
- Tone describes the relative lightness or darkness of a gem’s hue. Typically, the darker the hue, the more valuable the stone. However, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate the color of darker gems in the case of green gemstones, so lighter stones are often favored instead.
- Saturation denotes the intensity of a color. Gems with a lower saturation sometimes feature a gray or brown tint, while highly saturated gems have much more vivid colors. Consequently, green stones that display the brightest, most saturated colors are the most valuable.
Another factor that impacts gemstone quality is clarity. Remember, gemstone clarity is not simply a measure of how transparent a particular gem is, but rather refers to the natural imperfections within each stone. Keep this in mind when searching for a green gemstone since those with large inclusions or fractures can be more susceptible to breaking.
Green Gems For Everyday Wear
If you’re looking for a green gemstone that you can wear frequently without being too concerned about breaking it by accident, check out the options below. These stones score a minimum of 6.5 on the Mohs scale for mineral hardness, making them scratch-resistant and durable enough for daily wear.
This iconic green gemstone actually encompasses two mineral varieties: jadeite and nephrite. While nephrite jade is more readily available, jadeite jade produces the highly-coveted apple-green color variety known as “imperial jade”.
Both nephrite and jadeite are extremely tough gemstones. So tough that even a blow from a hammer won’t shatter them. Their durability, along with their musical properties, made them a popular material in ancient China for musical instruments, including chimes, gongs, and xylophones.
Other cultures have also used jade for making tools, weapons, and ornaments, and it has often been buried with the dead since the color green is associated with the heart chakra.
Green Tourmaline: Verdelite and Chrome Tourmaline
Green tourmaline is also known as verdelite. Verdelite is an excellent alternative to emerald since it exhibits better clarity and durability. You can also buy larger gems at lower prices, offering excellent value for money.
However, if you’re looking for something a bit more special, chrome tourmaline is another variety of green tourmaline you can get. Also called chrome dravite, chrome tourmaline is more expensive than verdelite since it is not as readily available, but its saturated green color makes it worth the extra money. It owes its deep green hue to trace amounts of chromium and vanadium, the same elements that give emeralds their characteristic green hue.
Green Garnets: Tsavorite and Demantoid
Although red is the color that most people associate with garnet, these gemstones are available in almost every color, including green. Tsavorite and demantoid are two examples of green gemstones from the garnet family, though green garnets can go by many other names depending on their composition.
Tsavorite garnet is one of the most popular types of green garnet due to its dark green, emerald-like color. Fortunately, gem-quality tsavorite garnet is not hard to find in sizes below one carat and is generally not too expensive.
However, if you’re looking for something at the higher end of the price range, consider a demantoid garnet. This grass-green variety of garnet is rarer and more expensive than any of the others and exhibits a brilliance that rivals diamonds (hence its name, which means “diamond-like”).
The name “bloodstone” may seem like a bit of a misnomer for this dark green gemstone. However, the name actually comes from the flecks of red on the surface of the gemstone that resemble drops of blood.
A member of the chalcedony family, these stones are often cut en cabochon, though they can also be faceted. A hard stone with a score of 7 on the Mohs hardness scale, bloodstone makes an excellent choice for everyday green gemstone jewelry.
Green diamonds result from defects within the crystal structure of the diamond in the presence of hydrogen, nitrogen, and nickel. Alternatively, green diamonds can also develop due to natural irradiation as the diamond forms underground.
Since the color is usually confined to a thin layer at the surface of the stone, these diamonds are typically pale green in color. Green diamonds that exhibit a medium tone with strong saturation are incredibly rare and therefore sell for the most amount of money.
Regarded as one of the rarest colors among the Fancy Diamonds, the probability of finding a green diamond at your local jewelry store is unlikely, with the likelihood that the average person would be able to afford one even less. However, if a natural green diamond is beyond your budget, you can also find treated green diamonds at a fraction of the price.
Maw Sit Sit
Maw sit sit is a bright green gemstone that features attractive black inclusions due to trace amounts of the mineral kosmochlor. It has a similar appearance to jade, but it is mined exclusively in Myanmar (modern-day Burma). Maw sit sit is also more affordable than jade, which is unusual since jadeite is one of the trace elements responsible for producing its bright green hues.
There are many different varieties of chrysoberyl, with the most well-known being the chatoyant “cat’s eye” chrysoberyl and color-changing alexandrite. However, ordinary chrysoberyl is a brown to yellow, yellow-green, or green stone with a transparent to translucent diaphaneity.
An exceptionally hard gemstone with a score of 8.5 out of 10 on the Mohs scale, a well-cut chrysoberyl makes an attractive and practical green gem for everyday wear.
Another variety of chalcedony that bears a close resemblance to jade, chrysoprase ranges from apple to olive green. However, unlike other varieties of chalcedony, which mostly derive their color from chromium, chrysoprase gets its vivid green hue from the presence of nickel.
Although it is a hard gemstone that is suitable for daily wear, chrysoprase may fade under prolonged exposure to heat or sunlight. However, some color may be recovered if the stone is stored in a moist, dark environment.
The fact that most gem-quality chrysoprase comes from Australia has earned it the nickname “Australian jade”.
Prasiolite is a pale green gem variety of quartz. It is not a particularly well-known gem since it is not often seen in commercial jewelry. It is also rarely found in nature. Instead, most prasiolite is produced by treating light-colored amethyst (a purple variety of quartz) with heat or irradiation.
Most people are surprised to learn that sapphire comes in a range of other colors besides blue. These are known as Fancy Sapphires and include the color green. Green sapphire colors range from light to dark green, though the most common color is olive.
Because sapphire is one of the most durable gemstones in existence, green sapphire makes an excellent choice for an everyday gem and will hold up well to wear in an engagement ring.
In addition, because they are not as popular as the blue gems, green sapphires are generally quite affordable. Most green sapphires also display some yellow or blue color zoning, which can further reduce their price.
Idocrase gets its alternative name from Mt. Vesuvius, the volcano in the area where it was first discovered. Though it is not often used in jewelry, this green stone can make a beautiful faceted gem and is sometimes mistaken for peridot. When cut en cabochon, idocrase can also bear a resemblance to jade.
“Aventurescence” describes the visual effect caused by minute crystal inclusions in a particular group of gemstones, giving them a shimmery appearance. Aventurine is one such gemstone characterized by its translucency and blueish, mint green color.
Green Gemstones for Occasional Wear
Unfortunately, not all green gemstones are suitable for everyday wear. In fact, many green gemstones are fairly soft, making them susceptible to scratches and breakage. Jewelry containing these precious stones should be reserved for special occasions or mounted in protective settings to reduce the risk of damaging them.
Emerald is probably the most popular of all the green gemstones on this list. First mined by the ancient Egyptians, this radiant green stone is steeped in legend and is said to have been one of Cleopatra’s favorite gems.
Despite having a hardness of 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs hardness scale, emerald is a rather fragile gemstone. This is due to the many inclusions in its crystal structure, making it brittle and weak. The inclusions can also affect their clarity, so most emeralds are treated with oil to improve their appearance.
Peridot is one of the few gems that only occur in a single color, green. Interestingly, it was named “gem of the sun” by the ancient Egyptians and has occasionally been mistaken for yellow gold. This is primarily due to the different amounts of iron trace elements in each gem, which causes the colors to vary from olive to chartreuse.
As it turns out, the ancient Egyptians weren’t far off with their nickname for these yellow-green stones, as peridot is known to occur in outer space! We know this because they have been recovered from Pallasite meteorites that have fallen to Earth.
Unfortunately, peridot is not a durable gemstone and can break if it receives a hard knock. It is also sensitive to acids and can crack when exposed to extreme temperature changes.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive green gem with a color that rivals emerald and tsavorite garnet, chrome diopside is an excellent choice.
First discovered in Russia in 1988, this deep green gem is relatively new to the gem trade. Nevertheless, its vivid color, combined with its affordability, quickly led to it becoming one of the most popular green gemstones for costume jewelry.
The only downside to chrome diopside is that it is a relatively soft stone, making it prone to scratches. It is also quite brittle and can split apart if struck.
Moldavite is a type of natural glass with an interesting formation process. Most of it is thought to have formed as a result of the heat from an asteroid that hit South-Eastern Europe, which liquified some of the rock in the vicinity. The impact from the asteroid sent the liquid flying into the atmosphere, which then cooled as it fell back towards Earth, forming millions of glass fragments that landed all over Europe.
Because most moldavite lies buried deep within the Earth, the extraction processes for this extraterrestrial gem are difficult. Thus, moldavite is one of the more expensive green gemstones to get your hands on.
While turquoise is best known for its signature teal color, this gemstone also comes in green. Green turquoise results from traces of aluminum or iron in the presence of reduced quantities of copper since higher amounts result in the primary blue hue that most people associate with turquoise. However, when zinc is also added to the mix, it produces a rare apple-green gem variety that can only be found in a few locations around the world, including Mongolia and the United States.
Sunstone and Oregon Sunstone
Along with aventurine, sunstone is among the gem varieties that exhibit aventurescence, a phenomenon that produces a glittery effect on the surface of the gemstone. In the case of sunstone, this effect is caused by minute iron-bearing inclusions, while the inclusions in Oregon sunstone contain copper. Although red is the most popular color for these gemstones, green to blue-green gems are also available.
Zoisite is the same mineral that produces tanzanite, the second most popular blue gem after sapphire. However, zoisite also comes in other colors, ranging from red, pink, and brown to yellow and green.
Nonetheless, green zoisite has sometimes mistakenly been labeled “green tanzanite” due to the popularity of its blue counterpart. However, unlike tanzanite, which is often seen as a transparent faceted gem, green zoisite is almost always opaque and usually includes black veins or inclusions.
Ruby-in-zoisite is another interesting variety composed of green zoisite, red corundum crystals (i.e., ruby), and occasionally black hornblende, resulting in a stone with a watermelon-like appearance.
Malachite is an opaque gemstone that derives its verdant green color from copper. It is very easy to identify thanks to the concentric dark circles or “bands” on the surface of the gem.
A soft stone, most malachite is treated with wax or resin to give it an extra layer of protection.
Not to be confused with cubic zirconia, zircon is a stunning natural gem coveted by gem collectors for its high refractive index and spectacular brilliance.
Green zircon is, therefore, an excellent alternative to green diamond, though you may be just as hard-pressed to find one as you would green diamond. As it happens, green zircons are exceptionally rare. They form due to metamictization, a process involving natural radiation that causes changes to the crystal lattice of the gemstone over long periods of time.
Though green zircon has a hardness rating of 6 to 7.5, making it hard enough to resist scratches, faceted gems are prone to chipping and should be limited to occasional wear to minimize damage.
Serpentine comprises a group of minerals that come in various shades of green, are nearly always opaque and are very easy to cut into shapes, making them popular for carving.
Fibrous varieties of serpentine have also been used in making asbestos. However, its use today has been limited since the fibers are known to contribute to respiratory disease.
As a gemstone, serpentine makes a great jade lookalike, especially when cut en cabochon, and is relatively inexpensive. It also happens to be the official state rock of California.
Prehnite is a rare gemstone that forms due to low-grade metamorphism in mafic volcanic rock. Its translucence, combined with its soft mint green hue, makes for a very attractive jewelry stone that can have a velvety appearance when cut en cabochon.
Apatite refers to a group of minerals that occur abundantly in nature. Each variety has its own name, but many are simply sold as “apatites” without further classification.
Blue-green stones resembling Paraiba tourmalines are the most valuable color variety for apatites, though they also come in several other colors. Yellow-green apatites, or “asparagus stones”, are available, too.
Apatite is an exceptionally brittle gemstone, making it better suited for use in pendants and earrings than rings and bracelets.
Variscite is a lovely light green mineral that is often confused with turquoise. However, it is considerably rarer and is usually more greenish in color.
Despite its rarity, variscite is a typically inexpensive stone. This is because there is relatively little demand for it in the jewelry industry, though it makes for an attractive cabochon in a pendant or pair of earrings.
Kornerupine is a rare gemstone that is primarily sought-after by gem collectors, though it is suitable for jewelry with a hardness ranging from 6 to 7. However, gem-quality kornerupine is exceptionally scarce, with most stones featuring dark green to brown hues that are unattractive for jewelry pieces. Lighter green specimens are much more appealing, but these stones are generally small, with the prices for larger sizes growing exponentially.
Green Gemstones For Display Purposes Only
The following green gemstones are much more fragile than the other gems on this list and should be safely stored in a display case, where their beauty can be appreciated from a distance.
Also known as titanite, sphene emits great sparkle when properly cut, with a fire or dispersion that exceeds diamonds. Chrome sphene from Baja California is the rarest and most valuable variety for this particular species, exhibiting a fine emerald color.
Being naturally radioactive, ekanite is not a gem that should be handled frequently (at least not without the necessary precautions) and is certainly not recommended for jewelry. While its muted olive-green color gives it an unassuming appearance, large specimens of ekanite pose a health risk since they contain the radioactive elements uranium and thorium.
A pale to emerald green gem variety of the mineral spodumene, hiddenite is one of the most challenging gemstones to cut. This is due to its perfect cleavage, which means that it has a tendency to shatter under even the slightest amount of force.
While they may be better off in a display case, hiddenite gems can be mounted in protective jewelry settings and worn as earrings or pendants that are unlikely to get knocked about.
Gaspeite is a light green nickel-bearing mineral that bears a slight similarity to green turquoise, though it often features brownish veins of rock.
Despite having a hardness rating of 4.5 to 5, gaspeite is frequently used to produce cabochons and beads and is often mounted in inlaid jewelry settings.
Seraphinite gets its name from the feathery white inclusions resembling angels’ wings that run across the surface of this dark green gemstone. The trade name for green clinochlore, seraphinite is especially attractive when cut and polished as a cabochon. However, its lack of hardness means it is best suited for viewing purposes only.
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