Rough gemstones & untreated, natural gems

Rough stones, untreated gemstones, natural gemstones – are they one and the same? The layman probably thinks with these different terms that they are simply stones that are still in their original state before they become a piece of jewelry or a cut gemstone. But the terminology is more complex: rough gemstones are those that are uncut. Untreated gemstones, on the other hand, may very well be cut, because treatment in the gemstone field refers to a “refinement” of the stone beyond cutting and polishing..

Treated Gemstones: How gems get improved

The vast majority of all gemstones sold today are treated in one way or another, as only about 2% of stones on the world market are gem quality without artificial enhancement.

Before gemstones are cut and made into jewelry, they are treated to make minor blemishes and imperfections in colored gemstones disappear or to enhance the color of a stone. This ranges from heating gemstones, to irradiation, to filling existing cracks with oil, resin, or plastics.

Rubies and sapphires are heated to improve their color and increase the gemstone’s clarity, while colored diamonds or topaz, for example, are often irradiated.

Rough gemstones: Determining the value in the first place

Rough stones are gemstones and minerals that have not yet been cut. Rough gemstones of the appropriate quality are purchased by gemstone dealers directly from mines or through local dealers in the areas where they are found, and then cut by specialists.

It takes years of experience and expertise to recognize what quality a piece is. In addition to weight, the shape of the rough stone is extremely important, as it determines the possible shape of the cut. The best pieces can be cut directly without further enhancement. They become valuable, untreated gemstones. However, a much larger portion is treated before or after cutting to be sold as gemstones.

Specimens of inferior quality and more common minerals, on the other hand, are sold or processed in larger lots. They are then found as tumbled stones or as raw, uncut and unpolished pieces in the trade. They are either processed into costume jewelry or are found as healing stones in the esoteric trade.
For mineral collectors uncut, unprocessed gemstone crystals are interesting, as well as gemstone specimens, where the gemstone is still surrounded by the original rock.

Raw gemstone jewelry

In recent years, high-quality rough stones without cut are also increasingly being made into jewelry. Generally, the designs of such raw stone jewelry are minimalist and restrained in order to give the stone all the attention it deserves. The rough gemstones are set in a variety of ways, such as with settings made of wire wrapping or with knob or bezel settings.

Raw gemstones are much less expensive than cut ones. Although a large part of the original weight is always lost during cutting, it is only through the perfect cut that the special sparkle of a stone is created.

Because an expensive work step is also omitted, jewelry with uncut colored stones is always less expensive than jewelry with cut stones in the same quality and weight class.

Rough stones in crystal healing

In esotericism uncut rough stones are of great importance. Depending on the respective teachings, certain properties are attributed to each mineral. In order to receive these energies and powers as intensively and unadulterated as possible, the stone should also come to the “user” as originally and directly as possible.

The gemstones are then often placed on the body, used for the production of gemstone water or used by esoteric therapists for scrying. Besides rough stones, polished tumbled stones are also used for esoteric practices.

Untreated gemstones in your investment portfolio?

Untreated, natural-colored gemstones are a good addition to an investment portfolio. Raw, uncut gemstones, on the other hand, are not suitable as an investment. Rough gemstones offered in retail stores for end users are of low quality and not intended as an investment.

As a gemstone investment, popular colored gemstones such as rubies, emeralds, sapphires and colored diamonds larger than one carat and of very good quality should always be chosen. They offer protection against inflation and are also easy to transport and store. If you want to invest money for the long term (expect an investment horizon of at least 5 years), untreated natural gems are a good choice.

While the demand for high quality gemstones is growing steadily, especially in the Asian market, mining volumes are stagnating or even declining – therefore an increase in value can be expected in the future.

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Dr. Thomas Schröck
The Author:

Dr. Thomas Schröck

The founder and managing partner of THE NATURAL GEM has been active in international gemstone trading for 30 years. As a doctor of economics and a certified gemmologist in Switzerland, Germany and the USA, among other countries, he is one of Europe’s leading experts on naturally-coloured, untreated gemstones and investments in them.


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