8 Gorgeous and Rare Gems You Should Know About

by Gilbert Cheah

Apart from diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires – some of the world’s most valuable and coveted gemstones – there are over 200 varieties of other natural gemstones that are lesser-known but still highly valuable. In fact, some of these lesser-known gems are so incredibly rare that their valuation can actually be far greater than many of their famous cousins.

Here are some rare, beautiful and valuable gems that any jewellery lover should consider adding to their collection. Prices range from the eye-watering to the surprisingly affordable, so we trust that you will be able to find one that suits your taste and budget!

Red Beryl

Beryl is a gemstone that comes in different colours. Some varieties are known by their other names.  For example, most green beryls as emeralds, and blue beryls as aquamarine.

The rarest is the Red Beryl, a variety that can be found only in the Wah Wah Mountains of Utah in the States. It is often mistaken for a ruby by laymen because of its deep rich red colour.

This less well-known red gem is even rarer than rubies. So rare that it has been estimated that only one Red Beryl is found for every 150,000 diamonds mined, and most are less than one carat in size. Larger stones can go for over US$70,000 per carat.

What to look for: As with the emerald, Red Beryls contain inclusions that are usually visible to the naked eye. While inclusions are a natural aspect of all beryls, the most valuable ones are the clearest and rarest. Similarly, transparency is highly desirable. The clearer the stone, the higher its value. Stones with a cloudy or translucent appearance are less valuable.

Pricing: Approximately US$10,000 and higher per carat*


No other gemstone can match Alexandrite’s beguiling characteristic: It can change colour from green to red, hence described as “emerald by day, ruby by night.”

This gemstone, made up of a rare variety of a mineral called chrysoberyl, is green under daylight and changes to brownish or purplish red in night light.

It shows different colours of green, orange, and purple-red when viewed from different angles, and the degree of colour change varies. While some change marginally, others can undergo complete colour change, making these the most valuable.

This is a very rare gemstone and most of the discovered stones are below one carat. Prices for stones up to one carat go for about US$15,000 per carat.  For those over one carat, prices can range from US$50,000 to US$70,000 per carat, far higher than diamonds.

What to look for: Alexandrites from Russia are the most valuable. Extremely rare, as the mines do not produce as many anymore. Alexandrites from Sri Lanka tend to be larger than Russian ones but their colours are considered less vivid or desirable.

Pricing: Approximately US$10,000 per carat*


Taaffeites (pronounced “tar-fite”) are much rarer than diamonds. A rare mineral, Taaffeite can barely be classified as a gemstone because it is so hard to find; quantities available to make into jewellery are far and few beyond.

The colours of Taaffeite tend to range from colourless to pale mauve and lavender. Deeper shades of red and purple can be found, but very rarely. The stones can be mined primarily in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Tanzania.

What to look for: Fun fact – the first identified Taaffeite was mistaken to be a spinel as its hardness, density and appearance are very similar to that of spinels. To differentiate the two, look out for a double refraction. Some lower grade taaffeite do exist, so be sure to confirm its origin before buying.

Pricing: Approximately US$5,000 per carat*


This hard-to-pronounce gem (pronounced “pad-pah-raj-ah”) is the world’s rarest sapphire, but instead of the deep blue of its famous cousin, the Padparadscha is a beautiful salmon colour between pink and orange.

The extreme scarcity of Padparadscha means that often, the cutter will carve the stones in unusual, asymmetrical shapes to conserve as much material as possible.

What to look for: You can find many versions of this gem on the market but many are not the right colour. Either the gem is not saturated enough, or it is single colour dominated, for example: pink with no orange or a browny orange with no pink. The rarest and most valuable ones are those with a perfect balance of pink and orange. These are mostly found in  Sri Lanka while lower grade stones can be found in Madagascar and Tanzania.

Pricing: Approximately US$10,000 per carat*

Paraíba Tourmalines

Tourmalines come in many colours but none have the rich saturated blues and aquamarine that distinguish the Paraíba tourmaline.

This Tourmaline was discovered in the 1980s, making it one of the gem world’s “newest” gems. Fitting for a modern discovery, it looks like it came from a sci-fi movie with its otherworldly, almost-neon brightness. It was discovered in the region of Brazil (after which it was named) and only those from this region have that incandescent light.

In recent, although there have been similarly bright stones discovered in Mozambique and Nigeria, these stones may not be called Paraíba.

Paraiba tourmalines are rare,  one Paraíba tourmaline is mined for every 10,000 diamonds, most are below five carats. Prices can cost more than US$10,000 per carat.

What to look for: Paraíba tourmalines appear in a range of blue and green shades, and even purple. Although all these colours are highly prized, the bright blues and violet shades are the most valuable. With these stones, the colour is more important than the size, so if you had to choose between a smaller stone with a vibrant colour or a larger one with a more muted tone, the smaller, bright-coloured stone will be worth more.

Pricing: Approximately US$10,000 per carat*

Red Spinel

Spinels come in various colours but the rarest and most prized is the Red Spinel, which is often mistaken for a ruby.

red spinelSpinels are actually rarer than rubies but their prices are considerably lower than rubies, making them ideal for jewellery lovers who want a gorgeous gem without the high price.

A 170 carat red spinel, named the Black Prince’s Ruby, sits in the front of the British Imperial Crown, and for centuries was mistaken for a ruby. It is the largest uncut spinel in the world and has been part of the British crown jewels since the 14th century, showing how long spinels have been prized by both commoners and kings.

What to look for: Colour, clarity and cut play as important roles with red spinels as they do with diamonds. Red Spinels come in many shades of the colour, from a deep vermillion to candy pink. The shade of red has a big effect on its value, with richer, deeper colours being the most prized. Similarly, you will want a stone with good clarity  with as few inclusions and cloudiness as possible. And since spinels are so rare, most gem-quality stones are cut to preserve their weight so they tend to be in non-standard carat sizes.

Pricing: Approximately US$8,000 per carat*

Black Opal

Looking at a black opal is like peering into the darkness of space with fiery galaxies and stars flashing from its depths. Within the opal’s rich darkness are streaks and layers of iridescent colours that give the stone a mysterious yet stunningly beautiful appearance.

Shakespeare called it the Queen Of Gems because it is the only gemstone that carries all the colors of every other gem within it, from ruby red, emerald green, sapphire blue to topaz yellow.

What to look for:  The three most important factors to evaluate when buying an opal are:

  • the colour of its background (rich black or midnight blue versus a muddier, paler tint)
  • the richness and variety of the colour streaks within (the ratio of colour versus backgrounds and the way the colour patterns are arrayed)
  • the clarity and quality of the overall stone, which should have as few inclusions as possible.

Pricing: Approximately US$10,000 per carat*


This beautiful stone is one of the more recently-discovered gems, having been identified only in 1967. In a short span of time, it became highly popular, attracting millions with its rich colour ranging from pale to midnight blue, to deep violet.

tanzaniteIt owes its popularity in part to the brilliant marketing by Tiffany & Co., the Company that unveiled it to the world, and also the first jeweller to use the gem.

Tiffany & Co. gave the stone its name, after the country Tanzania.

Tanzanite is a very rare stone because it can only be found in a few mines in one small area of a single country – Tanzania – in the world. Despite its rarity, its price remains relatively low, compared to sapphires.

What to look for: Tanzanites come in several shades of blue and violet, with the deep midnight blue being the rarest and most valuable. The richer and more vibrant colours are the most desired. Keep in mind that a dark stone does not necessarily have good saturation. It could simply be dark toned without that deep richness of colour that makes it valuable. All Tanzanites are heated to remove unwanted brownish colourations. Unlike other gems like sapphires, where heat treatment is considered undesirable, it is an acceptable procedure in Tanzanites.

Pricing: Approximately US$700 per carat*

*Per carat prices are based on a 5-carat stone for each. Smaller stones will have considerably lower per carat prices.


Related links:

Insider’s Guide to Buying Diamonds

Know Your Bling


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