• Sign In
    Sign Up
  • English speaking customer support only


  • Change Language
  • USD
By Gavin Clarke Reviewed By Andreas Zabczyk May 30, 2008 Updated Nov 15, 2019

Origin of Gemstone Names

Names of Natural gemstones Kunzite from Afghanistan Prehnite Gemstones Natural Tanzanite
Tanzanite, Prehnite and Kunzite

What's in a name? When it comes to gemstones, sometimes it's a long story. While the names of some of the best known jewels, such as diamonds, are lost in antiquity, many gem quality minerals were not identified until relatively recently, with the advent of the science of gemology. When a new variety is found, the name of the new material can be derived from several sources.

The names of many stones come from a Greek or Latin root which refers to a particular trait of the gem. For example, the banded green stone known as malachite got its name from the Greek word for mallow, a green herb, while kyanite is derived from the Greek word kyanos, meaning blue. The name for the pink stone rhodolite is derived from the Greek word for rose-like, as are many other pink minerals such as rhodochrosite and rhodonite.

Round Rhodolite Garnet Gemstone
Round Rhodolite Garnet Gemstone

It is also common to assign gem names according to the place where they were first found. Tanzanite was discovered in the Tanzanian bushland in 1967, while tsavorite takes its name from Tsavo National Park near the Tanzanian border with Kenya, where in the late 1960s, the geologist Campbell Bridges came across some rocks containing green grossularite, a rare variety of garnet. Similarly andalusite, a beautiful pleochroic gem that appears to be a different color depending upon the direction from which it is viewed, is named after the site of original production in Andalusia, Spain.

Tsavorite and Malachite Gemstones Malachite Cabochon Natural Tsavorite Garnet
Tsavorite and Malachite

Another common method is to name a gem after its discoverer. Thus prehnite was named after Colonel Hendrik von Prehn and hiddenite was named after W.E. Hidden, who discovered this stone in 1879 in North Carolina (and is also credited with the discovery of rhodolite garnet).

Sometimes the person who first identifies a new material has their name immortalized. Although zoisite was first known as saualpite, after its place of discovery in the Saualpe Mountains in 1805, it was renamed after the Slovenian scientist, Baron Sigmund Zois von Edelstein, who realized that it was an unknown mineral when it was brought to him for identification.

Hiddenite Gemstones Natural Andalusite
Andalusite and Hiddenite

In yet other cases, a new mineral is named in honor of someone important. The naming of the rare gemstone alexandrite is such a case of historical interest; it was named after Russian Tsar, Alexander II, because the first crystals were discovered in an emerald mine the Ural mountains in April 1834, on the very day this tsar came of age. Alexandrite was later declared to be the national stone of tsarist Russia.

Occasionally there is a dispute when attempts to name a new gem are in conflict. Kunzite, the pink variety of spodumene, was named in honor of Dr George Frederick Kunz, of Tiffany & Co., the leading gem expert of his time. However, this gem might have easily ended up with one of several other suggested names instead. Contenders for the honor included no fewer than four would-be discoverers as well as two eminent scientists who identified the substance.

*You're signing up to receive GemSelect promotional email.
Partners and Trust Payment options

Switch to Mobile Version

Privacy Notice © 2005-2023 all rights reserved.

Reproduction (text or graphics) without the express written consent of (SETT Company Ltd.) is strictly prohibited.


More Shapes
Popular Gemstones
  • Sapphire
  • Emerald
  • Ruby
  • Aquamarine
  • Zircon
  • Opal
  • Topaz
  • Tourmaline
  • Garnet
  • Amethyst
  • Citrine
  • Tanzanite
All Gemstones (145)
  • Actinolite Cat's Eye
  • Agate
  • Agate Geode
  • Almandine Garnet
  • Amazonite
  • Amethyst
  • Amethyst Geode Slice
  • Ametrine
  • Ammolite
  • Andalusite
  • Andesine Labradorite
  • Apatite
  • Aquamarine
  • Aventurine
  • Azotic Topaz
  • Azurite
  • Black Opal
  • Bloodstone
  • Boulder Opal
  • Carnelian
  • Cat's Eye Apatite
  • Cat's Eye Aquamarine
  • Cat's Eye Gemstones
  • Cat's Eye Moonstone
  • Cat's Eye Opal
  • Cat's Eye Scapolite
  • Chalcedony
  • Charoite
  • Chocolate Opal
  • Chrome Diopside
  • Chrysoberyl
  • Chrysoberyl Cat's Eye
  • Chrysocolla
  • Chrysoprase
  • Citrine
  • Color Change Gemstones
  • Color-Change Diaspore
  • Color-Change Fluorite
  • Color-Change Garnet
  • Coral
  • Demantoid Garnet
  • Dendritic Agate
  • Diamond
  • Druzy Amethyst
  • Druzy Azurite
  • Druzy Citrine
  • Druzy Variscite
  • Emerald
  • Enstatite
  • Fire Agate
  • Fire Opal
  • Fluorite
  • Fossil Coral
  • Garnet
  • Golden Beryl
  • Grandidierite
  • Grossularite Garnet
  • Hawk's Eye
  • Hematite
  • Hemimorphite
  • Hemimorphite Druzy
  • Hessonite Garnet
  • Howlite
  • Idocrase
  • Imperial Topaz
  • Iolite
  • Jade Gemstones
  • Jadeite
  • Jasper
  • Kornerupine
  • Kunzite
  • Kyanite
  • Labradorite
  • Lapis Lazuli
  • Larimar
  • Malachite
  • Malaya Garnet
  • Mali Garnet
  • Maw-Sit-Sit
  • Moonstone
  • Morganite
  • Mother Of Pearl
  • Mystic Quartz
  • Mystic Topaz
  • Nuummite
  • Obsidian
  • Onyx
  • Opal
  • Opal Doublet
  • Opal In Matrix
  • Pearl
  • Peridot
  • Pietersite
  • Prehnite
  • Pyrite
  • Pyrope Garnet
  • Quartz
  • Quartz Cat's Eye
  • Quartz With Hedenbergite
  • Quartz With Marcasite
  • Rainbow Moonstone
  • Rainbow Pyrite
  • Rhodochrosite
  • Rhodolite Garnet
  • Rhodonite
  • Rose Quartz
  • Rubellite Tourmaline
  • Ruby
  • Ruby In Fuchsite
  • Ruby-Zoisite
  • Rutile Quartz
  • Sapphire
  • Scapolite
  • Scolecite
  • Seraphinite
  • Serpentine
  • Sillimanite
  • Sillimanite Cat's Eye
  • Smithsonite
  • Smoky Quartz
  • Snowflake Obsidian
  • Sodalite
  • Spectrolite
  • Spessartite Garnet
  • Sphalerite
  • Sphene
  • Spinel
  • Star Diopside
  • Star Garnet
  • Star Gemstones
  • Star Moonstone
  • Star Rose Quartz
  • Star Ruby
  • Star Sapphire
  • Strawberry Quartz
  • Sunstone
  • Tanzanite
  • Tiger's Eye
  • Tiger's Eye Matrix
  • Topaz
  • Tourmaline
  • Tsavorite Garnet
  • Turquoise
  • Variscite
  • Zircon
Main Categories
  • New Arrivals
  • Gemstone Lots
  • Calibrated Gemstones
  • Gemstones By Piece
  • Top Grade Gems
  • Matching Pairs
  • Cabochon Gemstones
  • Drilled Gems, Briolettes and Beads
  • Birthstones
  • Gemstone Carvings
  • Fancy Gemstones
  • Star Gemstones
  • Unheated Sapphire
English speaking customer support only

Toll Free - USA & Canada only:


Save Money
No shipping Fees for Additional Items!
$8.90 Worldwide Shipping

Update Translation
Current Value
New Value
GemSelect Gemstones
X Close Window
Colored Gemstones
X Close Window
Colored Gemstones
X Close Window
Colored Gemstones
Size and Weight

Gems are always measured in Millimeter (mm)

Dimensions are given as;
length x width x depth,
except for round stones which are;
diameter x depth

Select gems by size, not by weight!
Gem varieties vary in density, so carat weight is not a good indication of size

Note: 1ct = 0.2g

Size Comparison Chart