Ask Difference

Gem vs. Gemstone — What's the Difference?

By Fiza Rafique & Urooj Arif — Updated on March 10, 2024
A gem often refers to both precious stones and highly valued things, while a gemstone specifically denotes mineral-based precious stones.
Gem vs. Gemstone — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Gem and Gemstone


Key Differences

A gem can refer to a precious or semi-precious stone that is cut, polished, and used in jewelry. It can also metaphorically describe something or someone highly prized for their beauty or excellence. A gemstone, on the other hand, specifically refers to a mineral, rock, or organic material that, when cut and polished, is used to make jewelry or other adornments. This term emphasizes the material's origin and suitability for jewelry.
The term "gem" is versatile, extending beyond the realm of jewelry to describe anything considered outstanding or valuable, such as "a gem of a book" or "a hidden gem." Gemstones, whereas, are strictly associated with materials used in the creation of adornments, focusing on their physical properties and aesthetic value.
In the jewelry industry, the distinction between gems and gemstones can sometimes blur, as both terms are used interchangeably when referring to cut and polished stones. However, gemstones always imply a focus on the material's natural beauty and durability, essential for its use in jewelry.
The variety of gemstones is vast, encompassing well-known stones like diamonds, rubies, and sapphires, as well as less familiar ones like opal and turquoise. Gems, while often synonymous with gemstones in this context, can also extend to encompass synthetic materials and other highly valued, non-stone items.
The process of transforming rough gemstones into gems involves cutting, shaping, and polishing to reveal the stone's beauty and maximize its value. This process underscores the transformation from a raw material (gemstone) to a finished, valuable product (gem) suitable for use in high-quality jewelry and adornments.

Comparison Chart


A precious or semi-precious stone or something highly valued
A mineral, rock, or organic material suitable for jewelry after cutting and polishing


Can be used metaphorically and in various contexts
Strictly associated with materials for adornments

Industry Context

Often interchangeable with gemstone in jewelry
Focuses on the stone's natural beauty and suitability for adornments


Can refer to both natural and synthetic materials
Includes a wide range of natural minerals and rocks


Involves cutting, shaping, and polishing to enhance value
Refers to the raw material before it is transformed into a finished product

Compare with Definitions


A gem can be a highly valued precious or semi-precious stone.
The diamond in the ring was a flawless gem.


Gemstones are minerals, rocks, or organic materials that are used in jewelry.
Quartz is a common gemstone used in making beautiful jewelry pieces.


The term is also used metaphorically to describe highly valued items or qualities.
Her insightful advice was a real gem.


The transformation from a rough gemstone to a polished gem highlights craftsmanship.
The rough gemstone was expertly cut to reveal its sparkling interior.


Gems can include both natural and man-made materials.
The exhibition featured gems ranging from natural rubies to synthetic sapphires.


They are prized for their natural beauty and rarity.
The gemstone's deep blue hue captivated everyone.


Gems symbolize beauty, rarity, and durability.
He gifted her a gem to show his everlasting commitment.


The category includes a variety of stones like diamonds, emeralds, and agates.
Her collection included gemstones from around the world.


In jewelry, gems are polished stones set into pieces of adornment.
The necklace was adorned with brightly colored gems.


Gemstones are specifically cut and polished for use in adornments.
The artisan carefully set the gemstone into the gold ring.


A piece of a valuable mineral or minerallike substance that has been cut, polished, or otherwise prepared for use as an ornament.


A gemstone (also called a gem, fine gem, jewel, precious stone, or semi-precious stone) is a piece of mineral crystal which, in cut and polished form, is used to make jewelry or other adornments. However, certain rocks (such as lapis lazuli and opal) and occasionally organic materials that are not minerals (such as amber, jet, and pearl) are also used for jewelry and are therefore often considered to be gemstones as well.


Something that is valued for its beauty or perfection
A little gem of a book.


A precious or semiprecious stone that may be used as a jewel when cut and polished.


A beloved or highly prized person.


A gem, usually made of minerals.


A muffin, especially a very small one.


A crystalline rock that can be cut and polished for jewelry;
He had the gem set in a ring for his wife
She had jewels made of all the rarest stones


To adorn with gems.


A precious stone, usually of substantial monetary value or prized for its beauty or shine.


(figuratively) Any precious or highly valued thing or person.
She's an absolute gem.


Anything of small size, or expressed within brief limits, which is regarded as a gem on account of its beauty or value, such as a small picture, a verse of poetry, or an epigram.
A gem of wit


(obsolete) A gemma or leaf-bud.


A type of geometrid moth, Orthonama obstipata.


(computing) A package containing programs or libraries for the Ruby programming language.


A size of type between brilliant (4-point) and diamond (4½-point), running 222 lines to the foot.


(transitive) To adorn with, or as if with, gems.


A bud.
From the joints of thy prolific stemA swelling knot is raised called a gem.


A precious stone of any kind, as the ruby, emerald, topaz, sapphire, beryl, spinel, etc., especially when cut and polished for ornament; a jewel.


Anything of small size, or expressed within brief limits, which is regarded as a gem on account of its beauty or value, as a small picture, a verse of poetry, a witty or wise saying.


To put forth in the form of buds.


To adorn with gems or precious stones.


To embellish or adorn, as with gems; as, a foliage gemmed with dewdrops.
England is . . . gemmed with castles and palaces.


A crystalline rock that can be cut and polished for jewelry;
He had the gem set in a ring for his wife
She had jewels made of all the rarest stones


Art highly prized for its beauty or perfection


A person who is a brilliant and precious as a piece of jewelry


A sweet quick bread baked in a cup-shaped pan


A precious or semiprecious stone incorporated into a piece of jewelry

Common Curiosities

How do gems and gemstones differ in usage?

Gems can have a broader usage, including metaphorical applications, whereas gemstones specifically refer to the natural materials used in adornments.

What is a gemstone?

A gemstone is a mineral, rock, or organic material that, when cut and polished, is used in jewelry or adornments due to its beauty and durability.

Can the term gem refer to synthetic materials?

Yes, in some contexts, gems can include synthetic or man-made materials that mimic the appearance of natural stones.

Is the value of a gem always higher than that of a gemstone?

The value can vary, but generally, a finished gem, especially if well-cut and set in jewelry, may be valued higher than the raw gemstone.

How are gemstones processed into gems?

Gemstones are cut, shaped, and polished to enhance their natural beauty, transforming them into gems suitable for high-quality adornments.

Can a gemstone be anything other than a mineral?

Yes, gemstones can also include certain rocks (like lapis lazuli) and organic materials (like amber and pearl) that are valued in jewelry.

Can a common rock become a gemstone?

Common rocks are typically not considered gemstones unless they possess unique qualities that make them desirable for use in jewelry.

What makes a material suitable to be called a gemstone?

A material's suitability as a gemstone is based on its beauty, durability, and rarity, making it desirable for use in jewelry.

What is a gem?

A gem can refer to a precious or semi-precious stone used in jewelry or something considered outstanding or very valuable in other contexts.

Why are some objects metaphorically called gems?

Objects or qualities are metaphorically called gems when they are considered outstanding, valuable, or exemplary in their context.

Are all gemstones considered gems?

Once cut and polished for use in jewelry, most gemstones are considered gems, but the term gem can also apply more broadly to highly valued items.

What criteria determine the rarity of a gemstone?

The rarity of a gemstone is determined by its availability, the conditions under which it forms, and its popularity in the market.

How has the use of gems and gemstones evolved over time?

The use of gems and gemstones has evolved from simple adornment and trade to complex roles in fashion, investment, and cultural symbolism.

What role do gems play in jewelry?

Gems serve as the central, decorative elements in jewelry, providing aesthetic appeal and often symbolizing wealth and status.

How do cultural perceptions affect the classification of gems and gemstones?

Cultural perceptions can influence which materials are valued as gemstones and how gems are used in adornments or described metaphorically.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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