The purpose of this section is to review semi-precious gemstones and their characteristics including color, opacity, size, finish, properties, specifications, maintenance and other pertinent information that you may need in order to make an educated decision on the choice of gemstone for your field tile installation, wall, floor, countertop or mural.
Should you be using gemstone as a surface application, searching for a custom mural, or just curious about the material, we invite you to review this section of our site.
Costs are governed by scarcity of the stone and the cost for manufacturing and importing, if applicable. Gemstones are relatively inexpensive considering their value. Some people in the trade call gemstones 'jewelry for the home' when used for a residential installation. Should you be comparing prices, we will do our best to meet the price of any competitor. It is our sincerest goal to provide the best material at the best price, in a timely matter. Custom work is welcomed. For large projects, we will negotiate a lower price.
Color, cut, clarity and carat are used to help the consumer understand the factors used to grade a diamond. These four criteria carry a different weight depending upon whether they are applied to colored gemstones or to colorless diamond. In gemstones that have color, it is the purity and beauty of that color that is the primary determinant of quality. The next criteria is the workmanship of the finished product.
Physical characteristics that make a colored stone valuable are color, clarity to a lesser extent, and the preciseness of the mosaic cut. Solid stones are more valuable, as are those that possess unusual optical phenomena (Labradourite).
Gemstones are broken down into two categories: precious and semi-precious. Diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds are considered precious. However, these categories are based mainly on fashion and preference and these two lists have changed frequently over time. It has always been a difficult matter to determine what constitutes a precious stone. Diamond, sapphire, emerald and ruby are considered to be precious stones. Amethyst was was also included in this group until the discovery of bulk amethyst in Brazil in the 19th century.
At times, a gemstone may become rare to impossible to procure. At the present time Charoite is in that catagory. Azurite is quickly becoming rare. As a stone becomes more rare it grows in price and value. Gemstone prices can fluctuate dramatically or can be quite stable (such as those of diamonds). The price of a large cut of stone, solid or mosaic, is higher than that of smaller pieces, however, the popularity of certain stones can affect prices.
Gemstones come in different grades from X to C. X is the highest grade and C is the lowest. The higher the grade, the more expensive the material. For instance, Lapis Lazuli Grade X is virtually impossible to find and extremely expensive. Lapis Lazuli A+ is more costly and bluer than Lapis A. Lapis Lazuli B or C is still gorgeous, but less expensive than A Grade.
CHARACTERISTICS AND CLASSIFICATION
Gems and gemstones have been used in jewelry and for item embellishment since antiquity. Gemstones and gems are minerals or rocks, which, when cut and polished, are used to make jewelry. A mineral has only one constituent, while a semi-precious gemstone is formed from more than one mineral. However, certain rocks, such as Lapis Lazuli, are still used for jewelry, and are therefore often considered to be gemstones as well. Most gemstones are hard, but some soft ones are used in jewelry because of their lustre or other physical properties that have aesthetic value.
How do we know what the material is? Gemstones are identified by gemologists, who describe gems and their characteristics using technical terms specific to their field. The first characteristic used by a gemologist to identily a gemstone is its chemical composition. For instance, the main component of lapis lazuli is lazurite (25% to 40%). Most lapis lazuli also contains white calcite, sodalite and pyrite. Other possible constituents may also be present. Next, many gems, such as amethyst and rose quartz are crystals which are classified by their crystal system as cubic, trigonal or monoclinic. Crystal gems are transparent and/or translucent and may be backlit. The index of refaction is a measure of how much the speed of light is reduced inside the stone. Another term used is 'habit' which is the form the gem is usually found in. Quartz has a crystal habit of a six sided prism, ending in a six sided pyramid with a crystal system rhombohedral class of 32. Lapis Lazuli and other gemstones have no crystal system.
A gemologist also tests the cleavage, fracture type and tries to determine the stone's County of Origin. This is difficult due to the constant discovery of new locations. Gemstones are mined worldwide, however, the primary deposits are found in the following countries: Agate - Madagascar and the USA. Amazonite - Russia or Brazil. Aquamarine - Afghanistan, Brazil or Pakistan. Aragonite Canada. Aventurine - India. Azurite - Africa and the USA. Bloodstone - USA. Calcite - India. Carnelian - India. Charoite - Africa. Dumortierite - USA. Fluorite - China, England and Mexico. Fossil - USA and China. Goldstone - USA and Africa. Hematite - Australia, Brazil and Mexico. Howlite - USA and Africa. Jade, African - Africa. Jade, Canadian - Canada. Other Jade - China. Jasper - USA and Africa. Labradourite - Finland, Labrador and Madagascar. Lapis Lazuli - Afghanistan and Chile. Malachite - Africa. Opalite - USA and Africa. Obsidian - USA, Mexico and Scotland. Onyx - Brazil, India and Madagascar. Petrified Wood - Africa. Rhodonite - Australia. Quartz - Brazil and Worldwide. Sodalite - Canada and Bolivia. Tiger Eye - South Africa. Tiger Iron - South Africa and Australia.
The MOHs scale of material hardness characterizes the scratch resistance of a material. This test gives you the wear rating of a material. The lower the number on the MOH scale, the least resistant the material is to wear and scratching. Calcite, Charoite, Fluorite, Malachite and Serpentine have low MOH ratings and are not recommended for flooring applications. Customers do, however, use them on floors as a preferred material with the assumption that they will need to be repolished after wear and tear.The various MOH hardnesses of some of the gemstones that we offer are: Agate (Green Moss, White, Blue, Red, Mexican, Wild, Gava, Black Fancy, Blue Lace, Yellow Lace, Botswana) 7, Amazonite 6.5, Amethyst 7, Aquamarine 7.5, Aragonite 5, Aventurine (Blue, Green, Gold, Pink, Red) 7, Azurite 4, Bloodstone (Multi, Green, Red) 7, Blue Chalcedony 7, Calcite (Honey, Orange, Pink) 3, Carnellian 7, Charoite 3, Dumortierite 6, Fluorite 7, Fossil 4.5, Goldstone (Brown, Blue, Red) 7, Hematite 6.5, Howlite 7, Canadian Jade 6, Jade (African, Green Spot, Lemon, Yellow, Olive, China, Orange) 7, Breciated Jasper (Ocean, Red, Snowflake, Breciated, Cobra, Dalmation, Fancy, Jamaica, Leopardskin, Tiger, Camel, Picture, Picasso, Black and Pink Zebra) 7, Labradourite 7, Lapis Lazuli 6, Malachite 4, Obsidian (Brown and Snowflake ) 5.5, Onyx (Black, Red, Honey, Yellow) 7, Opalite 7, Pyrite (Black, Gold) 6, Quartz (White, Rose, Crystal, Blue, Zebra Red, Zebra Blue, Smokey) 7, Rhodonite 7, Rhyolite 5.5, Serpentine 2.5, Sodalite 6, Spectrolite 7, Tiger Eye (Blue, Red, Gold, Multi) 7, Turquoise (African, Chinese) 5-6, Unakite 7, Vesonite 7, Zoisite (Ruby, Green) 6.5.
Each stone also has a luster rating. Luster, or 'lustre', is the appearance of the stone after polishing. This rating is a description of the way that light interacts with the stone's polished surface. Diamond has an Adamantine luster, while Lapis Lazuli has a dull luster. Other stones that we offer may possess some of the following luster descriptions: Opalite - 'Greasy' as the material contains a great abundance of microscopic inclusions. Hematite - 'Metallic' or 'Splendent' has a luster like that of polished metal. Quartz, Calcite and Fluorite - 'Vitreous' having the luster of glass. Jade and Chalcedony - 'Waxy' having a luster resembling wax.
Various gemstones also exhibit optical properties. Goldstone has 'Aventurescence', which is a reflectance effect like that of glitter. This is caused by small, minute, preferentially oriented mineral platelets within the material. Tiger Eye is 'Chatoyant' and displays luminous bands, which seem to move as the specimen is turned. The parallel fibers within the Tiger Eye gemstone are inclusions and fibrous voids which reflect the light into a direction perpendicular to their orientation, forming narrow bands of light. Labradorite is 'Schiller' (German for 'twinkle'). This gemstone and exhibits metallic iridescence from within that occurs when light is reflected between layers.
All gemstones contain inclusions within. Inclusions show on the surface or within the crystal structure as dots, pieces or streaks within the stone. These are caused by another type of material enclosed within the rock structure. Should you ever see a gemstone without inclusions, it is fake, manmade or treated.
Should you be interested in the mining process you can view this video on YouTube:
CUTTING AND POLISHING
Gemstone rough is cut into slices and then shaped for its intented purpose. Grinding wheels and polishing agents are used to grind, shape and polish the stones.
Standard Tiles: 3/8" x 3/8" - 10mm, 1" x 1" - 25mm, 2" x 2" - 51mm, 4" x 4" - 102mm, 8" x 8" - 204mm and 12" x 12" - 305mm (305mm x 305mm).
Solid Tiles: As gemstones are a rare material, solid tiles size and thickness is limited by the rough material dimensions. The maximum size of a solid tile normally is 4" x 4". The maximum size for Malachite is 2" x 2". Finished edges are available. Tile edges are usually chamfered (beveled) slightly to avoid chipping during installation and use.
Mosaic Overlay Tiles: These tiles come in all standard and custom sizes. Mosaics are created in the pattern chosen and then adhered to a base of ceramic, marble, granite, fiberglass, aluminum or mesh. Finished edges are available. Tile edges are usually chamfered (beveled) slightly to avoid chipping during installation and use. Large format tiles are available up to 24" x 24". Mosaic surfaces may be flat, beveled or domed.
The thickness of solid and overlay tiles up to 4" x 4" is approximately 3/8". Larger tiles are typically 1/2" thick. Backings also govern the thickness. Custom listellos and borders in any type of stone or combination are possible. Tile thickness may also be adjusted per your specifications.
Mosaic: Mosaics are laminated to a base of ceramic, marble, granite, aluminum or mesh. Mosaics may be created in many different designs, various sizes and shapes. They may also be domed or beveled. Using a combination of two or more gemstones or a gemstone combined with shell creates material combinations, such as checkerboards or stripes. Mosaics are adhered to the base using epoxy. Mosaics are available with or without a grout joint. The typical sheet size is 12" x 12".
Seamless Sheets: Gemstone sheets may be ordered with a mesh backing. These sheets are blueprint-specific. The maximum size of the sheet is governed by shipping limitations. The standard sheet pattern is squares (block) where the sheets butt joint together. Other patterns have a puzzle edge that fits to the adjoining sheet. Gemstone sheet thickness is approximately 1/8". Sheets may be imported and sent to your local fabrication shop to be backed with the material of your choice, which results in lower shipping costs, or you may apply the sheet directly to a wall or other stable substrate.
Slabs (Wall Panels, Floor Panels, Countertops, Tabletops, Medallions, etc.): Slab backings available are honeycomb aluminum, fiberglass or mesh. We do not offer marble-backed slabs as they tend to break during shipping. The gemstone mosaic is overlayed onto the base using epoxy. The standard slab size is 55" x 98". Custom sizes are available.
Resin-based Tiles and Slabs: The gemstone material is imbedded in resin. Ammonite fossils may be added. Custom sizes are available.
Edge Profiles and Edges: The standard edge is straight. Other edge profiles are created using solid pieces of gemstone or gemstone overlay on marble or fiberglass. One or more edges may be finished on mosaic overlay tiles, borders, backsplashes or slabs.
Backings: Ceramic - wall tile or porcelain. Fiberglass - in the thickness of your choice. Translucent resin - used in backlighting. Honeycomb Aluminum - ultra lightweight and strong.
The main classifications are: Cabochons - stones that are shaped from a slice and are usually domed and polished. Beads and Dots - created from stones that are shaped from small pieces of the rock. Freeform Sculptured Pieces - Leaves and custom shapes created from the rough material. Tumbled - stones which are polished by tumbling. Tiles - which may be solid material or a mosaic glued to a base of porcelain, marble, mesh or honeycomb aluminum. Slabs - a gemstone mosaic overlayed onto a base of marble, mesh or honeycomb aluminum or gemstone imbedded in resin. Sheets - mesh overlayed with mosaic in a seamless manner. Mosaic Sheets - mesh overlayed with mosaic, with or without grout joints.
Cabochons, beads, dots, freeform flat carved pieces and flat carved sculptures are used in conjunction with tile or mosaics to create a more custom installation. They may also be adhered to the front of the surface to give dimension.Tumbled stones may be used in gardens. Metal shapes, glass shapes and even seashell or ceramic tile may be used in combination with a gemstone for a custom installation or mural.
You may view all of these gemstone types by clicking on 'View Images'.
COLOR AND VARIATIONS
Color is the most obvious and attractive feature of gemstones. This difference in color is based on the atomic structure of the stone. As stone is a natural material, no two are exactly alike and great variations may occur from slices of the same rough rock. Variations in shade and color should be expected. Gemstone materials are handmade and not machine made which means that you can expect variations in the size or 'trueness' of the tiles.
Gemstones may be 'manipulated' to change or enhance the color of the gem. We consider this type of treated stone to be inferior to the natural, therefore, we do not offer stones that are color enhanced nor are our stones are not treated with heat or radiation.
Translucent gemstones may be backlit. These stones include: Amethyst, Fluorite, Labradourite, Carnelian (Red Onyx), Quartz (White, Rose, Crystal, Blue, Zebra Red, Zebra Blue, Smokey). Canadian Jade, when sliced to a thickness of 1/8", may be backlit.
Gemstone tiles, mosaics, sheeting and slabs, including murals, are used for floor and wall cladding (both interior and exterior) and are suitable for both residential and commercial installations. Some applicable installation uses are kitchen flooring and backsplashes, swimming pools and spa murals and waterlines, swimming pool cladding, building facades, hotel and motel lobbies, carpets, medallions, borders, countertops, fireplace, spas, fountains, water features, bathroom floors, vanity tops, tub surrounds and showers, elevators, airplanes and yachts. Note: Malachite and Tiger Iron cannot be used in a swimming pool as it leaches metal.
MAKING YOUR SELECTION
When you are ready to buy, it is important that you purchase the right amount of field tile and proper trim pieces at the time of your purchase. We recommend that you buy 10% more tile than you actually need to cover breakage and cuts during installation or to replace a broken tile at a later date. If the design is complex, laid on the diagonal, or will involve an unusual amount of cutting, we recommend ordering 15% + more.
It is good to graph out your installation. Exact measurements and detailed drawings are important for a successful installation. This will help you avoid shortages of material, too few trim pieces, etc. resulting in a delay of your project completion. Larger custom orders may take eight to twelve weeks to arrive. Be sure to plan ahead. The usual turnaround time is typically four to six weeks, if not in stock.
Before hiring a professional stone or tile installer, be sure to ask for references. Good installers carry project portfolios of their work. Be sure to call on their former customers to check on their workmanship, timeliness, cleanliness, courtesy, and price.
DO IT YOURSELF
Good reference installation books are available at the corner Home Depot or Lowe's. Special materials may require the experience and skill of a professional. After spending good money for a quality product, you may not want to take a risk by spoiling it with poor craftsmanship or an inadequate substrate.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
SEALING: Gemstone surfaces should be sealed before installation. We recommend using a high quality sealer. Sealing renders the material water and/or stain resistant. There are two types of sealers: water-based and solvent-based. Be careful that the one you choose does not change the color of your material, giving you a finish that is undesirable. Test a small spot first to be sure you like the results. We recommend sealing before use and re-sealing on a regular basis. Spills of wine or acidic-based liquids should be cleaned up immediately. Fine gemstones are susceptible to the aggressive action of acids and alcohol. Care should be taken to remove spills of fruit juice, lemon, wine or vinegar. The residue of red wine on the base of wine glasses will leave a mark. Colored nail polish or any other solvent or oil-based product will stain the surface, if not wiped up immediately. Sealers should be re-applied as they wear down. Penetrating types merely need a new coat, while surface sealers must be removed before reapplication. Fine gemstone or seashell products should be cleaned as if they were granite or marble.
INSTALLATION: Gemstone materials should be treated as any other marble or granite for installation purposes. We recommend the use of white mortars only, in order to prevent the possibility of bleed through in the seams. Gemstones should be cut using a diamond band wet saw or water jet machine. The use of a standard wet saw will produce less than desirable results on the cut edges. Each piece of gemstone will vary from every other, as it is a natural material. Proper care should be taken in mixing the pieces prior to installation. This will give you a pleasing, natural look. We recommend that you get at least three estimates from qualified installers. Be sure that the prices that they quote are based on the same installation methods and materials.
MAINTENANCE: Gemstones should be treated as any other marble or granite. Once they are sealed, they are simple to maintain. Clean with a stone cleaner. Each situation should be treated as a separate issue. Only the people involved directly with the project should make decisions based on their specific requirements for installation, sealing and maintenance.
ACIDIC CLEANERS: Acidic cleaners will etch and remove the polished surfaces from fine gemstones. Acidic cleaners will eventually erode the grout, making cleaning and maintenance more problematic. This is especially true if using acid cleaners on sanded grout installations. Using acidic cleaners can permanently damage colored grout. Some mistakes can be irreversible, always check labels on any product that you are thinking of using and test an inconspicuous area first for effect.
We do not accept any responsibility or express any warranty on the above information.
All gemstones are used to create murals. Please see the TECHNIQUES section of this site for a complete overview.
To view all of our stones please go to the 'Gemstone' area of our site.