Gemstone, any of various minerals highly prized for beauty, durability, and rarity. A few noncrystalline materials of organic origin (e.g., pearl, red coral, and amber) also are classified as gemstones.
Gemstones have attracted humankind since ancient times, and have long been used for jewellery. The prime requisite for a gem is that it must be beautiful. The beauty may lie in colour or lack of colour; in the latter case, extreme limpidity and “fire” may provide the attraction. Iridescence, opalescence, asterism (the exhibition of a star-shaped figure in reflected light), chatoyance (the exhibition of a changeable lustre and a narrow, undulating band of white light), pattern, and lustre are other features that may make a gemstone beautiful. A gem must also be durable if the stone is to retain the polish applied to it and withstand the wear and tear of constant handling.