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A Brief Guide to Crystals, Gemstones, and Minerals|woman holding crystal|gemstones|coal|crystals

Health & Wellness

What Are the Key Differences Between Crystals, Gemstones, and Minerals?

The terms crystal, gemstone, and mineral are often used interchangeably. This is a common phenomenon that is becoming ingrained in social lingo, but it’s important to start differentiating them. In some cases, the terms are used incorrectly and can lead to odd or unfair expectations.

This guide sheds light on the textbook definitions of each term, as well as the main differences between these three categories.

woman holding crystal

What Is a Crystal?

Crystals are a type of mineral that is only created in a specific set of environmental conditions. If the conditions aren't right, the crystal isn't going to form.

In general, crystals are noted for being a scientifically-proven batch of atoms. 1 These atoms come together in the right conditions, which leads to the formation of uniquely-shaped crystals. Each crystal is going to have its own distinct characteristics, whether it has to do with the overall shape or size. The most common type of crystal known to people would be the cube-shaped variation created using salt. However, this is just one type of crystal, as there are other elements that create differently shaped variations.

For example, a person may be aware of rubes or diamonds as being renowned crystals. In fact, according to modern research, each element doesn't lead to one cookie-cutter shape. Instead, some elements are able to bring together completely different shapes.


What Is a Gemstone?

Moving onto the gemstone, this is a high-value rock or mineral. Please note, gemstones aren't always minerals and can be organics (pearls and amber) too.

The sole premise of a gemstone is to select a specific mineral/organic and use it for beauty purposes. For example, if there was a group of minerals, you would select the most beautiful ones and use them as a way to convey beauty. The best versions are handpicked for their appearance and general durability. 2

Most people will recognize this term in the world of jewelry. Gemstones are often seen as parts of rings or necklaces depending on the design.


What Is a Mineral?

A mineral is perhaps the foundation of Earth as a whole. It is a part of the Earth's underlying physical composition and comes in various forms. It is naturally created and will come with a particular chemical composition and physical appearance. Some people may know of minerals such as gold, silver, and diamond.

Differences Between Crystals, Gemstones, and Minerals

Order of Magnitude

To understand the intricacies between crystals, gemstones, and minerals it's best, to begin with, the order of magnitude.

If there was an evolutionary scale setup with these three terms, minerals would come first followed by crystals, and then gemstones. Minerals are the core element in this list and can be used as a descriptor for various natural elements, including gemstones and crystals. Therefore, in terms of the order, minerals are a foundational piece in comparison to the others.

Crystals come in second place because they're used in various settings and come in various shapes/sizes while gemstones are only used for human adornment (i.e. necklaces, bracelets, earrings). This puts them at the bottom of the totem pole if a ranking were to be put together.

By understanding the order of magnitude, it becomes a lot easier to pinpoint where each term goes and how it should be used while speaking about various assets.



Minerals are used in all walks of life, and there are so many different variations at play around planet Earth. For example, a mineral can be something as simple as gold but can also be as complex as calcite and monazite. The list is long when it comes to minerals, but that's why it is termed as a foundational block of natural life.

With crystals, the use is going to vary based on the shape and size. Crystals are used for a number of things, and one of them would be healing. While there are various reports about what works and what does not, crystals do have a spot in this particular niche. However, crystals are also seen in other niches including watchmaking, construction, and manufacturing.

Gemstones are the smallest of the three in terms of their potential uses. Gemstones are generally used in jewelry and therefore don't have an extended use compared to the others.


In terms of appearance, minerals are going to have the most variation as there are so many different types. This means the shape, size, texture, and every other detail can vary and still be termed as a mineral.

For crystals, the variation is often seen based on the element that is used to combine the atoms. This leads to different shapes, sizes, and appearances.

Gemstones are all about appearances because the goal is to find something that is ideal for human adornment. Whether it has to do with beautiful colors, shapes, or sizes, everything about gemstones is about attractiveness.


While the terms continue to get misused, the distinction between crystals, gemstones, and minerals is important to make. The value of a mineral is not the same as the value of a gemstone. It is these difference that can go a long way in determining the value of something and what it means as an asset. By having all of this information, the differences become easier to spot.

Photo credits: Kanea/, CHAINFOTO24/, small smiles/, MonikaWisniewska/

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