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White and colorless gemstones have been used since ancient times and are among the most common colors for gemstones. Unlike any other gemstone color, white and colorless gemstones blend in beautifully with any outfit, skin tone, metal or occasion. These are stylish, classic gemstones that have a touch of sophistication. Diamonds are the most popular gemstone of this color category, and many other gemstones such as white sapphire, white topaz and zircon, simply serve as diamond substitutes. However, gemstones such as opals, pearls, white jade and moonstone are each unique and beautiful in jewelry.
Here is our list of the top 12 white and colorless gemstones.
Without doubt, the most popularly known and highly-sought after gemstone of all is the colorless diamond. Diamonds have almost taken over the engagement ring market and is among the most prestigious of all gemstones. What makes a diamond so captivating?
There are many answers to this question. For one thing, diamonds are the hardest known natural substance. They virtually cannot be scratched and have the highest hardness rating (10 Mohs). They are also extremely brilliant and when beautifully faceted, are unmatchable in their sparkle. The very term ‘diamond’ has entered the vernacular as a synonym for strength, sparkle and class. However, diamonds are not indestructible. The flip side of being so hard is that diamonds are also very brittle. They can crack or chip if struck with a hard blow. Although not a rare gemstone, diamonds are considered highly valuable. If a mined diamond is not for you, there is a thriving synthetic diamond market that makes it possible for buyers to choose a more affordable, ethical and sustainable choice of diamond.
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White sapphires are often chosen as a more affordable substitute for diamonds. It is the purest form of corundum and occurs when there is no inclusion of trace elements during formation. In small sizes, white sapphires are almost indistinguishable from diamonds, but larger white sapphires can appear milky or even cloudy. They are also not as brilliant and diamonds and tend to be somewhat subdued.
White sapphires are highly durable and very tough. They rank second only to diamonds on the Mohs scale at 9. In fact, sapphires are less brittle than diamonds and therefore tougher. Perhaps the most appealing feature of a white sapphire is its low price-point. You can get a beautiful white sapphire stone at a fraction of the price of a diamond. While white sapphires may play second fiddle to diamonds, they are one of the four cardinal gemstones and are highly valued and precious.
Another popular diamond substitute, white topaz is an abundantly found semi-precious gemstone. While blue topaz is the most valuable, topaz is nature is commonly white. Because topaz is quite brilliant and looks like a diamond, it is often mistaken for one. However, it is not as hard as diamonds (8 Mohs) and nowhere near as expensive. A high-quality white topaz stone is within most people’s budgets.
It’s important to keep white topaz clean and free from dirt and grime, as this will reduce its sparkle and make it appear foggy. You can choose from white to colorless varieties depending on your preferences.
Zircons were possibly the first gemstones used as diamond substitutes, before technology made synthetic versions possible. Even today, white zircon is a popular alternative to diamonds. Unfortunately for zircons, they are often confused with cubic zirconia, a cheap, synthetic diamond simulant.
Zircons have a brilliance and sparkle comparable to diamonds. They have a very high refractive index and are able to reflect light beautifully. Due to this, zircon is always faceted to enhance its brilliance. It can be cut into any gemstone shape. However, zircon ranks at 6 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale and is not very durable. It is also not very tough due to its brittleness and is not resistant to chipping and breaking.
Zircon provides another affordable natural alternative to diamonds.
Agate is found in every color under the sun with white being one of its more popular colors. White agate can be found from near colorless to milky white varieties. White agate is translucent to opaque and has a smooth waxy to vitreous luster. It is quite an attractive gemstone and when set in beautiful jewelry, really stands out. While it does not have the sparkle that most colorless gemstones are known for, white agate has a statement look. It is ideal for costume jewelry, in large necklaces, pendants, earrings and cocktail rings. Agate is abundantly found around the world and as a result, is a very affordable gemstone. It also has very good durability (Mohs 7).
Pearls have a long and glorious history in the jewelry world and have been valued and coveted for centuries. Pearls embody sophistication and elegance and are a staple in most jewelry collections. A member of the small organic gemstone group, pearls form in molluscs and oysters naturally over a period of years. In the past pearls used to be very expensive and only accessible to the wealthy, but with the advent of cultured pearls, these delicate gemstones have become more affordable and abundant.
Pearls possess a stunning iridescence and beautiful overtones. They can be found in a variety of colors, although white pearls are the most well-known. They are quite soft and delicate (2.5 – 4 Mohs) and can easily be damaged. Pearls always cycle in and out of fashion and are currently in high demand.
Moonstones are known for their smooth appearance and attractive sheen. Moonstones make for beautiful jewelry and pair well with any metal color. Some people choose moonstone engagement rings, but this isn’t recommended as it is not a highly durable gemstone (6 to 6.5 Mohs). The stone can easily scratch or get damaged, so reasonable care is required to ensure that the jewelry lasts.
Raw unpolished moonstone is a beautiful way to wear the gemstone, although smooth cabochon-cut moonstones are more common. They are ideal for all styles of jewelry, but are particularly eye-catching when set in bohemian and vintage settings.
The most common type of opals are the white stones, often called milk opals or light opals. This variety of opals have a milky white body and are the most commonly found type of opal. They often contain a beautiful iridescence, known as opalescence. Opals with dark body tones are considered more valuable because they display stronger flashes of color, but white opals can also exhibit many colors. They are usually cut en cabochon to maximize the iridescence and luster of the stone.
Opals are simply stunning natural gemstones, with most of the world’s supply coming from Australia. Opals are vibrant and dynamic, coming alive when touched by light. While opals aren’t recommended in rings unless placed in protective settings, they are suitable for most types of jewelry.
The most well-known color of jade is green, but jade comes in many colors including white. From the two varieties of jade (nephrite and jadeite), jadeite is more valuable and of better quality than nephrite. Nephrite is more commonly found and is quite affordable. Because of jade’s compact structure, it is a very tough stone and due to its relative softness (Mohs 6) it is ideal for carvings, engravings and sculptures. Jade is often cut en cabochon, to show off its smooth and waxy luster but is sometimes faceted for added depth. White jade is quite attractive and perfect for almost all types of jewelry.
Jasper is a variety of chalcedony, which is a type of quartz. Like jade, jasper is very tough and compact in composition, lending itself perfectly for cabochon cuts, carvings and various types of jewelry. Most jasper is translucent to opaque in clarity and often contains dark matrix inclusions and patterns. These are often grey or black in color and are quite desirable as they add character to the stone. Jasper is affordable and plentiful, making it a perfect choice for costume jewelry.
White quartz is a glass-like gemstone that is sometimes used as a diamond substitute. It is also known as rock crystal. White quartz has excellent transparency and is durable enough for regular wear (7 Mohs). Also, it is abundantly found around the world and therefore quite affordable. White quartz is not very brilliant and can sometimes look like a piece of glass. To give the stone some brilliance, it is often given a brilliant cut, like that of diamonds. White quartz is ideal for large fashion jewelry and statement pieces.
If you’ve never heard of goshenite before, you’re not alone. Most shoppers don’t know about this gemstone. However, most people have heard of its famous cousins, emerald, aquamarine and morganite. Goshenite is the colorless variety of the mineral beryl. It is a highly transparent gemstone, often with very few visible inclusions. Like all beryl varieties, goshenite has very good hardness (7.5 to 8 Mohs) and good wearability. It is suitable for all types of jewelry, including rings. While some may choose to use it as a diamond substitute, goshenite is not very brilliant so the difference between it and diamonds is quite apparent. While it lacks the fire and brilliance of diamonds, it is a more affordable choice than diamonds.
Where to Shop White and Colorless Gemstones
Almost every jewelry shop will carry diamonds or diamond simulants. While this makes it easy find, it can make it even more difficult to choose. If shopping for diamonds online, we recommend choosing James Allen as they provide high quality images and videos of the actual diamond as opposed to drawings or diagrams. They also provide the grading report for the stone from reputable gradings labs such as the GIA or AGS. They also offer reasonable prices on their diamonds. For the most brilliant diamond cut to exacting precision, check Brian Gavin Diamonds and Whiteflash.
Amazon has an excellent range of various types of white and colorless gemstone jewelry including loose gemstones. However, you will have to use your judgement and vet the authenticity of the stones on offer.
When shopping for gemstones, always purchase from a reputable and licensed jeweler and check the origin of the stone. Ask about what treatments have been conducted on the stone and where applicable, request a certificate of authenticity. Always take some time to check the genuineness and value of the item, especially if the gemstone you are eyeing is expensive.