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What is Biogenic gems?

When gemmologists talk about biogenic gems, they are referring to gem materials that are (or were) produced by living organisms.

It can be seen in many textbooks and references that until only recently, the word "organics" was the term used for gem materials with an essentially biological origin and included material that had undergone a geological process, e.g., amber, ammolite and jet. The term 'organic' can also have other meanings such as in chemistry, or more applied widely even in the food industries. To clarify and remove any ambiguity from a trade term used to classify products in the jewellery industry, the term 'Biogenic' was agreed by CIBJO to refer to any gem material derived from living organisms that basically relates to a biological origin. The term organic is still maintained in part, but used for gem materials that are composed of organic matter or organic molecules as defined in chemistry. As you continue your studies, you will learn groupings and the fascinating use of a wide variety of biogenic and organic substances that are used as gem materials.

Different types of biogenic gems

Probably the best known are pearls and mother-of-pearl which are produced in molluscs, namely the so-called pearl oysters. Others include amber which is the fossilised resin from a tree and jet, a fine black material once believed to be fossilised wood. Various types of decorative shell have also been used in jewellery and decorative arts.

A group of natural pearls showing some of the many colours they can occur in. © Photo Jack Ogden. Gem-A
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