There are several naturally occurring gemstones that are white in color. Some of the most popular and sought-after white gemstones include diamonds, pearls, moonstone, white sapphire, white topaz, white beryl, and white zircon. In this article, we will discuss these gemstones in more detail, looking at their properties, origins, and uses in jewelry.
Diamonds are by far the most popular and valuable white gemstone. Diamonds are made of pure crystalline carbon and are the hardest known natural material. Most diamonds form deep underground over billions of years under immense heat and pressure. Diamonds are brought close to the earth’s surface through volcanic eruptions of kimberlite pipes.
Diamonds are graded on the 4Cs – Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat. The best quality diamonds are colorless, with little to no impurities. These diamonds allow maximum light reflection and refraction, resulting in exceptional brilliance and fire.
As the hardest natural material, diamonds are unmatched in their wearability and longevity as gemstones. Diamonds are frequently used in fine jewelry pieces like engagement rings. The strength and sparkle of diamonds make them the ideal centerpiece gemstone.
Pearls are the only gemstones that come from a living creature – oysters and mollusks. Natural pearls form when an irritant like a grain of sand or parasite makes its way into an oyster or mollusk shell. As a defense mechanism, the animal secretes layers of nacre around the irritant, resulting in a lustrous pearl over several years.
Cultured pearls form through the same process, but with humans manually inserting an irritant into the mollusk rather than it entering naturally. Akoya, South Sea, Tahitian, and Freshwater are the main types of pearls used in jewelry.
Pearls have a soft iridescent luster and smooth surface. They are known for their classic, elegant look. Pearls need special care because their nacre coating can be damaged by chemicals and abrasions. They are popular in necklaces, earrings, rings, and bracelets.
|Akoya||2mm – 10mm||White to cream||High|
|South Sea||8mm – 20mm||White to golden||High|
|Tahitian||8mm – 16mm||Black to grey||High|
|Freshwater||5mm – 13mm||White to pink||Medium to high|
Moonstone is a feldspar mineral that exhibits an optical phenomenon called adularescence. This causes moonstone to display a milky-blue shimmering effect that shifts with the angle of viewing.
Moonstone rates 6.5 – 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness. While relatively durable, moonstones should be protected from hard knocks and abrasions. Deposits of moonstone are found in Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, and the United States.
The inspirational and protective properties of moonstone give it spiritual significance in many cultures. It is traditionally a birthstone for June. Moonstone is popular in rings, pendants, earrings, and bracelets. Cabochon cuts and smooth polished surfaces best display moonstone’s adularescence.
Sapphire is a precious gemstone variety of the mineral corundum. It occurs in a spectrum of colors, with blue being the most famous. But sapphires also naturally form in white and colorless shades.
White sapphires have the same chemical composition and crystal structure as blue sapphires and rubies. White sapphires rate 9 on the Mohs scale, making them very durable and ideal for all types of jewelry.
Sapphires form deep in the earth’s crust and reach the surface through volcanic eruptions. Well-known sources of white sapphire include Sri Lanka, Thailand, Australia, and Montana. White sapphires exhibit exceptional brilliance, hardness, and rarity. They are more affordable than white diamonds.
Topaz is an aluminum silicate mineral that forms in highly varied colors. While blue topaz is the most popular, topaz also forms naturally white. White topaz ranks 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making suitable for jewelry use.
Topaz forms deep in pegmatite rocks and granite. Significant deposits have been found in Brazil, Pakistan, Russia, Australia, and the United States. Top-quality white topaz features exceptional clarity and transparency.
As a more affordable alternative to diamond, white topaz is very popular for engagement rings and other white jewelry. The sparkling brilliance of white topaz resembles diamond at a fraction of the cost. Heat treatments and coatings are often used to improve the white color.
Beryl is a mineral family that includes gems like emerald and aquamarine. The pure crystallized beryl is known as goshenite and has a white colorless appearance. Goshenite rates 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs hardness scale.
Goshenite forms in granite pegmatites and mica schists in Pakistan, Brazil, Madagascar, and the United States. It has exceptional clarity but lacks the brilliance of diamonds. While still rare, goshenite is one of the more affordable gemstone options.
Goshenite works nicely in jewelry when set with diamonds or colored gems. It has an understated elegance and often exhibits a slightly bluish tinge. Goshenite is finding increased popularity for engagement rings and bridal jewelry.
Zircon is a natural mineral that forms tetragonal crystals and exhibits high dispersion. While many colors of zircon exist, the white varieties are arguably the most popular. White zircon has exceptional fire and brilliance due to its high refractive index.
Natural zircon rates between 6 – 7.5 on the Mohs scale. The best deposits are found in Australia, but also Cambodia, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. White zircon looks similar to diamond but costs a fraction of the price.
However, unlike diamond, white zircon is susceptible to damage from abrasion and chemicals. It is best suited for earrings, necklaces, and cocktail rings rather than daily-wear pieces. Heat treatment can be used to improve the color and clarity of white zircon gems.
Summary Table of Key White Gemstones
|Pearl||2.5 – 4.5||Mollusks||Silky to pearly|
|Moonstone||6.5 – 7||Mined||Vitreous to pearly|
|White Beryl||7.5 – 8||Mined||Vitreous|
|White Zircon||6 – 7.5||Mined||Adamantine|
There are several naturally occurring white gemstones used in jewelry. Diamonds are the most prized, but white sapphire, white topaz, moonstone, pearl, white beryl, and white zircon also make beautiful white gems. While not as durable or brilliant as diamond, these white stones offer more affordable alternatives. They exhibit their own unique properties, sources, and looks. Overall, the availability of naturally white gems provides exceptional choice for white jewelry.