The Complete Guide to Gemstone Durability: Understanding Mohs Ratings and Wearability

Understanding the Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness

diagram of Mohs scale for gemstone hardness

The Mohs scale is a widely used measure of a mineral's resistance to scratching. It ranges from 1 (being the softest and most vulnerable) to 10 (being the hardest and most durable).

Here's a breakdown of the Mohs ratings of some popular gemstones:

  1. Very Soft - a fingernail can scratch it (e.g., Talc)
  2. Soft (e.g. Gypsum, Pearls)
  3. Soft - a copper coin can scratch it  (e.g., Calcite, Coral)
  4. Medium - a knife can scratch it  (e.g., Fluorite)
  5. Medium-Hard (e.g., Apatite, Turquoise)
  6. Medium-Hard - steel can scratch it (e.g., Tanzanite, Feldspar - Moonstone, Opal)
  7. Hard - It will scratch glass (e.g.Tourmaline, Peridot, Garnet, Amethyst, Quartz)
  8. Harder (e.g., Topaz, Emerald, Aquamarine, Spinel)
  9. Harder - Corundum, Rubies and Sapphires 
  10. Very Hard/Hardest (e.g., Diamond)

Various Gemstones and Their Wearability

1. Diamond (Mohs 10):

wide band diamond ringsmulti diamond leaf branch necklace in 14K solid yellow gold
- Known for its exceptional hardness and durability for diamond jewelry in general, the diamond is the top choice for engagement rings and everyday wear. Its resistance to scratching makes it ideal for jewelry that sees frequent use.

2. Sapphire (Mohs 9):

wide band sapphire flower ring
- Sapphire, the birthstone of September, is prized for its vibrant colors and remarkable toughness. It ranks just below diamond on the Mohs scale, making it an excellent choice for engagement rings and other sapphire jewelry.

3. Ruby (Mohs 9):

wide band ruby flower ring in 14K white gold
- Like sapphire, ruby is a variety of corundum with a Mohs rating of 9. Its rich red color and durability make it a popular choice for fine jewelry, especially in rings and pendants.

4. Emerald (Mohs 7.5-8):

Stack of 3 wide band emerald rings in 14K solid yellow gold
- Emeralds are known for their stunning green color and are a symbol of rebirth and love. While slightly less durable than sapphire and ruby, emeralds can still withstand everyday wear with proper care.

5. Tourmaline (Mohs 7-7.5):

8 tourmaline necklaces in 14K Solid gold on a white background
-Tourmaline is a gem that has gained intense popularity over the last decade and has increased exponentially in value. It is also unique in that it displays a greater range of color than any other gemstone and can be strongly pleochroic (meaning “many colors”). This means tourmaline can display different colors in the same stone due to unequal absorption of light by the mineral in different directions. Tourmaline jewelry can be some of the most colorful.

6. Opal (Mohs 5.5-6.5):

opal jewelry layout
- Opals are prized for their iridescent play-of-color and unique beauty. However, they are relatively soft compared to other gemstones, making them more prone to scratching and damage. Extra care is needed when wearing opal jewelry.

Clarity Enhancements

- Natural: Gemstones that are free from enhancements and alterations are considered natural. These gemstones may have natural imperfections, but they are valued for their authenticity and unique characteristics.

- Enhanced: Many gemstones undergo clarity enhancements to improve their appearance or durability. Common enhancements include heat treatment, irradiation, and fracture filling. While these treatments can enhance a gemstone's beauty, it's essential to disclose any enhancements to consumers.

Choosing the Right Gemstone for Your Jewelry

various colored tourmaline gemstones in a white box

When selecting gemstone jewelry, consider factors such as durability, hardness, and any clarity enhancements to ensure your pieces stand the test of time. Whether you opt for the timeless brilliance of diamond, the vibrant hues of sapphire and ruby, or the captivating beauty of emerald and amethyst, understanding the Mohs scale and clarity enhancements can help you make informed choices that suit your style and lifestyle.

With this informative guide at your disposal, you can knowledgably explore the world of gemstone jewelry and select pieces that bring joy and beauty to your life for years to come.