Traditional gems are thought to refer to all stones used in jewelry and adornments from antiquity to the end of the 18th century. Although the expertise of the size is fairly subjective over this relatively long period (often in cabochon or partially faceted cut), the populations are more attached to the colors that the gems can give than to the brightness of the stone due to a more in-depth control of gem cutting.
These stones are mostly correlated with the four most valuable gemstones: diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. Other stones that had previously been labeled "non-precious" were discovered and highly sought during this period. Amethyst, a well-known stone among Europeans, has made a name for itself among the stones used by Western societies. Its violet color, favored by the church for its symbolism, resilience, and presence in European deposits, made it possible to support its introduction into jewelry early on. Other gems include red spinel, which resembles ruby, and peridot, which has a Mediterranean olive-green hue. Other stones from the established mineralogical families are used, such as yellow topaz, red garnets (including pyrope and almandine), red zircon, moonstone, opal, or even aquamarine, which belongs to the beryl family (just like the emerald).
Given the lack of precision instruments to authenticate the mineralogical origin of a stone, mistakes in the identification of such gems have occurred throughout history. Among the oldest uses of gems, we usually find ornamental stones, which are a variety of opaque gems used in jewelry and furniture decoration. Lapis lazuli, carnelian, and malachite are the most well-known and used by ancient civilizations.