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What Are Organic Gemstones? Complete List With Explanation

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The world of gemstones is a fascinating realm where the unexpected often occurs. Among the myriad of precious stones, organic gemstones stand out as a unique and highly sought-after category. What makes them truly remarkable is their origin—they are created by living organisms or from the fossilized remains of once-living beings.

Organic gemstones are materials created by living organisms or their fossilized remains. The most popular organic gemstones are amber, pearl, jet, coral, ammolite, and ivory. There are less common crinoids, mother of pearls, “turritella agate”, sand dollar, and different types of petrified wood.

Consider this: imagine that the gemstone adorning your collection or jewelry piece was once a living organism thriving during the Upper Cretaceous period, between 145 and 66 million years ago. These remarkable specimens lived alongside the dinosaurs and ultimately met their demise at the close of the Mesozoic era. The thought is truly mind-blowing, underscoring the profound connection between the natural world and the treasures it bestows upon us.

Indeed, organic gemstones are repositories of intriguing narratives waiting to be uncovered and shared. Join us as we embark on a journey to explore the captivating tales behind these extraordinary gems.

What Are Organic Gemstones? List of Organic Gemstones
What Are Organic Gemstones? List of Organic Gemstones

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What Are Organic Gemstones?

Organic gemstones are not stones in their classical meaning. Organic material is also beautiful, rare, and durable – which satisfies all three conditions of the gemstone definition. Unlike inorganic gemstones, organic material has no crystal structure. 

Organic gemstones are gems produced by living organisms (both animals and plants, existing or extinct). Organic gemstones can be either created by living organisms (like pearls or amber), or organic gemstones can be fossilized remnants of living organisms or plants (like ammolite and petrified wood).

Organic gemstones have accompanied humans since ancient times. People could easily find shells or pieces of amber on the seaside and use them for decoration.

Later, a man learned how to process materials and began to carve pieces of jewelry. Organic gemstones like coral and ivory (which is a tusk of an elephant, hippopotamus, walrus, or wild boar) were the perfect soft materials for this.

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List of Organic Gemstones

Organic gemstones are pretty common. They can be fossilized living organisms (like ammonite) or part of living organisms (like ivory, bone, or mother of pearls).

There are also organic materials that have been mineralized (replaced and infilled by inorganic materials like chalcedony, opal, calcite, aragonite, and pyrite).

The material itself is not organic; however, it preserves an initial organic structure. For instance, it is petrified wood and fossil coral.

The list of the most common organic gemstones comprises amber, pearl, jet, coral, ammolite, and ivory. It can be expanded with ammonite, mother of pearls, crinoids, “turritella agate”, sand dollar, bones, and different types of petrified wood (opalized wood, peanut wood, petrified palm).

Let’s begin with the most popular organic gemstones:


Amber is the fossilized resin of a coniferous tree of the early Tertiary period (about 70 million years or so). It occurs in a variety of colors. Except for the classical yellow-orange color, amber can be both whitish and almost black.

Because amber forms from sticky tree sap (like pine resin), it tends to trap insects and plant matter within it, which makes unique inclusions.

The most famous amber comes from the Baltic Sea region (Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Denmark, Great Britain, Estonia, Latvia, and Holland). 

Amber has a unique property. It can give off an electric charge if you rub it and produce static electricity. 

TIP: Amber is a very popular gemstone, but it is not so easy to find it in nature. So it is good to know how valuable amber can be if you want to buy it. Check out the complete guide about amber’s value in the article below:
How Much is Amber Worth? Costs per Carat and More!


Natural pearls form in the bodies or mantle tissue of certain mollusks, usually around a microscopic irritant and always without human help of any kind.

Pearls are composed of concentric layers of CaCO₃ and nacre (a special secret) deposited around an irritant inside a mollusk.

Depending on the type of water where the mollusk lives, there are two types of pearls: freshwater and saltwater.

The perfect pearl is round, but it can also come in any abstract shape (baroque). The color of a pearl varies from white, cream, light rose, cream rose, black, gray, bronze, blue, dark blue, green, dark green, purple, yellow, and violet.

Natural pearls are quite rare now and are quite expensive, so the Gemological Institute of America created a comprehensive standard (a very similar approach to the Diamond 4C standard) called The GIA 7 Pearl Value Factors.

Pearl is graded based on its Size, Shape, Color, Luster, Surface, Nacre, and Matching.


Natural Jet (Organic Gemstone)
Natural Jet (Organic Gemstone)

Jet is a type of lignite (a variety of bituminous coal). It is a soft, black, opaque stone that can take on a very high mirror polish. It is probably the only organic gemstone that can be cut and polished.

Because of jet opacity and high mirror polish, it’s hard to differentiate it from inorganic gemstones at first glance. However, only one action will help you understand that this is an organic gemstone. Like amber, it can feel warm to the touch. 

Jet is a product of the high-pressure decomposition of wood that grew millions of years ago. It is found in two forms: a hard jet is the result of carbon compression and salt water, and a soft jet is derived from freshwater.

This intriguing gemstone was popular in Victorian England and used in mourning jewelry. Jet is very soft, with a ranking of 2.5 to 4 on the Mohs scale. Another unique characteristic is when a jet is heated up, it will give off a smell like coal.


A coral is the skeletal remains of a colony of tiny animals called coral polyps. The term coral can refer to the marine animal and the material produced from their skeletal remains.

The sclera is the hard skeleton left behind by the coral polyps, and it can be used as a gem material.

Pink-to-red coral has a long history as an ornamental gem material in jewelry, carvings, and sculptures.

However, due to a variety of environmental and legal factors, the supply of high-quality, natural-color coral in this color range has dramatically decreased in recent years — and the quantity of dyed coral on the market has increased.

Mother of pearl 

Mother of pearl (also known as nacre) is an iridescent inner shell layer produced by some mollusks. A pearl, on the other hand, is formed by layers of nacre, but the mother of pearls is nacre.  

A mollusk’s shell can be big enough so pieces of mother of pearl can reach up to dozens of centimeters and can be used to create cameos, beads, cabochons, carvings, and figurines.

TIP: Do you know what gemstones come from the ocean? You might be surprised, so check out the article below and find out more:
Which Gemstones Come From The Ocean? Corals, Pearls, & more!


Ammolite is the trade name referring to gems cut from fossilized ammonite, an extinct group of marine invertebrates.

Gem-quality ammolite produces a spectacular display of iridescent color when it is observed in reflected light. The color display is compatible with fine opal and labradorite in its intensity and beauty.

The most beautiful samples of ammolite can be found along the east side of the Rocky Mountains.


Ivory is derived from the teeth and tusks of animals. It’s not the same as bone or horn. There are a few varieties of ivory:  

  • Mammoth ivory
  • Elephant Ivory
  • Walrus Ivory
  • Hippopotamus Ivory
  • Narwhal Ivory
  • Sperm Whale Ivory
  • Warthog Tusks
  • Wild Boar Tusks

Because of the devastating impact of poaching due to the ivory trade, the importation and sale of such materials are severely restricted or banned in many countries.

Where to Buy Organic Gemstones?

Organic gemstones are quite popular, widespread, and affordable, so you can easily add them to your collection.

Natural organic gemstones are easy to buy, even on the Internet. They are rarely fake, so you are safe while buying online. However, it’s better to buy amber, coral, and pearls only from responsible sellers. Pearls need special attention, as natural pearls’ price can rival the price of diamonds.

Additionally, it is a good practice to ask for a certificate when buying pearls.

TIP: Almost all gemstones mentioned above are quite valuable, so you can earn a lot of money by selling them. If you want to know how to start making money by selling gemstones, check out the guide below:
Ultimate Guide: Making Money by Selling Rocks & Minerals

FAQ About Organic Gemstones

I still have not found the answer to your questions about organic gemstones. Find frequently asked questions in the section below:

Are Diamonds Organic or Inorganic?

Diamonds are inorganic gemstones. They were formed deep beneath the earth due to high temperatures and tremendous pressure without any living organisms involved. Diamonds have a definite crystal structure, so even if they are composed of carbon, they are inorganic gemstones.

Is Stone Organic or Inorganic?

A stone, in its classical meaning, is inorganic. Quartzites or limestones are the most common stones you see on the road or in your backyard. They are composed of quartz and calcite minerals, respectively. Classical gemstones like diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires are also inorganic.

What are Organic Crystals?

Organic materials seldom form crystals in the typical manner seen in minerals like quartz. However, from a scientific standpoint, there are exceptions, one being kidney stones, also known as renal calculi, nephrolithiasis, or urolithiasis. These stones develop internally within human bodies and are thus classified as organic crystals.

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Organic gemstones, such as pearls and amber, originate from living organisms or plants. Additionally, they can include fossilized organisms like ammonites or coral. Unlike their inorganic counterparts, organic gemstones lack defined crystalline structures.

While inorganic gemstones typically share characteristics such as warmth to the touch and relatively low hardness (2-3 on the Mohs scale), this rule doesn’t apply to fossilized organic gemstones. Instead, their hardness corresponds to the minerals with which they are filled.

Organic gems are highly sought after by mineral collectors. While some, like petrified wood or jet, are readily available for purchase online, others are more rare and expensive.

It’s essential to exercise caution when purchasing organic gemstones, as there are many imitations on the market. Pearls, amber, and corals, in particular, are often counterfeited. Always request a certificate of authenticity, especially when buying pearls, to ensure you’re getting a genuine product.

TIP: Organic gemstones can be often found on the beach. Do you know what the most common rocks you can find on the beach are? Find out the most common beach rocks in the article below:
25 Most Common Rocks on the Beach: How & Where to Find Them?