Gemstones Gemstones and Birthstones

What are the ‘big 4’ gemstones, and why are they most popular?

While there are many gemstones jewellery pieces on offer – four big names stand out for their beauty, rarity, and their rich history. Known as the ‘Big 4’. These gemstones – diamond, ruby, sapphire, and emerald – are the most popular with jewellery lovers, and have been for centuries. Let’s get into why these four gems are so loved, and the meaning behind them.


Diamonds, the hardest natural substance known to man, has unmatched brilliance and durability. Historically, they were believed to offer protection and strength in battle, symbolising invincibility. Beyond their physical beauty, diamonds have come to represent eternal love and commitment, making them the ultimate choice for engagement rings and wedding bands. Their appeal lies in their unique ability to reflect and refract light, creating a beautiful rainbow display of sparkle with every movement.


Rubies, with their deep red hue, symbolise passion and love, making rubies well-loved for their emotional resonance as well as their rarity. Rubies are corundum minerals, like sapphires, but it’s the presence of chromium that gives them their iconic red colour. The most prized rubies come from Myanmar (formerly Burma), due to their deep, blood red colour. The combination of their beauty, hardness, and their meaning has cemented rubies’ position in the ‘Big 4’ – and makes them a very popular choice for anniversary jewellery.


Sapphires are loved for their rich blue tones, though they can come in almost every colour of the rainbow. Traditionally, sapphires symbolise nobility, truth, and sincerity, so it’s no surprise royalty have loved them for centuries. Probably the most famous sapphire in recent history is the engagement ring of Princess Diana, now worn by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. This gemstone – as well as being beautiful and unique – is said to attract blessings and wisdom to its wearer, making it a popular jewellery piece to gift.


Emeralds are cherished for their deep green colour. Emeralds have been linked to fertility and rebirth, while the natural green hue has connotations of nature, symbolising renewal and growth. While emeralds are softer and more prone to inclusions than the other ‘Big 4’ gemstones, their unique imperfections add to their character and allure.

The ‘Big 4’ gemstones dominate the world of fine jewellery for several reasons:

  • Rarity and value: These gemstones are relatively rare, especially in high-quality forms, which adds to their desirability and value.
  • Durability: Diamonds, rubies, and sapphires, in particular, score highly on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, making them ideal for everyday wear.
  • Historical significance: Each of these gemstones has a rich history, imbued with symbolism and adorned by royalty, which adds to their mystique and appeal.
  • Versatility: The ‘Big 4’ can be featured in a wide range of jewellery pieces and styles, from vintage to contemporary, enhancing their popularity across generations.

Find the gemstone piece that speaks to you

Whether you love the classic gemstones, or want something a little more unique, browse our selection of gemstone jewellery, here.