A gemstone or gem (also called a precious or semi-precious stone) is a piece of attractive mineral, which—when cut and polished—is used to make jewelry or other adornments. However certain rocks, (such as lapis-lazuli) and organic materials (such as amber or jet) are not minerals, but are still used for jewelry, and are therefore often considered to be gemstones as well.
Most gemstones are hard, but some soft minerals are used in jewelry because of their lustre or other physical properties that have aesthetic value.
Rarity is another characteristic that lends value to a gemstone. Apart from jewelry, from earliest antiquity until the 19th century engraved gems and hardstone carvings such as cups were major luxury art forms; the carvings of Carl Fabergé were the last significant works in this tradition.