Can You Tell What Stone This Is From a Photo?

By: Jacqueline Samaroo
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Can you tell amethyst from sapphire or granite from quartz with just a single glance? Know the difference between sandstone and limestone, or marble and basalt? Take our quiz to see if you have what it takes to identify all of these stones from just a single photo!

In a world where things are always changing, and so many products are deemed "fast" or disposable, there's something comforting about the permanence of one of nature's oldest and most durable materials. From rocks to stones, crystals and gemstones, materials produced by Mother Nature herself offer a dependability and longevity not found in many plastics or synthetics. 

Of course, it only makes sense that stones should endure when you consider how long it takes to make them! Over millions or billions of years, various minerals in the Earth combine and harden over time, forming the objects we know as granite, diamond and other rocks and stones. The unique combination and composition of these minerals give the stones their appearance and properties, from shine and reflectivity to hardness and chemical resistance. This is why a ruby looks different from an emerald, and why granite makes for ideal kitchen countertops. 

With so many combinations of minerals making up different rocks and stones, it can be tough to tell one from another. Think you're up for the challenge? Take this quiz to find out!

While most people identify the color blue with sapphires, this beautiful gemstone is actually found in several different colors. Coming in right after diamond on the Mohs scale of hardness, sapphire is actually the second hardest substance on earth.

Turquoise is a precious gemstone that can range from being largely transparent to being almost completely opaque. This gemstone – which has been used for thousands of years – can be found in the colors green or sky-blue; and a range of colors in between these two.

While rubies are commonly thought to be simply red, they can actually cover a wide range of shades of red – from being brownish-red to even brighter shades like pinkish-red and orangey-red. A star ruby is a unique type of ruby that gets its name from a distinct six-rayed star that shimmers over the surface of the gemstone.

Chalk is actually a form of limestone that is formed from the mineral known as calcite. Chalk has historically been used for a wide variety of purposes, including writing, tailoring, recreation, agriculture and construction.

Actual onyx is oftentimes confused with onyx marble, a name that is attributed to a type of limestone. Onyx is characterized by its black and white banded coloration – it has a black base and a white upper layer with parallel banding.

Rubies are commonly considered to be one of the most highly valued gemstones all around the world. In fact, it is so prized and iconic that in some cases rubies can be seen fetching higher prices than diamonds of similar size.

Tanzanite is a gemstone that was just recently discovered in 1967 in northern Tanzania (where the stone gets its name). Additionally, tanzanite can only be found in this location and so as a result, it is one of the most expensive gemstones in the world.

Classified as a sedimentary rock, limestone is made up of primarily the skeletal remains of various marine organisms; such as mollusks and coral. Limestone accounts for approximately 10% of all sedimentary rocks in the world and it has been used in things like paint and toothpaste.

Quartzite is a metamorphic rock that – true to its name – is actually almost completely composed of quartz. However, what makes quartzite special is the fact that it is created when quartz-rich sandstone is acted upon by intense pressure and heat over a prolonged period of time.

Spinel is an attractive gemstone that has been utilized for centuries. As a result of its beauty and its wide range of colors (blue, yellow, orange, black, brown, pink, red, etc.), spinel has actually been mistaken for other gemstones – like sapphires and rubies – in the past.

Amethyst is an extremely valuable and precious gemstone that belongs to the quartz group of minerals. Amethyst's beauty and popularity have earned it the status of being the official birthstone of the month of February. The iconic purple-like coloration of the gemstone is actually due to aluminum and iron impurities.

Granite is a light-colored igneous rock that actually has grains that are large enough to be visible with the unaided eye. Granite is composed mainly of quartz and feldspar with minor amounts of mica, amphiboles and other minerals.

Tourmaline is a distinctive gemstone that can be found in virtually all colors of the rainbow. As a result of this wide range of color availability, tourmaline is often considered by many to be one of the most versatile gemstones on the market today.

The term quartz can refer to the gemstone itself or the mineral that makes up said gemstone. The mineral quartz is actually the second most abundant mineral that can be found in the continental crust of the Earth. Quartz is fairly durable and also relatively inexpensive.

Topaz is a gemstone that is notable for the fact that when it is in its true pure form it is actually colorless. The wide variations in color that people observe in different types of topaz is as a result of impurities in the makeup of the gemstone itself.

Well known around the world as being the hardest naturally occurring substance on Earth, diamonds are also actually quite possibly the most popular gemstone all around the world as well. Diamonds can come in a variety of colors; from the usual white diamonds to rarer colorations like red.

For decades now, Mexico has consistently been the world’s primary source of fire opals. These gemstones are relatively delicate due to the fact that they have an exceptionally high water content (sometimes as much as 20 percent).

Moonstone is notable for the distinctive sheen that it shows under certain lighting conditions, and it is this magical, bluish-white shimmer that gives the gemstone its name – because it was thought to resemble the moon. As a result of this, moonstone is one of the most attractive and sought-after gemstones on the market today.

Jadeite is actually one of the only two types of pure jade that have been discovered today and it is actually the rarer of the two as well. The most valuable and sought-after form of jadeite is the distinctive emerald green jadeite that is more commonly referred to as imperial jadeite.

Pearls are unique for being considered what is known as an “organic gemstone." This classification comes directly from the fact that pearls are actually formed by oysters, mussels and other shelled mollusks. In actuality, natural pearls are very rare and expensive but “cultured” pearls are popular alternatives as well.

Often mined for use as a construction material or as a raw material used in manufacturing, sandstone is actually one of the most common types of sedimentary rock and is found in sedimentary basins throughout the world. As the name suggests, it consists of sand-sized grains of minerals, organic materials and rocks.

Like most other “star” named gemstones, the star sapphire is a rare variety of sapphire that exhibits a rare asterism under specific lighting. The attractiveness of this gemstone is accentuated by the fact that the star shape actually appears to float across the gemstone when viewing perspectives change.

As a result of its coloration, attractiveness and durability, slate is actually often used as a material for flooring and roofing of buildings. The most common colors of slate are a range of shades from light to dark gray; however, this stone can also be found in green, red, brown, black and purple.

As a gemstone, amber is notable for the fact that it is included on the short list of known organic gemstones in the world today. This organic classification comes from the fact that amber is actually the fossilized resin from the pine tree.

Bloodstone is a dark-green opaque form of chalcedony quartz. The name of the stone has been assumed to be derived from the red bloodlike spots that are speckled all over the gemstone. The origins of the gemstone are thought by many Christians to be jasper that was stained by the dripping blood of Jesus as he was crucified.

Very few gems have a metallic luster; however, one of the best known ones is hematite, an iron-based mineral that is quite often used for ornamental purposes. In fact, hematite is actually iron oxide that gets its name from the Greek word for blood because it is red when sliced thinly or powdered.

As the names suggests, aquamarine is a green-blue to pure blue gemstone. Aquamarine has been officially recognized as the birthstone of March. It is a little known fact that aquamarine and emerald are part of the same family of gemstones.

Perhaps the thing that alexandrite is most famous for is the fact that its color changes from green in daylight to red under incandescent light. In fact, alexandrite that is over 1 carat is oftentimes more valuable than sapphire, ruby or emerald.

Many people around the world have nicknamed fluorite as the “most colorful mineral in the world”, as a result of its wide range of colors that include but are not limited to: orange, purple, blue, brown, pink, and yellow.

Beryl is one of the most notable gemstone groups, and although it is abundant in mineral form, it rarely occurs with transparent gem-quality material. Transparent specimens of beryl are often referred to as "precious beryl." The most famous members of the beryl family are green emerald and blue aquamarine.

Usage of the gemstone agate goes back to maybe more than 3000 years ago, where it was utilized by the Egyptians. However, what is not widely known is that agate is actually a type of quartz that can be distinguished by its bands of color.

Verdite is a metamorphic rock that is prized for its relative lack of hardness – so it can be used easily for inlay work. Verdite comes in colorations that vary from dark green to light green and any shades that occur in between.

Smoky quartz is one of the few gemstones that occurs in dark brown or black tones while still providing a very multifaceted sheen when cut. Some sellers have (dishonestly) marketed smoky quartz as smoky topaz in an effort to mark up the price on uninformed consumers.

While some fraudulent gemstone sellers sometimes try to pass of simple colored glass as precious gemstones, obsidian is actually glass that is prized as a valuable and attractive gemstone! Obsidian is formed by the intense heat and pressure of volcanic activity.

The cat’s eye aquamarine is named for the optical effect of a white slit that seems to be reflected on its surface – a phenomenon that resembles a cat’s eye. Cat’s eye aquamarine is actually simply a green-blue beryl that has this effect presented.

Malachite is often characterized by its distinctive concentric bands that appear in varying shades of green, which make it a popular gemstone around the world. Malachite is a green copper carbonate mineral that is primarily found – in modern times – in Africa.

Sunstone gets its name from its unusual spangled or glittery appearance that makes the gemstone seem to shimmer and almost glow in the light. The metallic glitter is caused by tiny platelets of hematite or goethite and it is usually gold or red, but sometimes even green or blue.

Opal is a gem-quality form of hydrated amorphous silicon dioxide. Its name is derived from the Sanskrit word for "stone." Opals can be divided into three main subgroups: precious opal, fire opal and common opal.

Marble is a metamorphic rock that forms when limestone is subjected to the heat and pressure of metamorphism. Marble occurs in large deposits that can be hundreds of feet thick and geographically extensive. This allows it to be economically mined on a large scale, with some mines and quarries producing millions of tons per year.

Basalt is the most widespread of all igneous rocks, and comprises more than 90% of all volcanic rocks. Many moon rocks brought back by Apollo astronauts are actually of basaltic composition! Its colors usually range from black to dark gray.

Some gemstones are classified as collector's stones because they are too soft, too brittle or too rare for the jewelry market – calcite is one such gemstone. Calcite can be used as an accessory but usually only in jewelry that won't be subjected to knocks or scratches, such as earrings and pendants.

Although it comes in many types, when people refer to chrysoberyl they are most likely referring to a common variety, which is a transparent to translucent form that is colored by iron – typically occuring in shades of yellow to light-green.

Apatite is a very common mineral, but finding transparent gemstone-quality apatite is extremely rare. Regardless, as a result of the fact that apatite occurs in such a wide variety of attractive colors and forms, it is a favorite among gemstone collectors.

Sodalite is a mineral that is named for its prominent sodium content. As a gemstone, sodalite is usually deep blue, often with a violet tint, and frequently contains white veins of calcite. Sodalite is popular for its rich royal blue color, but it may also be gray, yellow, green or pink.

Like cat’s eye gemstones, tiger’s eye gets its name from the fact that it has the same visual phenomenon of a white line shimmering on the surface – however this gemstone is primarily colored similarly to the real eye of an actual tiger.

One of the most popular gemstones in the world and by far the most precious stone in the beryl group of gemstones, emerald is often distinguished by its green coloration and the detailed angular cuts that are popular among consumers. Emeralds also have low resistance to damage compared to other gemstones, so owners need to be extra cautious.

Axinite is a group of brown to violet-brown or reddish-brown minerals that sometimes occur in gem quality. When it is in gemstone quality, axinite is prized for its strong vitreous luster when polished and its interesting pyroelectric properties and piezoelectric properties.

This relatively new gemstone was discovered in the 1940s (according to some reports) but even then it was not known to the world until 1978. Charoite is composed of complex silicate-containing phosphorus, calcium and sodium, and this gemstone is always found in massive formations in nature.

The serpentine group of gemstones has around 20 different known members. However, one commonality between all of them is the fact that they are basic magnesium silicate with small quantities of other elements, like iron, cobalt, nickel and chromium.

Lapis lazuli is a gemstone that has been used by humans for thousands of years. In nature, lapis lazuli usually forms in crystalline marble and it is also technically defined as a rock rather than as a mineral. It is primarily composed of lazurite, while the remaining composition is made up of sodalite, calcite, pyrite and other minerals.

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