Now we come to our final bit of speculation after the airing of Mirror Gem and Ocean Gem (first we talked about what we learned about Gem technology, then what we learned about the Crystal Gems themselves). Finally we come to the big question: what might Gemkind be like?
Ocean Gem was the first time we had ever met a new Gem. Until then the only Gems we knew were the three Crystal Gems who lived with Steven—not a very generous sample. We had also seen a few depictions of Rose Quartz, and some statues and holographic projections of other Gems. Not much can be gleaned from those except that all of them have chosen humanoid bodies.
With the introduction of Lapis Lazuli, we finally have a Gem without an affiliation with the Crystal Gems. This allows us to start thinking about what Gems as a whole are like, though we won’t be sure until we’ve seen a lot more Gems.
The bad neighbor policy
As discussed in the lore implications of Mirror Gem and Ocean Gem, Lapis drained the Earth’s oceans to get home without thought for collateral damage, just like the Crystal Gems fight to protect humanity without thought for collateral damage. This suggests that this is a common mindset of Gems.
Whether this is ingrained into the Gems by living in a world where almost any damage – either to person or property – will eventually be regenerated, or indicative of a callous nature hasn’t been shown for sure, but we can make a guess. The most likely answer is that it’s simply their nature, considering how the Crystal Gems have been on Earth for thousands of years and so would certainly be aware of the effort required to fix the damage they cause (certainly they would have realized that the temple exterior had not regenerated yet).
Though indifferent to the effects of their actions on others, Gems don’t seem to do hostile things for no purpose. In Ocean Gem we clearly see that Lapis’s Amethyst clone has bested Amethyst and tied her up with her own weapon. No one else can help Amethyst, as they are busy fighting their own clones. Rather than try to kill Amethyst by smashing her gem, or even ensure that she can’t escape and make trouble later by trying to destroy her body, the clone simply sits on top of Amethyst and waits. Lapis only needed the Crystal Gems to leave her alone, and so long as they were busy with the water clones she had no reason to expend the effort to hurt Amethyst.
If, before intervention by the Crystal Gems, the Gems had planned to somehow harm humans or the Earth itself, it would only have been for a specific purpose that would benefit them. They may or may not have known of the consequences, but even if they had known they probably wouldn’t have cared.
When we only had seen the Crystal Gems, who self-identify as warriors, it was hard to know how martial Gemkind was. In Gem Glow, the first episode, we saw that a Gem’s weapon was something inherent to them, not something they could decide on the existence or identity of; in Frybo we learn that the Gems had a constant need for artificial soldiers throughout their history, and the military strength to put down a rebellion by the drone army they assembled at one point.
While both of these episodes indicate a strong appreciation for martial prowess, the question was always what the Gems might fight over. Ideology is always a potential answer, and appears to have been the cause for the war on Earth (which, at best guess, was over whether the Gems should be free to harm the lesser beings there or not).
Ideology was the only answer that was ever really satisfactory, however. Gems have no physical needs, and as a galactic-scale (or potentially inter-galactic) people competition for scarce resources didn’t seem too likely—why risk capture or death for something which you can easily find some elsewhere, with no one who’s staked a claim to it?
It’s certainly possible that Earth was a rare case of colonization and all other Gems reside on the Gem home world; if that was the case then competition for resources could indeed be another cause of Gem warfare. This is unlikely, as the most likely purpose of the “Galaxy Warp” mentioned in Mirror Gem is the location on Earth that was used for galactic-scale warping (much like the warp pads are used to get around Earth quickly)
With the magic mirror, another aim of warfare between Gems emerged: it is possible to use a Gem’s gem to power the magical devices that Gems use. If this practice is widespread, and the Crystal Gems at least seem to accept the practice, it would explain the need for drone soldiers when an army strong enough to defeat the new one already exists: the most powerful group gets to decide who powers the technology, and who benefits from it.
It’s also possible that Gems don’t fight each other often, making the Crystal Gems’ actions on Earth relatively unique and thus explaining the disgust Lapis seemed to have for them. In that case they must devote their military effort outward, either against an unknown enemy or in conquests.
How is Gem society organized?
If the Gems war among each other in what amount to slave raids, that necessarily implies that Gems do not have a single governmental body; even if they war against lesser races to conquer their planets that doesn’t necessarily mean they need a society-wide government. Depending on the level of specialization needed to produce Gem technology they may not even have what we would term “governments” at all, with any authority structures small and voluntary and memberships being chosen as Gems intermix in a larger community.
Rose Quartz was, after all, apparently able to design and build the light cannon by herself, in addition to being skilled in the art of inspiring others and leading soldiers. While she was by all accounts an exceptional individual, even being able to build such a powerful weapon by herself indicates that Gem technology requires less specialization than human technology currently does.
Events in the show also imply that groupings of Gems are smaller rather than larger. After the Crystal Gems were victorious in the war on Earth, no other Gems came to check up on why they had lost contact—the Red Eye from Laser Light Cannon may have been the first real enemy the Crystal Gems had seen in a long time.
This is what were would expect if there was no central Gem authority, with Gems organizing themselves into groups as they see fit then dispersing through the galaxy to do whatever they will. All of the Gems who wished to harm the Earth were probably on it at the time of the catastrophe, meaning the Crystal Gems would expect to be safe from retaliation.
However, when Pearl is explaining the gem shards in Frybo she just says “the Gems” assembled an army, as if Gemkind is in fact some kind of monolithic group which could raise a single army. Either this was an example of cooperation between the various groups that compose Gem society in response to a unique threat, or there is in fact a single organization in command of all of the Gems that for some reason never noticed when Earth went dark—perhaps because all of the Gems who went there were fleeing chaos on the home world, or had no important ties to Gems who remained behind.
The Crystal Gems are unsure of what Lapis’s escape means. They seem to regard it as possible that her arrival on the Gem home world will rally an expeditionary force to attack Earth, but they seem to at least be willing to hope that nothing will come of it.