GemStone III went into open beta testing in December 1989, officially launching on February 1, 1990. The transition from "II" to "III" maintained significant portions of the environment, but not all, and character records were not maintained over the transition, requiring all players to begin anew. GemStone III evolved into GemStone IV in November 2003, but the game world and character records were maintained over the transition. GemStone III was promoted on GEnie by promising players the opportunity to receive real-life versions of gems found in-game, something that persisted for many years.
Source: Wikipedia, "GemStone IV", available under the CC-BY-SA License.