Ever wonder where your birthstone comes from or what it means?
Usually thought of as a ruby look-alike, garnet is actually a large family of gems that occur in every shade but blue. The varieties with which consumers are presently most familiar are pyrope (red), almandine (brownish-red) and rhodolite (pinkish-velvet).
Amethyst, the birthstone for February, is a very affordable gem that symbolized a variety of virtues, including piety and humilitiy, to the ancients. Thegem's name is derived from the Greek word amethustos, which means "to prevent drunkenness". No wonder the Greeks loved to drink wine from amethyst cups! Some amethysts are heated to permanently enhance their color.
Aquamarine, as the name implies, refers to water, hence its long association with the tranquil blue of the sea. The largest gem ever found (weight 220 pounds) was an aquamarine that yielded 200,000 carats of a cut stone. Aquamarine, the birthstone for March, belongs to the same family, beryl, as the emerald. Most aquamarines are heated to remove green and permanently intensify their blue color.
Diamond, the birthstone for April, is the hardest and most brilliant of all the gems. It is the chief symbol of marital happiness and, as such, the most popular engagement and anniversary stone. Ancients believed diamonds were splinters of shattered stars.
Emerald, the birthstone for May, is one of the most sought after and vulnerable all of gems. According to the legend, wearing emarlds cured a range of problems, including low IQ and infertility. Emerald symbolizes faithfulness and undying love. A fine quality natural emerald is a true rarity and is in great demand in the international marketplace.
Due to the nature of emerald crystal growth in the environment, virtually all crystals show a network of fine fissures, and often these fissures reach the surface of the polished gemstone. This does not indicate a defective, or cracked emerald, it is merely an inherent feature of natural emeralds. Inclusions and fissures give natural emeralds a degree of uniqueness and individuality.
The cultured pearl is a triumphant alternative to the fast-disappearing natural pearl. It is produced mainly by the Japanese who early in the century perfected a way to insert clam-shell beads in certain kinds of oysters, then harvest them 1-2 years later after being covered with a substantial layer of secretion called nacre. Pearl is the June birthstone.
Virtually all perals are permanently bleached to lighten their body color and remove discolorations. In addition, some perals are dyed to give them a lasting rosy glow. Others are safely irradiated or dyed to give them permanent dark-blue to black colors.
Ruby, known as the "King of Gemstones" is a symbol of passion and devotion. Rubies are one of the hardest and most durable of all the gems. Rightly so, ruby enjoys thousands of years of preeminence amoung gems. Even today, the finest specimens of this gem fetch the highest prices of any precious gemstones. Ruby is the birthstone for July.
Believe it or not, the fabled emarlds of Queen Cleopatra may really have been peridots mined on a Red Sea island right off the coast of Egypt. Indeed, many emerald afficionados of antiquity may also have been peridot lovers without knowing it. Peridot is the August birthstone.
Sapphire, one of the hardest and most durable of gems, has been revered for thousands of years. Some ancients believed the Ten Commandments were written on a sapphire tablet. The Persians thought the sky owed its blue color to light from a sapphire on which the earth rested. Although sapphire is most popular as a blue gem, it occurs in a wide variety of colors, including pink, gold and yellow. Sapphire is the September birthstone.
Up until 1817, when Sir Walter Scott published his popular Ann of Geierstein, opal was a coveted gem, identified with hope. In Scott's book, however, it symbolized misfortune, an association which hurt its popularity. Later, when opal devotee Queen Victoria took to giving this gem as a wedding gift to her daughters, it made an impressive comeback. Opal is the October birthstone.
In the annals of gem lore, topaz holds the distinction of being the gem with the widest range of curative powers. Amoung other things, it supposedly cooled tempers, restored sanity, cured asthama, relieved insomnia and even warded off sudden death. Topaz is the November birthstone.
December: Blue Topaz
In the annals of gem lore, topaz holds the dinstinction of being the gem with the widest range of curative powers. Amoung other things, it supposedly cooled tempers, restored sanity, cured asthama, relieved insomnia and even warded off sudden death. Blue Topaz is the December birthstone.
Other Popular Gemstones:
Iolite gets it's name from the Greek word ios, meaning "violet". Iolite is sometimes called "water sapphire" because of its beautiful watery blue color. Believe it or not, Iolite will do exactly what a camera's polaroid filter will do: cancel out haze, mist and clouds to make things appear clearer. By observing the sky through iolite lenses, Viking navigators were able to locate the exact position of the sun on overcast days. Where did these famous seafears get iolite? Well, its been found in Greenland and Norway.
White Sapphire, one of the hardest and most durable of gems, has been revered for thousands of years. Some ancients believed the Ten Commandments were written on a sapphire tablet. The Persians thought the sky owed its blue color to light from a sapphire on which the earth rested. Although sapphire is most popular as a blue gem, it occurs in a wide variety of colors, including pink, gold and yellow.
Citrine is a very abundant and affordable quartz gem. Often mistaken for yellow and golden topaz, it has now become an alternative November birthstone to the gem it so strongly resembles. Many citrines started life as amethysts or other quartz family members. Long ago, it was discovered that heating these stones produced various permanent earth colors ranging from honey-yellow to madeira-red. Ever since, the resulting stones have been called "citrines".
Recognized as a seperate gem family for less than 250 years, tourmaline is blessed with the widest array of colors of any species. Because it occurs in so many shades, it was long mistaken for emerald and ruby. Tourmaline is often used as an alternate birthstone for October. Many tourmalines in the green-blue family are heated to remove unwanted colors, and lighten dark stones. In addition, many tourmalines in the pink-red families are safely irradiated to permanently intensify their color.
Popular in men's and women's jewelry, black onyx enjoyed its greatest vogue during the Art Deco period of the 1920's and 1930's because it lent itself to geometric arrangements and provided bold contrasts with diamonds and pearls. Virtually all black onyx owes its color to a permanent dyeing process.
Tanzanite was discovered less than 40 years ago, and is fast becoming one of the most popular gemstones available today. This modern versatile gemstone may be used as an alternate birthstone for any month in the calendar year. Tanzanite is an exotic blue-purple stone that combines the regal purple color of a fine amethyst and the alluring blue of a sapphire. Most tanzanites mined today are often heat-treated to remove unwanted colors. This process turns dusty brown stones permanently into the mesmerizing blue-purple stones.