The Birthstone for January
"By her who is this month was born
No gem save garnets shall be worn
They will ensure her constancy
True friendship and fidelity"
Garnet is a rainbow of gemstones. With exception of blue, it is found in every colour of the spectrum. It may have the red of fine ruby or the green of fine emerald.
Garnet has been dubbed the gem of faith, constancy and truth. Asiatic tribes carved garnets into bullets in the belief that their fiery colour would inflict more deadly wounds. They were ground into powder for treatment of fever or jaundice. If the cure didn't work, the apothecary was accused of using an imitation.
In the late '60s, a new garnet was discovered which made green an important garnet colour. This is the Tsavorite, named after the Tsavo region of Africa. Its colour may resemble a sunlit meadow or the finest emerald. The increasing scarcity of fine emerald has contributed to its importance.
Within the diversified garnet family is something for everyone. Deep red, cabochon-cut garnets are often set into men's rings, tie tacks and cufflinks. Surrounded by a bold expanse of gold, they are important enough for every well-dressed businessman and elegant enough to make the transition into evening wear. The colour dramatically accents grey, black, navy, camel and rust.
Garnets are a basic for the businesswoman's wardrobe. Garnets of all colours are fashioned into rings, pendants, pins and earrings. Red and violet garnets are often strung into beads to be worn alone or in combination with pearls or gold beads.
Garnet is also smart for any social occasion. Designs range from delicate accents to jewelled masterpieces. A large garnet set with diamonds is perfectly comfortable at the most glamorous affairs.
Garnet is a favorite in children's jewellery. It is set into dainty swirls, hearts and roses for rings, pendants and earrings. It is often chosen as the starter piece in a young girl's collection.
The Birthstone for February & the 6th wedding anniversary
"The February born shall find
Sincerity and peace of mind,
Freedom from passion and from care,
If they, the amethyst will wear."
According to ancient myth, Bacchus, The God of Wine, was so enraged over a slight by the goddess Diana that he vowed that the first person to enter the forest would be devoured by his tigers. This hapless mortal happened to be the beautiful virgin Amethyst who was on her way to worship at the shrine of Diana. As the tiger's leapt at Amethyst - Diana transformed the virgin to stone thus rescuing her from a violent death. When Bacchus viewed this miracle, he repented and poured wine over the stone changing it to a purplish-violet colour.
In memory of the transformed nymph, the crystal that bears her name was endowed with the ability to protect the wearer from the evils of intoxicating drink, supposedly, if placed under the tongue. The custom of drinking wine from cups of amethyst evolved in the belief that one would remain sober.
Amongst it's other extraordinary attributes are an ability to quicken the intelligence for those engaged in business, to protect the soldier and assure victory, to help hunters, guard against contagious diseases and control evil thoughts.
To men, the Amethyst promised sober judgement and industry. To women, lofty thoughts and religious love. Other religious associations connect it to the third gem in the third row of the Breastplate of Aaron, the High Priest of the Hebrews and it is worn by the Pope and many Bishops within the Roman Catholic Church. Catherine the Great was a great lover of the gem and it appears frequently in the Crown Jewels, hence the expression 'royal purple'.
The most valued hues of amethyst range from deep purplish-red to purple-red. Deep, evenly coloured specimens are the most highly prized with finest quality coming from The Urals, Brazil and Uruguay.
The Birthstone for March
"A March born shall always be
Soothed by Aqua, gem of sea
This mermaid's treasured stone you wear
Will bring happiness, love, affection and care."
Aquamarine, the stone of peace, joy and happiness is well known for its ability to soothe and calm emotional fires or problems, and it's use in the renewing of friendships and reawakening of love in long married couples.
Aquamarine - the gem of the sea and the sailor's token of luck is named from the Greek - Aqua marinem. The reference is obvious: aqua sparkles like the sea and its colour is pale to medium blue, sometimes with a slight hint of green.
In magic, this beautiful stone is worn or carried to enhance the utilization of psychic powers. Holding a crystal of aquamarine, or wearing a faceted aquamarine around the neck reduces our conscious minds hold on the psychic mind and allows the ever-present intuitive impulses to be heard and to enter our consciousness.
Aquamarine is worn to ensure good health, to halt fear, to strengthen your courage and as a necklace it is the most magically appropriate gift for a bridegroom to give to his bride on the day of their wedding. Set in earrings it is said to bring love and affection.
The Birthstone for April & the 60th wedding anniversary Diamond
"She who from April dates her years,
Diamonds shall wear,
lest bitter tears For vain repentance flow."
This stone is the emblem of innocence.
For millennia, diamonds have been revered for their preciousness, the youngest diamond is at least one million years old. Their glittering depths evoke eternity, since their sparkle will remain undiminished a thousand years from now. The hardest of all substances, diamonds have been the subject of countless legends and folklore. The ancient Hindus believed this brilliant gemstone was created when lightning bolts struck rocks. One of the more incredible beliefs was that diamonds could tell guilt or innocence. In the presence of a guilty person, the diamond would supposedly darken. But if the accused were innocent, it would glow with increased radiance.
A symbol of innocence, justice, faith, and strength, the diamond was thought to endow its wearer with courage and victory over his or her enemies. When set in gold and worn on the left side, a diamond was believed to possess the power to vanquish nightmares and soothe savage beasts. Diamonds boast a broad colour range, high refraction, high dispersion ('fire'), low reactivity to chemicals, rarity, and durability.
The Birthstone for May
"Who first beholds the light of day In spring's sweet,
flower month of May
And wears an Emerald all her life
Shall be a loved and a loving wife"
Dedicated to Venus the goddess of Love, this rich green gem, holds within it the promise of new life every springtime. Lovers held that this rare gem, by virtue of changing its colour, could reveal the faithfulness of their beloved.
Prized by the Ancients for it's power to enhance quick thinking, eloquence and an ability to foresee into the future, the Emerald has always attracted the rich and powerful. Pliny, the historian, writes of the Emperor Nero gazing through a large emerald to soothe his eyes whilst watching gladiatorial fights and Cleopatra wore emeralds from her own mines in Upper Egypt. Alexander the Great wore a large emerald in his jewelled girdle and the Hermitage Museum in Russia contains a collection of some of the finest emeralds in the world - all collected by numerous dynasties of Czars.
Columbia, South America has always been the source of the finest emeralds and one of the finest examples is the Devonshire - a huge 1383.95 carat specimen, presented to the 6th Duke of Devonshire by Emperor Dom Pedro of Brazil in 1831. Newer sources are Africa which produces the Sandawana emerald, which has a lighter colour and now the Peshwar Valley in the Hindu Kush is mining small, but fine specimens - the profits from which are sustaining the rebel cause in that area. Proving once again that the great gems of this world still have a place and influence in the corridors of power.
By far the most popular cut is the rectangular step cut which shows off the lustrous green colour to the finest advantage, but increasing oval, hearts and round brilliant cut stones are becoming more evident.
The Birthstone for June & the 3rd and 30th Anniversaries.
"Who comes with summer to this earth
And owes to June her hour of birth
A pearl should wear against her skin
Who's innocence many a heart shall win"
The Pearl was the favoured gem of the wealthy during the time of the Roman Empire. The Crusaders had brought this intriguing gift from the sea back from the Orient. Roman women wore pearls to bed so they could be reminded of their wealth immediately upon awakening.
Pearls were once considered an exclusive privilege for royalty. A law of 1612 drawn up by the Duke of Saxony, prohibited the wearing of pearls by nobility, professors, doctors or their wives.
On the other side of the world, the American Indians were wearing pearls for adornment. The freshwater pearls of the Mississippi River were strung into necklaces, sewn onto head-dresses and set into copper ornaments.
Old Arab legend tells us that pearls were formed when moonlight filled drops fell into the ocean and were swallowed by oysters. The modern scientific explanation though not nearly as romantic is still quite fascinating.
A natural (or oriental) pearl forms when an irritant works its way into a particular species of oyster, mussel or calm. As a defence mechanism, the mollusc secretes a fluid to cast the irritant. Layer upon layer of this coating is deposited on the irritant until a lustrous pearl is formed.
A cultured pearl undergoes the same process, the only difference being that the irritant is a surgically implanted mother-of-pearl bead of shell. The core is much larger than in a natural pearl, but as long as there are enough layers of nacre to result in a beautiful, gem-quality pearl, the size of the nucleus is of no importance to beauty or durability.
The Birthstone for July & the 15th and 40th Anniversaries
"The gleaming Ruby should adorn,
All those who in July are born,
For thus they'll be exempt and free,
From lover's doubts and anxiety."
Ruby, from the Latin Rubeus, is a variety of the mineral corundum, and is the second hardest gemstone after the diamond. The colour of rubies can vary from delicate pink to a deep carmine red, frequently referred to as 'pigeons blood'. Corundum of any colour other than red is known as sapphire
The history of ruby is steeped in legend - Medieval scholars scorned those who denied the ruby's magical powers. They believed it could preserve health, protect the home, and warn of impending misfortune. Catherine of Aragon foretold her own downfall after observing the darkening of her ruby. Traditionally the symbol of love and passion, ancients ascribed invincibility and eternal friendship among its many talismanic virtues. It was believed that the wearer would acquire the magic ability to live in peace with his enemies as long as the ruby was worn on the left hand or, as a brooch, on the left side.
The ruby has also been regarded as a symbol of freedom, charity, dignity and divine power.
The colour of rubies can vary by source location. Burma is famous for producing the greatest amount of top quality fine, clear, deep red ruby. Thailand's rubies range from dark to brownish red. Sri Lankan rubies are a medium to light colour and Africa's rubies are a small, sheet-like and purplish-red material. Ruby mining is still carried out using primitive methods. An area is staked out and dug to a depth of around 15 feet where the gem-bearing gravel is located.
This gravel is then sifted through wire screens, followed by a panning method - similar to that used for gold digging.
Fine large rubies may be worth more than diamonds of comparable size and make an excellent choice for discerning jewellery lovers.
The Birthstone for August
"Wear a Peridot or for thee,
No conjugal fidelity,
The August born without this stone,
'Tis said, must live unloved alone."
Peridot is a French word derived from the Arabic 'faridat', which means gem. The stone ranges in colour from light yellow-green to intense bright green of new grass to olive. Because of the way Peridot splits and bends the rays of light passing through it, it has a velvety, 'sleepy' appearance - a shining rich glow.
According to astrologers, the wearer of Peridot will enjoy happiness in marriage, the power of eloquence in speech and enduring freedom from insecurity, both emotional and physical. Peridot was believed to have the power to dissolve enchantments. To exert its full potential, the stone was to be set in gold. Then it would drive away night's terrors. It was to be used to protect the wearer from evil spirits and holding a Peridot under the tongue was supposed to lessen the thirst of a person suffering from fever.
The original source of Peridot is from Zebargad, which was known for many years as Saint John's Island in the Red Sea, may have been mined as early as 1500 B.C. It was called 'The Serpent Isle', since it's many poisonous snakes interfered with mining activity.
Burma then became the prime source of Peridot, stones from its Mogok region being generally a bit lighter green than those of Zebargad. Another major worldwide source of Peridot is the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. Only the Apache Indians may mine there. Peridots have been found in meteorites.
Owners of Peridot have reported that their fondness for these gems continues to increase over time. Whether step-cut or fashioned as brilliants, Peridots can be used for rings, earrings, pins, necklaces and bracelets. They are available at affordable prices for those with modest tastes and in elaborate matched suites for connoisseurs. They can be set alone or combined with other gems that compliment their delicacy.
The Birthstone for September
"A maiden born when autumn leaves
Are rustling in September's breeze,
A Sapphire on her brow should bind;
To bring her joy and peace of mind"
The ancient Persians believed that the earth rested on a giant sapphire whose reflection gave the sky its colour.
Damirgeron, a historian of old, wrote that sapphire was worn by kings to protect them from harm and would protect the wearer from envy and attract divine favour. The gem was also regarded as a symbol of truth, sincerity and constancy.
Legend has it that if a poisonous snake were put into a vessel along with sapphire, the rays from the gem would kill it. Our ancestors interpreted this to mean that sapphire was an antidote to poison.
From The Mountains of Kashmir
The finest sapphire colour is rich, velvety cornflower blue. This is called Kashmir out of deference to the traditional source of the finest quality. Today, however, the Kashmir area of India is not generally mined because of physical inaccessibility. Most current production comes from Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Montana, Australia and Africa.
The Multi-coloured Sapphire
Sapphire occurs in colours ranging from very light to dark blue to voiletish-blue, bluish-green, yellow, slightly reddish-orange, brown, nearly opaque black, colourless pink, violet and pinkish-orange. Corundum [sapphire's mineral name] occurs in red but this is what we know as ruby. Although sapphire is found in many colours, these are not all commercially available at any given time. Some are so rare they are collectors items.
The Birthstone for October
"October's child is born for woe,
And life's vicissitudes must know,
But lay an opal on her breast,
And hope will lull those woes to rest."
Shakespeare in 'Twelfth Night' referred to opal as 'The Queen of Gems' and Pliny, the Roman historian described opal as having 'the fire of the carbuncle, the brilliant purple of the amethyst and the sea green of emerald, entwined together in an incredible union.
The Romans considered opal a symbol of hope, an appropriate attribute for a gem with the colours of the rainbow locked within it. And the Arabs believed opals fell from heaven in flashes of lightning, thus acquiring their fiery colours.
These romantic notions are inspired by one of the most uniquely beautiful gems that nature has ever produced.
The phenomenal colours displayed by opal, is caused by the diffraction of light set up between the layers of silica gel within its composition. The cause and effect is similar to that seen on a soap bubble or oil on water.
The most highly prized variety is black opal with its strong play of red, green and blue colours against a dark background. Another variety is the fire opal, uniquely transparent with a bright orange hue, usually found in Mexico. The most important source of the white and black opal is Australia, where they are usually found in sandstone or claystone and mined under spartan and barren conditions with little clue as to their location.
The Birthstone for November
"Who first comes to this world below
In dreary November's fog and snow,
Should prize the topaz amber hue,
Emblem of friends and lovers true"
The velvety golden gemstone known as sherry topaz owes its name to its resemblance to a light-filled glass of sherry wine. Its richer sister, sometimes called Imperial topaz, approaches the colour of a blazing summer sunset. Topaz survived a fog of confusion that kept its true identity under cover for centuries. The ancients lacked today's scientific sophistication, so they categorized gems according to appearance. Therefore all yellow stones were called topaz.
Why "topaz"? It may be derived from a Sanskrit word meaning either "yellow" or "fire." Another explanation is that it comes from Greek "Topazios," the name of an island in the Red Sea.
The island Topazios was known for its bright yellow gemstones, but these were difficult to find because the island was usually shrouded by fog. It is now believed that this island is actually Zebargad, and that the gems were peridot. The ancients believed that topaz worn as an amulet could drive away sadness, strengthen the intellect and bestow courage. Mounted in gold and hung around the neck, it was believed in wine was used as a cure for asthma, insomnia, burns and hemorrhages. It was claimed to calm angry tempers and prevent bad dreams.
It was the ancient Chaldeans who first established a relationship between the signs of the zodiac and precious gems. Topaz was assigned to Saggitarius, now recognized as spanning November 21 through December 20. Topaz has long been revered as the November birthstone. However, the golden quartz known as citrine has been accepted as an alternate birthstone for that month. Because of this, jewelers sometimes call it "topaz quartz." Even though the Federal Trade Commission has denounced the use of this misnomer because of the confusion it creates, it is still occasionally heard in the jewelry industry.
Although the golden to reddish-brown colour of topaz are the most common, blue is gaining popularity. This topaz has a soft sky blue colour which resembles aquamarine. Part of the reason for its increased popularity is the fact that pale stones can now we successfully heat-treated to produce a pleasing blue, so more is available.
Occasionally topaz is found in a lovely light pink. This is considered the most valuable colour. Sherry topaz is sometimes heated to achieve this pink colour. Much of the topaz we see today is mined and cut in Brazil. It is also found in the far-off island of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in the Indian Ocean. It comes from the mines of Afghanistan, South Africa and Russia. In North America it is found in Mexico and our own state of Utah.
Topaz began to be used extensively in Marco Polo's time (the 13th century). It experienced a resurgence of popularity in the 17th century during the reign of King Louis XIV. It was a featured gem in the parures (matching sets) of the 1820's.
Topaz rates an 8 out of 10 on the hardness scale used for gemstones. As one of the most durable gems, it can be worn in many different types of jewelry. However, although a hard gemstone, which means it resists scratching and retains its brilliant polish, topaz possesses what is known as easy cleavage, a property it strong blow against a hard object, it should not be worn during sports and strenuous work.
The Birthstone for December
"If cold December gave you birth
The month of snow and ice and mirth
Place on your hand a turquoise blue
Success will bless whate'er you do"
Turquoise has been a treasured jewelry stone around the world for thousands of years. It was used for beads by the Egyptians as early as 5500 B.C. Combined with other ornamental stones, the turquoise was inlaid in gold by Sumerians and Egyptians to produce very sophisticated necklaces, bracelets, anklets, belts, headdresses and earrings.
Pre-Columbian Indians used turquoise for beads and pendants from 500 B.C. Burial grounds of Central America and Mexico yield teeth decorated with turquoise - a tribute to early dentistry as well as ideas for adornment. Turquoise jewelry has always been popular in the Orient. In the seventeenth century, Englishmen traveling there brought the style back with them, but not until Victoria's time was it fashionable for European women to wear the stone. Victorian and Art Nouveau jewelry featured a good deal of turquoise. Turquoise has been believed to confer foresight as well as protect the wearer from danger. In various countries, it is believed to fade when illness or danger is near. Another belief is that a fading stone indicates a lover's faithlessness or a friend's disaffection.
In many cultures, the stone is regarded as a harbinger of good fortune, success and health. Aztecs and Egyptians considered it a symbol of prosperity. In India, one was to wear a turquoise on the little finger and look at the stone after seeing the new moon gain great wealth. According to American Indians, the stone brought together the spirits of the sea and sky to bless warriors and hunters; a turquoise arrowhead assured accurate aim. It was said that a fine turquoise was hidden in the damp ground at the end of the rainbow. A Navajo belief is that a piece of turquoise cast into a river, accompanied by a prayer to the god of rain, will cause rainfall.
Ancient doctors exploited the stone's medicinal potential by making it into a paste to treat ailments of the hip. The Egyptians also mounted turquoise in silver to treat eyes suffering from cataract. Since the fourteenth century, harnesses of dogs, horses and other animals have been decorated with turquoise to protect the animal and master from falling injuries. According to a thirteenth century writer, the stone used for this purpose should be set in gold.
The oldest source of turquoise is the Maghara Wadi mines in the Sinai Peninsula. By 3200 B.C., mining expeditions of up to several thousand laborers were sent there annually. These mines were worked for the pharaohs for 2000 years. They were rediscovered in the mid nineteenth century and worked on and off until the beginning of this century.
The mines of Nishapur, in northeastern Iran, described in 1300 A.D. as having belonged to Issac, the son of Abraham, supplied turquoise to Europe and Western Asia for centuries, and to the United States for years before production ceased.
The history of tanzanite is very mysterious. Discovered in 1967 by a traveller seeking a different gem. Tanzanite is the ultimate prize of a gem safari. It's rich purples and blues often have a depth comparable to the finest sapphire. Paler tanzanite has a delicate periwinkle colour like the eyes of Elizabeth Taylor. It is supremely rare, coming from only one place in the world, the Merelani Hills of Tanzania, in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. Then it was named by Tiffany & Co. (after its location of origin) and further marketed by them for a few years.
Tanzanite did not make its way to the global market until the late 80's. Although it was a beautiful gem with variations of colour, tanzanite was only available to the rich and glamorous.
As several shopping networks and retailers in the Caribbean Islands began to promote this beautiful gem, tanzanite slowly received the recognition it deserved. The demand for tanzanite grew dramatically by the late 90's as more and more people around the world became aware of its beauty. It didn't take long for the growing desire and demand of consumers for tanzanite to quickly create a shortage of supply.
In 1998 and 1999, tanzanite was proclaimed the Number one coloured gemstone sold worldwide.