Nearly everyone thinks of garnet as a red gem. In fact, this family of gemstones is available in all colors except blue. Garnets offer enough variety in appearance to suit every taste.
There are many ancient traditions and legends about garnets. Some Hebrew writers include it as one of the 12 gems in Aaron's breastplate. Christian tradition long considered the blood-red garnet symbolic of Christ's sacrifice. The Koran holds that it illuminates the Fourth Heaven of the Moslems. Garnet was said to give its wearer guidance in the night allowing him to see when others couldn't. Legend claims that Noah hung a large garnet in the ark for illumination. According to the Egyptians, garnet is an antidote for snakebite and food poisoning.
Garnet is the birthstone for the month of January and the anniversary gemstone for the second year of marriage. Garnets are found in Brazil, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, India, Siberia, Africa and the U.S.A.
Amethyst is a variety of quartz, ideally deep medium purple with rose-colored flashes, however it ranges from pale lilac to nearly black purple shades.
The ancient Greeks believed that whoever wore an amethyst or drank from an amethyst chalice would not fall victim to intoxication. It is also said to have a sobering effect on those over-excited by love's passion. It has symbolized peace, protection and tranquility. Some say it will prevent baldness and improve complexion, while protecting from treason and deceit. Because royalty has always adored the color purple, amethysts abound in the ornaments of ancient Greeks and Egyptians, and in the British Crown Jewels.
Amethyst is the birthstone for February and the anniversary gemstone for the sixth year of marriage. It is found mainly in Brazil, Uruguay, Sri Lanka, the Ural Mountains of Russia, Madagascar and Zambia.
The ideal color of aquamarine is a refreshing sea blue. If you are looking for a big, durable gemstone, aqua is readily available in larger sizes and is truly dramatic when cut in rectangular or oval shapes. It is a member of the important beryl family, which also includes emerald.
Derived from the Latin meaning “sea water,” aquamarine was said to aid seafarers; thus it makes an excellent gift for sailors or those who travel frequently by sea. To dream of aquamarine signifies the making of new friends. To wear aquamarine brings love and affection. They are thought to give the wearers knowledge, foresight and assist in an individual's inspiration. It is a universal symbol of youth, fidelity, hope and health.
Aquamarine is one of the traditional birthstones for March. It is also the accepted anniversary gem for the 19th year of marriage. Aquamarine is found mainly in Brazil, Nigeria and Zambia.
Even though the diamond is the hardest of all gemstones known to man, it is the simplest in composition: it is common carbon. The ancient Greeks believed that diamonds were splinters of stars fallen to earth. It was even said by some that they were the tears of the Gods or perhaps crystallized lightning or hardened dew drops. The truth is, however, that the exact origin of diamonds is still something of a mystery, even to scientists and geologists.
In ancient times only kings wore diamonds as a symbol of strength, courage and invincibility. Over the centuries, the diamond acquired its unique status as the ultimate gift of love. It was said that Cupid's arrows were tipped with diamonds which have a magic that nothing else can ever quite equal. But it wasn't until 1477, when Archduke Maximillian of Austria gave a diamond ring to Mary of Burgundy, that the tradition of diamond engagement rings began. Even the reason a woman wears it on the third finger of her left hand dates back to the early Egyptian belief that the vena amoris (vein of love) ran directly from the heart to the top of the third finger, left hand.
Diamond is the birthstone for the month of April, and besides being the most popular gemstone for engagement rings, is the anniversary gem for the 10th and 60th years of marriage. Diamonds are found in Australia, Congo, Botswana, Russia and South Africa.
The emerald is known as the Queen of Gems, and the gem of queens. The most prized is pure green or slightly bluish green. Emeralds are often characterized by a garden of included crystals trapped within. Under magnification, you will see all sorts of lovely patterns resembling foliage in a garden. A flawless, clear emerald is very rare and is usually found in only small sizes. Small to medium sized stones are often faceted in the “step” or emerald cut. The gem is also lovely when cut into a cabochon or dome shape. Sometimes emeralds are even carved.
The ancients held the emerald in great esteem, believing they sharpened the wearer’s eyesight and mind. The earliest engravers kept emeralds on their work tables to gaze upon from time to time to rest their tired eyes. Travelers relied on emeralds as protection against the hazards and perils of long journeys. The green gem was also said to give its owner the power to predict the future.
Emerald is the birthstone for the month of May and is also the anniversary gemstone for the 20th and 35th years of marriage. They are found mainly in Colombia, Brazil, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
A pearl is the product of an oyster’s defense mechanism. When a foreign irritant is introduced naturally or by man (cultured), the oyster immediately surrounds it with layers of a substance called nacre. This forms the exquisite gemstone known as pearl. Pearls come in a wide range of colors from delicate rose white to black. They should be relatively free from skin blemishes. The more perfectly round the shape the better. The higher the luster or “orient,” the more valuable the specimen. Besides the popular round shape, there are stylish mabe (large hemispherical cultured pearls), fresh water (elongated in interesting shapes and colors), and South Sea (large cultured pearls 10 mm and up from Australian and Indonesian waters), to name a few.
The oriental pearl is known as the gem of the moon. They have been recognized as the emblem of modesty, chastity and purity. They have also come to symbolize a happy marriage.
Pearl is the official birthstone of the month of June. It is also the accepted anniversary gemstone for the 3rd and 30th years of marriage.
The ruby is so named because of its rich red color. The ruby is a very durable gemstone; its hardness is surpassed only by the diamond. Large rubies are very scarce and costly, worth more than 2 to 3 times a diamond of equal size and quality.
Rubies were thought to contain a glowing spark struck from the planet Mars. Ancient lore held that the ruby was capable of curing illness and reconciling lovers quarrels. Hindus referred to the ruby as “The Lord of the Gems,” and believed its deep red color came from an inextinguishable fire which was capable of boiling water. It is said that a person should never make faces at a ruby in a museum, and never ignore it, for it was said to grow dull if slighted or not worn or seen.
Rubies come from Burma, Thailand, Kenya, Tanzania, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and India. It is the accepted gemstone for July birthdays, also 15th and 40th anniversaries.
Peridot is sometimes referred to as an “Evening Emerald” because under artificial light the stone glows as a brilliant green. Choice peridot is transparent and its color varies from yellow green to brilliant light green. Peridot is the child of volcanic action, crystals are sometimes combed from the black sands of Hawaii. It is abundant and available in larger sizes.
The peridot symbolizes eloquence and persuasiveness; it was dedicated to St. Bartholomew. Treasured peridots found their way into cathedrals during the Crusades. Many legends state that peridot was considered a powerful amulet against all evil, as well as a remedy for sinus problems. It is said that if the gem was set in gold, it had the power to protect its wearer from terrors of the night, fears and bad dreams. Peridots were especially favored by pirates.
Peridot is the birthstone for August and 16th anniversary gemstone, and found in mainly Burma and the U.S.A.
Sapphire, a variety of corundum, comes in all colors except red, with the most popular being deep blue. Rare orange, pink and lavender varieties, along with rich velvety blue are the most expensive. Like the ruby, its twin except for color, the sapphire is second only to the diamond in hardness.
Some ancient writers claimed the Ten Commandments were written on sapphire. Ancient marriage partners had great faith in the stone, believing it would not shine if worn by the wicked or impure. They were reported to be an excellent all-purpose medicine; an antidote against poison and having the power to stop bleeding and cure disorders of the eye. Sapphires were considered to be so powerful they continued to protect the original owner even after being sold.
Sapphire is the birthstone for September and the gemstone for 5th and 45th anniversaries. They are found in Sri Lanka, Australia, East Africa and Southeast Asia.
There are more than a dozen varieties of fiery and iridescent opals. In fact, its tremendous color spectrum is the major reason for the opal’s mysterious attractiveness. The most popular have a white body color with flashes of many colors or “fire.”
Opal has symbolized hope, innocence and purity through the ages. In the Middle Ages, young fair-haired girls wore opals in their hair to protect its lovely blond color. Medieval writers believed the opal could render its wearer invisible when the need arose. The ancient Romans believed the opal was the king of gems because it held within itself all the colors of the rainbow.
Opal is accepted for October birthdays and is the gemstone for 14th anniversaries. Sources are Australia, Mexico and the U.S.A.
Citrine is a variety of quartz; colors range from pale yellow to yellowish-brown and “Madeira” red. The most popular fashion colors are the vivid yellows and oranges. It is often mistaken for yellow or golden topaz. Citrine is readily available, very affordable in large sizes and stands up well to daily wear. Its earthy tones complement many wardrobes. Citrine is often seen in jewelry combined with amethyst, blue topaz and pink tourmaline.
Citrine’s name is derived from “citron,” a lemon-like fruit. People once carried citrine as a protective talisman against the plague, bad skin and evil thoughts. It was also used as a charm against the bites of snakes and other venomous reptiles.
Citrine is one of the accepted birthstones for November, as well as the anniversary gemstone for the 13th year of marriage. It is found mainly in Brazil.
Most people think of topaz as a transparent golden yellow gemstone. However, this gemstone also occurs colorless as well as orange-yellow, red, honey-brown (dark sherry), light green, blue and pink. The name topaz is derived from the Greek word meaning “to shine” and also implies “fire.” Orange-red “Imperial” topaz and pink colors are rare and most valuable.
The lore, magic and romance of topaz goes back many thousands of years. It holds the distinction of being the gemstone with the widest range of curative powers. Ancient Egyptians thought its golden glow symbolized “Ra,” their sun god. The Greeks felt it gave them strength. In addition, it supposedly cooled tempers, restored sanity, cured asthma, relieved insomnia and even warded off sudden death. Topaz is said to make its wearer invisible in times of emergency. It proved the loyalty of associates by changing color in the presence of poison.
Blue topaz is one of the accepted birthstones for December and the anniversary gemstone for the 4th year of marriage (and Imperial topaz for the 23rd.) Topaz is found mainly in Brazil, Nigeria and Sri Lanka.