Facts About Colored Gemstones

What is My Birthstone?

Just about everyone knows what his or her birthstone is. Why is that? Because people still enjoy the folklore associated with the tradition of the birthstone. They like believing that wearing a birthstone brings them good luck and protects them.

Early civilization (as far back as the Assyrians in 1400 BC) invested rare and beautiful gemstones with magical properties. Some minerals were thought to contain a force or possess certain values and powers. For instance, amethyst was said to prevent intoxication. Tradition associates a gem with each sign of the zodiac based on a color system. Color was thought to unleash the power attributed to the stone. In time, birthstones became associated with calendar months rather than the zodiac. And people began to select birthstones in colors other than the original.

Birthstone Designations

  • January - Garnet
  • February - Amethyst
  • March - Aquamarine
  • April - Diamond
  • May - Emerald
  • June - Pearl, Moonstone or Alexandrite
  • July - Ruby
  • August - Peridot
  • September - Sapphire
  • October - Opal or Tourmaline
  • November - Topaz or Citrine
  • December  Zircon, Turquoise or Tanzanite

January Gemstone - Garnets

Garnet is the accepted birthstone for the month of January. It is also the accepted anniversary gemstone for the 2nd year of marriage. Garnets are found in the U.S., Africa, Sri Lanka, Brazil and India.

When most people think of garnet, they picture the dark red bohemian garnet that was popular in Victorian times. You may be surprised to learn that garnets are found in every color except blue, including brilliant green Tsavorite garnet, raspberry pink Rhodolite garnet, and orange Malaya garnet. Bright red "Anthill" garnets are found in Arizona. The Tsars of Russia favored rare green Damantoid garnets.

Garnets offer enough variety in appearance to suit every taste, as well as an outstanding price range to suit every pocketbook. It reportedly also gives its wearer guidance in the night, protection from nightmares, and according to the Egyptians, is an antidote for snake bites and food poisoning. It was also thought to have a special affinity with the blood.

Garnets are durable and brilliant and will give years of pleasure. As with all gemstones, care should be taken to protect it from scratches, sharp blows, and extreme temperature changes.

February Gemstone - Amethyst

Amethyst is the recognized birthstone for February and the accepted anniversary gemstone for the 6th year of marriage. It is found mainly in Brazil, Uruguay and Zambia.

Amethyst is a variety of quartz, and comes in pale lilac to rich, deep purple shades. Ideally, it is a deep medium purple with rose-colored flashes that give amethyst its beauty and fire. Because of its abundance, it is readily available in all sizes and shapes. It is durable and can be worn every day. Coupled with the folk legend of the Greeks that it will prevent intoxication when worn, it becomes a most desirable gem.

Amethyst was said to have a sobering effect on the wearer, not only those who indulged, but on those over-excited by love's passion as well. It has symbolized peace, protection and tranquility. Some say it will prevent baldness and improve the complexion, as well as protect 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.

As with all gemstones, care should be taken to protect it from scratches and sharp blows.

March Gemstone - Aquamarine

Aquamarine is the traditional birthstone for March. It is also the accepted anniversary gem for the 19th year of marriage. Aquamarine is found mainly in Brazil, Nigeria, Zambia, Madagascar and Ukraine.

The ideal color of aquamarine is a refreshing pastel sea blue. Stones with a clear blue color without green or gray are generally the most valuable. 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.

In ancient times, the stone was said to aid seafarers; thus it is an excellent gift suggestion for sailors or one who takes frequent cruises! To dream of aquamarine signifies the making of new friends; to wear aquamarine earrings brings love and affection. It is a universal symbol of youth, hope and health. As part of the normal finishing process, some aquamarines are heated to remove traces of yellow.

To maintain the brilliance of this beautiful gemstone, it should be immersed in jewelry cleaner or in lukewarm soapy water and cleaned with a small bristle brush. Do not use a home ultrasonic machine. As with all gemstones, care should be taken to protect it from scratches and sharp blows.

April Gemstone - Diamond

Diamond is the birthstone for the month of April. Besides being the most popular gemstone for engagement rings, diamond is the accepted anniversary gem for the 10th and 60th years of marriage.

The name "diamond" comes from the Greek word "adamas" meaning unconquerable, suggesting the eternity of love. In fact, diamonds have been the traditional symbol of love since ancient Greece. Discovered about 2,500 years ago in India, the ancients believed they were splinters from the stars, perhaps crystallized lightening or hardened dew drops.

Although diamonds are associated with being a colorless stone, they are occasionally found with a strong, bright color-green, red, pink, blue, canary yellow and amber. These "fancy" colored diamonds are highly prized. Occasionally, to improve appearance, diamonds are laser drilled and, sometimes, a foreign substance is used to fill surface cavities or fractures. Diamonds may also be irradiated and/or heated to induce "fancy" colors.

Even though it is the most durable of gemstones, care should be taken to protect a diamond from sharp blows. Household chemicals may discolor or damage the mounting. To clean, you may use a jewelry cleaner, lukewarm soapy water and a small bristle brush, soak in a half-and-half solution of cold water and ammonia for 1/2 hour, or use a home ultrasonic machine with its recommended cleaner.

May Gemstone - Emerald

Emerald is known as the gemstone of spring. The beautiful green color symbolizes new spring growth, which makes it the perfect choice of a birthstone for the month of May. It’s also known as the gemstone for twentieth and thirty-fifth wedding anniversaries.

Emerald is the green to greenish blue variety of Beryl, a mineral species that also includes Aquamarine as well as Beryls in other colors.

Emerald’s lush green has soothed souls and excited imaginations since antiquity. Its name comes from the ancient Greek word for green, “smaragdus.” Rome’s Pliny the Elder described Emerald in his Natural History, published in the first century AD: “…nothing greens greener” was his verdict. He described the use of Emerald by early lapidaries, who “have no better method of restoring their eyes than by looking at the emerald, its soft, green color comforting and removing their weariness and lassitude.” Even today, the color green is known to relieve stress and eye strain.

There are other green gems, like tourmaline and peridot, but emerald is the one that’s always associated with the lushest landscapes and the richest greens. Ireland is the Emerald Isle. Seattle, in the US state of Washington, is the Emerald City. Thailand’s most sacred religious icon is called the Emerald Buddha, even though it’s carved from green Jadeite.

The first known emerald mines were in Egypt, dating from at least 330 BC into the 1700s. Cleopatra was known to have a passion for Emerald, and used it in her royal adornments.

Emeralds from what is now Colombia, were part of the plunder when sixteenth-century Spanish explorers invaded the New World. The Incas had already been using Emeralds in their jewelry and religious ceremonies for 500 years. The Spanish, who treasured gold and silver far more than gems, traded Emeralds for precious metals. Their trades opened the eyes of European and Asian royalty to emerald’s majesty.

Emerald is the most famous member of the beryl family. Legends endowed the wearer with the ability to foresee the future when emerald was placed under the tongue, as well as to reveal truth and be protected against evil spells. Emerald was once also believed to cure diseases like cholera and malaria. Wearing an emerald was believed to reveal the truth or falseness of a lover’s oath as well as make one an eloquent speaker.

Legend also states that emerald was one of the four precious stones given by God to King Solomon. These four stones were said to have endowed the king with power over all creation.

June Gemstone -Alexandrite or Pearl

 Alexandrite is one of the options for the June birthstone and sure to be a treasured gift for any occasion. Throughout the world, Alexandrite remains one of the most fascinating and desireable of all gemstones. More rare and valuable than diamonds, the Alexandrite is treasured for its beautiful colors. Unusual in its dramatic color transformation, in daylight this stone can be a deep blue-green, but under incandescent lighting the stone appears as a brilliant raspberry red.

Pearl is another option for the birthstone for the month of June. It is also the accepted anniversary gemstone for the 3rd and 30th years of marriage.

A pearl is the product of an oyster's defense mechanism. When a foreign irritant is introduced either by man (cultured) or naturally, the oyster immediately surrounds it with layers of a substance called nacre. This forms the exquisite gemstone know as pearl.

Pearls come in a wide range of colors. 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. The larger the pearl, the greater the value. 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 10mm and up from Australian and Indonesian waters), to name a few.

Pearls have been recognized as the emblem of modesty, chastity and purity. They have come to symbolize a happy marriage.

Avoid household chemicals, cosmetics, hair sprays, and perfumes. Don't use ultrasonic cleaners. Wash with mild soap and water and store in a protective chamois pouch or tissue paper.

July Gemstone - Ruby

Ruby is the accepted birthstone for July. It is also the accepted anniversary gemstone for the 15th and 40th year. The finest rubies emanate from Burma, having been mined there since ancient times. Other sources include Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania, Cambodia, Afghanistan and India.Ruby is known as the "Lord of the Gems" because of its rarity and beauty. Derived from the Latin word "ruber", it simply means red. Ruby, like sapphire, is a variety of corundum and only exists as a true red in color. The finest color is a vivid, almost pure spectral red with a very faint undertone of blue, as seen in Burmese rubies which are considered the finest.

The highest quality rubies are said to protect their owners from all kinds of misfortune. A fine ruby assured the owner he would live in harmony with his neighbors. It would protect his stature in life, his home and land. Its protective powers were intensified when set in jewelry, and worn on the left side. Many believed rubies possessed an inner flame which burned eternally. As part of the customary fashioning process, virtually all rubies are heated to permanently improve their color and appearance.

As with all gemstones, care should be taken to protect it from scratches and sharp blows.

August Gemstone - Peridot

Peridot is the accepted birthstone for August. It is also the accepted anniversary gemstone for the 16th year of marriage. The peridot is abundant, and is available in larger sizes. It is found in Burma and the U.S. The most important source of peridot in the world is the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation near Globe, Arizona, where it is mined by native Americans. Large sizes are mined in Myanmar (Burma) and peridot is also found in China.

Peridot should be a lively lime green, without a brownish or olive cast.

Peridot is the child of volcanic action. Tiny peridot crystals are sometimes combed from the black sands of Hawaii.

Peridots were favored by pirates, considered powerful amulets against all evil, and when set in gold, were said to protect the wearer from the terrors of the night. They had medicinal uses, too. If fashioned into a chalice from which medicines were drunk, they intensified the effects of the drug.

Care should be taken to protect peridot from scratches, sharp blows, household chemicals and extreme temperature changes. Do not use a home ultrasonic machine for cleaning.

September Gemstone - Sapphire

Sapphire is the September birthstone as well as the accepted anniversary gem for the 5th and 45th years of marriage. Sapphire is found in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), Kasmir, Australia, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, China and the U.S.

Sapphire, a variety of corundum, comes in all colors except red (the red variety being known as ruby), but is especially popular in deep blue. Fancy colored sapphires-including pink, green, orange, and golden yellow are magnificent when combined in a necklace or bracelet.

Prince Charles chose a blue sapphire for Princess Diana's engagement ring. The stone's durability, combined with its beauty, makes it the perfect alternative for an engagement ring.

Ancient priests and sorcerers honored sapphire above all gems, for this stone enabled them to interpret oracles and foretell the future. Marriage partners put great faith in the stone, if its luster dimmed, one knew his or her spouse had been unfaithful. Sapphire refused to shine when worn by the wicked or impure.

As part of the customary fashioning process, virtually all blue, yellow and golden sapphires are heated to permanently produce or intensify their color.

As with all gemstones, care should be taken to protect it from scratches and sharp blows.

October Gemstone -Opal or Tourmaline

Opal is the October birthstone as well as the accepted anniversary gemstone for the 14th year of marriage. Opal sources are Australia, Mexico and the U.S.

The well-known Roman naturalist Pliny described opal as "made up of the glories of the most precious gems... the gentler fire of the ruby, the rich purple of the amethyst, the sea-green of the emerald, glittering together..." White opal has a white or light body color with flashes of many colors. Black opal has a black, dark blue, dark green or gray body color with vivid flashes of color such as red, pink and bright green.

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 opal could render its wearer invisible when the need arose. It was also said to have a beneficial effect on eyesight. It was thought to banish evil spirits and favor children, the theater, amusements, friendships and feelings.

Care should be taken to protect it from scratches, sharp blows, household chemicals, and extreme temperature changes. To maintain the brilliance of opal, it should be wiped clean with a soft cloth. Do not use a home ultrasonic machine or jewelry cleaner.

Sometimes pink tourmaline is used as a birthstone for October. It takes its name from the Singhalese word turmamali meaning "mixed precious stones" because they were often confused with other gems.Tourmaline spans the color spectrum from red to violet and in every tone. It also occurs in color combinations in one stone (bi-colored or tri-colored), which accounts for its popularity. The fascinating "watermelon" tourmaline looks just like the inside of a watermelon-red in the center surrounded by a green "rind." It is found in Brazil, Africa, USA

Tourmaline is a fairly hard, durable, brilliant, and very wearable stone with a wide choice of colors. It is not as fragile as opal, and is sometimes selected by those who prefer faceted stones. It is a gem of modern times, but nonetheless has found its way to the list of birthstones. Perhaps this honor results from tourmaline's versatility and broad color range. Or perhaps to the fact that red-and-green tourmaline, in which the red and green occur side by side in the same stone, is reminiscent of the turning of October leaves.

November Gemstone -Topaz or Citrine

Topaz is one of the accepted birthstones for November. Blue topaz is the accepted anniversary gemstone for the 4th year; Imperial topaz for the 23rd year of marriage. Topaz is found mainly in Brazil, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and China.

Most people think of topaz as a transparent golden yellow gemstone. However, this gemstone 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. 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 time of emergency. It proved the loyalty of associates by changing color in the presence of poison.

As part of the normal fashioning process, most brownish to sherry brown topaz are heated to produce a permanent pink color. Certain types of topaz are irradiated and heated to produce shades of blue.

Citrine is also a popular optional birthstone for November. It is the designated gemstone for 13th wedding anniversaries. Unlike topaz, citrine is readily available and inexpensive even in large sizes.

Legend has it that Citrine protects against snake venom and evil thoughts.

A variety of quartz, Citrine was named after the French word for lemon, "citro," to describe its typical yellow color. Its more saturated hues range through rich golden yellow into deep, earthy brownish oranges known as "madeira."

December Gemstone -Zircon, Turquoise, or Tanzanite

One traditional option for the birthstone for December, Zircon is also a fine gift for any occasion. Zircon is found in Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, France, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Tanzania

Zircon is a natural stone - not to be confused with Cubic Zirconia which is man made. It is known as a colorless stone used to imitate diamonds but also comes in: blue, yellow, orange, red, brown and green. Brown Zircon is usually heat treated to change them to colorless or blue Zircon. Blue stones that revert to brown will regain the blue if reheated. Blue Zircon reheated in the presence of oxygen will change to a golden yellow.

Zircon will have more wear on its facets than diamond. On both gems, care should be taken to protect it from scratches, sharp blows, hot water, and household chemicals. Do not use a home ultrasonic machine.

Turquoise is another accepted birthstone for December and is the accepted anniversary gemstone for the 11th year of marriage. The name means "Turkish stone" because the trade route that brought it to Europe used to come via Turkey. The best qualities are found in northeast Iran (Persian turquoise). However, the United States southwest is now the world leader in production. The deposits in Sinai were already worked out by 4,000 BC. At that time the stone was used for jewelry, amulets and in the preparation of cosmetics.

Colors in turquoise range from sky blue (most desirable color) to blue green and apple green.

During the 16th century turquoise was used as currency by the Southwest Indians. They believed the gemstone could bring spoils to the warrior, animals to the hunter, and happiness and good fortune to all.

Although large quantities of beautiful turquoise which have not been color enhanced are available, today's turquoise is commonly stabilized with plastic to improve its color and durability. Chalky varieties of turquoise are normally impregnated with oil or wax to enhance color. This color change may not be permanent.

Yet another option for December is Tanzanite. Tanzanite was discovered in 1967 in the Merelani Hills of East Africa. This is the only location in the world that currently mines Tanzanite.

Tanzanite has a unique tri-chronic characteristic that changes in color, depending on the light source. In daylight it appears to be a vibrant blue, but when viewed under incandescent light it looks deep violet, usually both colors can be seen simultaneously. Tanzanite's third color is golden brown, which is invisible to the naked eye and can only be seen with a Chelsea Filter. Tanzanite comes in array of colors the most sought after, as well as the most rare is the darkest blue-violet.

Tanzanite is a "stone of magic" that facilitates spiritual awareness, and stimulates insight. It is also said to relieve depression, to cause an integration of etheric desires and physical realities, and to integrate all forms of communication and psychic power. It has been used to help heal problems with the heart, spleen, lungs and pancreas. Tanzanite is known as a dispeller and transmuter of negativity. It is of benefit to the Third Eye.

Tanzanite is more delicate than most gems and care should be taken to protect it from scratches, sharp blows, hot water, and household chemicals. Do not use a home ultrasonic machine.

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