The origin of birthstones is believed to date back to the breastplate of Aaron which contained twelve gemstones representing the twelve tribes of Israel. The current list dates back to 1912 with only one addition since then – the tanzanite was added to December.
There are numerous legends and myths about birthstone healing powers and their therapeutic influence. According to these legends, wearing a gemstone during its assigned month heightened its healing powers. For the full effect, individuals needed to own all twelve and alternate them monthly.
Garnet, the birthstone for January, signifies eternal friendship and trust and is the perfect gift for a friend. Garnet, derived from the word granatum, means seed, and is called so because of the gemstone’s resemblance to a pomegranate seed. References to the gemstone dates back to 3100 B.C., when the Egyptians used garnets as inlays jewelry. Garnet is the name of a group of minerals that comes in a rainbow of colors, from the deep red of the pyrope garnet to the vibrant green of tsavorites. Today, the most important sources for garnet are Africa, Sri Lanka, and India.
Amethyst, the gemstone believed by ancient Greeks and Romans to ward off the intoxicating powers of Bacchus, also is said to keep the wearer clear-headed and quick-witted. Throughout history, the gemstone has been associated with many myths, legends, religions, and numerous cultures. English regalia were even decorated with amethysts during the Middle Ages to symbolize royalty. Amethyst is purple quartz, a beautiful blend of violet and red that can found in every corner of the earth. Historically, the finest amethyst were found in Russia and were featured in much royal European jewelry. Today, while Brazil is the primary source of this gemstone, fine material can be found elsewhere, especially in Zambia.
The two birthstones for March are Aquamarine and Bloodstone.
The name aquamarine is derived from the Latin word aqua, meaning water, and marina, meaning the sea. This gemstone was believed to protect sailors, as well as to guarantee a safe voyage. The serene color of aquamarine is said to cool the temper, allowing the wearer to remain calm and levelheaded. Its pale, cool color beautifully complements spring and summer wardrobes. Aquamarine is most often light in tone and ranges from greenish blue to blue-green; the color usually is more intense in larger stones. This gemstone is mined mainly in Brazil, but also is found in Nigeria, Madagascar, Zambia, Pakistan, and Mozambique.
The second birthstone for March is bloodstone, a dark-green jasper flecked with vivid red spots of iron oxide. This ancient stone was used by the Babylonians to make seals and amulets and was believed to have healing powers — especially for blood disorders. It is sometimes called the martyr’s stone as legend tells that it was created when drops of Christ’s blood stained some jasper at the foot of the cross. Generally found embedded in rocks or in riverbeds as pebbles, primary sources for this stone are India, Brazil, and Australia.
As the April birthstone, diamonds are the ideal gift for a loved one. And now you have more choices than ever. Get creative and give the ultimate gift of beauty: a fancy-color diamond. Fancy-color diamonds are natural, rare and truly exotic gem of the earth. Diamonds in hues of yellow, red, pink, blue, and green range in intensity from faint to vivid and generally the more saturated the color, the higher the value. In fact, diamonds sparkling with intense color are rare and may be priced higher than a colorless diamond of equal size. Because fancy-color diamonds are very desirable, color is sometimes introduced in a laboratory. These are correctly called color-treated diamonds. When purchasing a fancy-color diamond, the shopper should ask if any enhancements or treatments were used to improve its color and/or clarity.
As the birthstone for May, the emerald, a symbol of rebirth, is believed to grant the owner foresight, good fortune, and youth. Emerald, derived from the word smaragdus, meaning green in Greek, was mined in Egypt as early as 330 B.C. Today, most of the world’s emeralds are mined in Colombia, Brazil, Afghanistan, and Zambia. The availability of high-quality emerald is limited; consequently, treatments to improve clarity are performed regularly.
Historically, pearls have been used as an adornment for centuries. They were one of the favorite gem materials of the Roman Empire; later in Tudor England, the 1500s were known as the pearl age. Pearls are unique as they are the only gems from living sea creatures and require no faceting or polishing to reveal their natural beauty. In the early 1900s, the first successful commercial culturing of round saltwater pearls began. Since the 1920s, cultured pearls have almost completely replaced natural pearls in the market.
A relatively modern gem, Alexandrite, was first discovered in Russia in 1831 during the reign of its namesake, Czar Alexander II, and is an extremely rare chrysoberyl with chameleon-like qualities. Its color is a lovely green in both daylight and fluorescent light; it changes color to a purplish red in incandescent light. Due to its rarity, some jewelers stock synthetic versions of this enchanting gemstone. (Synthetic gemstones are man-made alternatives to the natural material, possessing the same physical, optical, and chemical properties as the natural gemstone.)
The third birthstone for June is the Moonstone. It was given its name by the Roman natural historian Pliny, who wrote that moonstone’s appearance altered with the phases of the moon — a belief that held until well after the sixteenth century. A phenomenal gemstone, moonstones show a floating play of light (called adularescence) and sometimes show either a multirayed star or a cat’s eye. Considered a sacred stone in India, moonstones often are displayed on a background of yellow (a sacred color) and are believed to encapsulate within the stone a spirit whose purpose is to bring good fortune. Part of the family of minerals called feldspar, moonstone occurs in many igneous and metamorphic rocks and comes in a variety of colors such as green, blue, peach, and champagne. The most prized moonstones are from Sri Lanka; India, Australia, the United States, Mayanmar, and Madagascar are also sources.