January — Garnet
There are many myths and legends surrounding the garnet. One Biblical legend is that Noah hung this gem on the ark to light his way through the dark and stormy nights of God’s wrath. A Greek myth linked to the garnet is the story of the young goddess of sunshine, Persephone, who was abducted by Hades, god of the underworld. Hades eventually released Persephone, but not before he offered her some pomegranate seeds, which guaranteed her return to him.
First mined in Sri Lanka over 2,500 years ago, the garnet is also found in Africa, Australia, India, Russia, South America; and in the United States, in Arizona and Idaho. Although most commonly known as a red gemstone, the garnet comes in a variety of other hues, including muted yellows, vibrant oranges, rosy pinks, lime greens, and violets, a virtual bouquet of colors. This diversity is due to unique combinations of elements within each particular gem, such as iron, calcium, and manganese.
The garnet continues to be the protective gem of journeyers. A gift of garnet is thought to be symbolic of love and the desire for a loved one’s safe travel and speedy homecoming. It is January’s birthstone, but far from being only a winter gem, the garnet, with its brilliance and multitude of colors, is truly one for any season.
February — Amethyst
If gazing into the sparkling purple depths of an Amethyst suffuses you with a sense of powerful well being, this is only to be expected. The ancient Greeks believed that this gemstone held many powers, among them protection against intoxication. In fact, the word Amethyst comes from the Greek word “amethystos,” meaning sober. In ancient Greece, the gemstone was associated with the god of wine, and it was common practice to serve this beverage from Amethyst goblets in the belief that this would prevent overindulgence. Even today, Amethyst is considered a stabilizing force for those struggling to overcome addictive behaviors.
February’s purple birthstone has been found among the possessions of royalty throughout the ages. The intense violet hue of Amethyst appealed to early monarchs, perhaps because they often wore this color. Purple dye was scarce and expensive at one time, and so it was reserved for the garments of kings and queens. Amethyst has been found in ruins dating as far back as the ninth century, adorning crowns, scepters, jewelry, and breastplates worn into battle. A large Amethyst is among the closely guarded gemstones in the British Crown Jewels.
March — Aquamarine
The name “Aquamarine,” the first birthstone for March, is derived from the Latin word for “aqua”- water, and “mare” – “sea.” It’s readily apparent why, because the color of this alluring gem mirrors the beautiful blue hues of the earth’s abundant waters. The first documented use of aquamarines is by the Greeks around 300 B.C., where aquamarine amulets were engraved with the god Poseidon on a chariot. Aquamarine beads have been found in the tombs of ancient Egyptians, another gem used to ensure safe passage through the next world. King Solomon’s breastplate is said to have contained an aquamarine gem. 2,000 years ago, Emperor Nero is said to have used the gem as an eyeglass and people believed the gem possessed medicinal and healing powers. In the Middle Ages, it was considered an antidote to poison and it has been used for telling fortunes.
April — Diamond
April’s birthstone is remarkably simple in composition, yet stunning in its unique ability to reflect and refract light into vivid flashes of brilliant color. The ancient Hindus called the Diamond “Vajra,” meaning lightening, both because of the sparks of light thrown off by this gem as well as its invincible strength. The Diamond is harder than any other substance on earth.
Diamonds have been revered throughout history. Used to embellish such items as crowns, swords and emblems as well as jewelry, they’ve even been part of national holidays. Queen Victoria declared the celebration of her 50th year of reign a “Diamond Jubilee.” Diamonds have also been credited for having certain medicinal properties. During the middle ages, these gemstones were thought to heal illness, but only if the ailing person took the Diamond into bed to warm it up first!
A gift of a Diamond is symbolic of everlasting love. There is no more convincing a promise of an enduring relationship than the brilliant gemstone that has endured in people’s hearts throughout the ages.
May — Emerald
Emerald comes in many shades of green, from a deep forest green to an insipid pale watery green. The most sought after are the rich velvety green colors. A characteristic of emeralds is that they tend to have inclusions in the stone. Inclusions are small specks which are found in precious stones. Every stone is unique and in emerald a perfect stone is extremely rare indeed. As early as 2000 BC, near the Red Sea in Egypt, the Cleopatra Mines were being worked. Emeralds were highly sought after by the Ancient Egyptians and also by the Incas. Fine emeralds come from Brazil and Columbia. Other places they have been found are Russia, Australia, Africa, Pakistan and India. A word of warning though to everyone who owns a piece of this beautiful stone, emeralds are treated with an oil which soaks into the stone and affords it protection. You have to be careful how you clean emeralds and don’t accidentally take out the protective oil. Do not ultrasonic clean emeralds and be careful with the baths of jewelry cleaner as these methods may strip the stones of their oils. Fidelity, goodness and love are associated with emerald. Emerald features in engagement and eternity rings, set together with diamonds. Emerald is the 55th wedding anniversary stone.
June — Pearl
From one of the humblest of life forms, the mollusk, comes the pearl — a gem of unsurpassed beauty and elegance. Ancient civilizations had many stories to explain the origin of June’s birthstone, such as the Greek belief that pearls were the hardened tears of joy that the goddess of love shook from her eyes as she was born from the sea. According to Arab legend, pearls were formed when oysters were lured from the depths of the ocean by the beautiful moon and then swallowed moonlit dewdrops. And the Ancient Chinese thought that these gems originated from the brains of dragons.
Only those with royal status once wore pearl jewelry, but eventually these gems were seen among all classes of people. They continue to be viewed as a mark of taste and refinement as well as a symbol of purity, and they are often given to celebrate a marriage or the birth of a child. Pearls are nature’s perfect gift, suitable for all ages, and elegantly worn with everything from jeans to an evening gown.winter gem, the garnet, with its brilliance and multitude of colors, is truly one for any season.
July — Ruby
Like a perfect red rose, the Ruby’s rich color speaks of love and passion. Called the “Rajnapura” or King of Gems by ancient Hindus, July’s birthstone is among the most highly prized of gems throughout history. The Ruby was considered to have magical powers, and was worn by royalty as a talisman against evil. It was thought to grow darker when peril was imminent, and to return to its original color once danger was past, provided it was in the hands of its rightful owner!
Rubies were thought to represent heat and power. Ancient tribes used the gem as bullets for blowguns, and it was said that a pot of water would boil instantly if a Ruby was tossed into it. Ground to powder and placed on the tongue, this crystal was used as a cure for indigestion.
It has been said that the Ruby’s red glow comes from an internal flame that cannot be extinguished, making a gift of this stone symbolic of everlasting love. With its hardness and durability, it is a perfect engagement gem. And if worn on the left hand, ancient lore has it that the Ruby will bring good fortune to its wearer, too!
August — Peridot
If fire appears to leap from the vibrant green surface of the Peridot, this may be because this gem is formed as a result of volcanic activity. Many years ago, natives discovered Peridot crystals in the black sands of Hawaii, explaining their presence as tears shed by Pele, the volcano goddess. Throughout history, August’s birthstone has been used as a means to connect with nature. Early Egyptian priests drank a stimulating beverage called Soma from cups made of Peridot, believing this practice to draw them closer to Isis, the goddess of nature.
The name Peridot comes from the Arabic word “faridat,” meaning gem. Ancient Egyptians called them the “gem of the sun,” because of their dazzling brilliance when seen in the desert sun. It was believed that the Peridot glowed with light even as darkness fell, which is why miners were said to have scouted for these gems during the night, marking their location, and returning in the light of day to retrieve them. Perhaps this legendary mining method is the reason that the Peridot is sometimes called “evening emerald.”
The force of nature is alive within a Peridot, making a gift of this gemstone symbolic of vitality. It signifies strength, both individual and within a relationship, as well as the promise of new growth in years ahead.
September — Sapphire
The striking deep blue of a quality sapphire is reminiscent of a cloudless night sky. Ancient civilizations believed that the world was set upon an enormous sapphire, which painted the sky blue with its reflection. This legend, as well as the belief that the ten commandments were inscribed upon tablets made of sapphire, gives September’s birthstone a royal place among gemstones.
Named after the Greek word “sapphirus”, meaning blue, Sapphires have long been a favorite among priests and kings, who considered them symbolic of wisdom and purity. These gemstones are prominent among the British Crown Jewels, and Prince Charles chose this as the engagement stone for his fiancé Princess Diana.
The Sapphire is second only to the Diamond in hardness, making it a durable gemstone for setting into jewelry. A gift of Sapphire represents sincerity and faithfulness. As nourishing to the soul as gazing up at the sky on a summer day, this brilliant blue gemstone is truly a heavenly choice!
October — Opal
October’s birthstone treats the eye to an explosion of shimmering colors, not unlike those of a magnificent rainbow following a summer rain. The Opal derives its name from the Latin word “opalus,” meaning precious jewel. Prized for its unique ability to refract and reflect specific wavelengths of light, the Opal was called “Cupid Paederos” by the Romans, meaning a child beautiful as love. One legendary explanation for this gemstone’s origin is that it fell from heaven in a flash of fiery lightning.
Ancient monarchs treasured Opals, both for their beauty and for their presumed protective powers. They were set into crowns and worn in necklaces to ward off evil and to protect the eyesight. These gemstones were also ground and ingested for their healing properties and to ward off nightmares.
The Opal dates back to prehistoric times. It is a non-crystallized silica, which is a mineral found near the earth’s surface in areas where ancient geothermal hot springs once existed. As the hot springs dried up, layers of the silica, combined with water, were deposited into the cracks and cavities of the bedrock, forming Opal. This gemstone actually contains up to 30% water, so it must be protected from heat or harsh chemicals, both of which will cause drying and may lead to cracking and loss of iridescence. Opal must also be guarded from blows, since it is relatively soft and breaks easily.
November — Citrine
November’s gemstone, Citrine, is as warm as a Van Gogh painting of sunflowers. The name Citrine comes from an old French word, “citrin”, meaning lemon. One of the more rare forms of quartz, this gemstone ranges in color from the palest yellow to a dark amber named Madeira because of its resemblance to the red wine.
Perhaps because of its scarcity, there is little mention of Citrine used as a gemstone prior to the first century B.C. The Romans were thought to be the first to wear the yellow quartz, crafting it into cabochon, or highly polished but un-faceted cuts of stone set into jewelry. Citrine became more popular during the Romantic Period, when artisans often favored these warm colored gems to enhance gold jewelry. Citrine, like all forms of quartz, was believed to have magical powers and was worn as a talisman against evil thoughts and snake venom. It was also considered to have medicinal properties and was commonly used as a remedy for urinary and kidney ailments.
A gift of Citrine is symbolic for hope and strength. With its sunny brightness, this gemstone is ideal for helping anyone to get through the tough times in life!
December — Blue Topaz
As cool and inviting as a blue lake on a blistering summer day, December’s birthstone is derived from the Sanskrit word “tapas,” meaning fire. This is because Blue Topaz was considered by ancient civilizations to have cooling properties. Not only was it believed to cool boiling water when thrown into the pot, but to calm hot tempers as well! This gemstone was credited with many other healing powers, among them the ability to cure insanity, asthma, weak vision and insomnia. The Blue Topaz was even thought to have magical properties in its ability to make its wearer invisible in a threatening situation.
Blue Topaz is the hardest of the silicate minerals. While pure Topaz is colorless, minor changes of elements within the stone result in a variety of other colors, such as blue, pale green, red, yellow and pink.
The blue hue is created when Topaz is heated, whether the heat source is natural or engineered by man. The three shades of Blue Topaz are Sky, Swiss and London Blue. The latter is the deepest blue and is often used as a less expensive substitute for Sapphire.
A gift of Blue Topaz is symbolic of love and fidelity. Luckily, this cool blue gemstone has no legendary power to put out the burning flame of love!