January = Garnet
The garnet is so durable, remnants of garnet jewelry can be found as far back as the Bronze Age. Other references go back to 3100 BC when the Egyptians used garnet as inlays in their jewelry and carvings. The Egyptians even said it was the symbol of life. The garnet was very popular with the Romans in the 3rd and 4th Century.
All species of garnets possess similar physical properties and crystal forms, but differ in chemical composition. The different species are pyrope, almandine, spessartine, grossular (varieties of which are hessonite or cinnamon-stone and tsavorite), uvarovite and andradite.
Hardness: 6.5 – 7.5 Mohs Scale
Because the chemical composition of garnet varies, the atomic bonds in some species are stronger than in others. As a result, this gemstone was also used as a talisman for protection both by warriors going into battle and to those who wanted to ward off pestilence and plague. Some ancient healers and wise men even placed garnets in wounds and praised its healing powers.
Garnet jewelry has been a fixture throughout the ages. Garnets were often used as signet rings in ancient Rome, and the nobility favored garnets in the Middle Ages.
The Victorians made garnets very popular during that period. Some of the loveliest garnet jewelry from that era mimics its pomegranate namesake, with clusters of tiny red gems forming a larger statement piece.
February = Amethyst
Amethyst is a violet variety of quartz often used in jewelry. The name comes from the ancient Greek (“not”) and (“intoxicated”), a reference to the belief that the stone protected its owner from drunkenness. The ancient Greeks wore amethyst and made drinking vessels decorated with it in the belief that it would prevent intoxication. It is one of several forms of quartz. Amethyst is a semiprecious stone and is the traditional birthstone for February.
Hardness is 7 in Mohs Scale
Amethyst, the gemstone believed by ancient Greeks and Romans to ward off the intoxicating powers of Bacchus, also was 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 jewelry has been found and dated as early as 2000 BC.
It has been associated with many myths, legends, religions, and numerous cultures. Some historical account ts say that Saint Valentine had an amethyst ring carved with an image of Cupid. And for those familiar with Old Testament history, amethyst was one of the twelve gemstones that represented the twelve tribes of Israel.
For many years, amethyst was held to be one of the most precious gemstones, often favored by royalty or exclusively by the clergy as a symbol for the deity of Christ. It was even held for many years in the same regard as the diamond. It wasn’t until the discovery of more abundant supplies of amethyst that it became a gemstone enjoyed by more than just the wealthiest buyers.
Many wearers of amethyst throughout history and even today prize the gem for its symbolism as well as its beauty. Leonard da Vinci once said that amethyst helps to quicken intelligence and get rid of evil thoughts. Other qualities like peace, stability, courage, and strength are said to be derived from this gemstone.
March = Aquamarine
Aquamarine (from Latin: aqua marina, being, water: sea, i.e. sea water, marina, from marīnus; of the sea.) is a blue or cyan variety of beryl. It occurs at most localities which yield ordinary beryl. The gem-gravel placer deposits of Sri Lanka contain aquamarine. Clear yellow beryl, such as that occurring in Brazil, is sometimes called aquamarine chrysolite. The deep blue version of aquamarine is called maxixe. Maxixe is commonly found in the country of Madagascar. Its color fades to white when exposed to sunlight or is subjected to heat treatment, though the color returns with irradiation.
Hardness is 7.5 – 8 in Mohs Scale
This gemstone was believed to protect sailors, as well as to guarantee a safe voyage. The serene blue or blue-green color of aquamarine is said to cool the temper, allowing the wearer to remain calm and levelheaded.
In the Middle Ages, many believed that the simple act of wearing aquamarine was a literal antidote to poisoning. The Romans believed that if you carved a frog into a piece of aquamarine jewelry, it would help to reconcile differences between enemies and make new friends.
Still, other historical groups took this lore even further, using aquamarine as gifts to the bride at a wedding to symbolize long unity and love. Some even believed it could re-awaken love between two people.
The Sumerians, Egyptians, and Hebrews all admired aquamarine, and many warriors would wear it into battle to bring about victory. Many ancient medicines used powder from aquamarine to help cure all manner of infection, but it was said to be particularly good for eye ailments.
The stone is also considered to be a great addition to mental health and is used widely as a symbol in Tarot as well as a meditation aid and is said to help one cultivate more inner tranquility. It is also considered by some to be a great aligner of the spiritual and the physical, for those who feel out of harmony or alignment with oneself.
No matter how you use aquamarine—either as a piece of jewelry or as an aid in a spiritual journey—its cool, tranquil color is the perfect complement to any skin tone or setting.
April = Diamond
A diamond (from the ancient Greek adámas, meaning “unbreakable”, “proper”, or “unalterable”) is one of the best-known and most sought-after gemstones. Diamonds have been known to mankind and used as decorative items since ancient times; some of the earliest references can be traced to India.
The hardness of diamond and its high dispersion of light—giving the diamond its characteristic “fire”—make it useful for industrial applications and desirable as jewelry. Diamonds are such a highly traded commodity that multiple organizations have been created for grading and certifying them based on the four Cs, which are color, cut, clarity, and carat. Other characteristics, such as the presence or lack of fluorescence, also affect the desirability and thus the value of a diamond used for jewelry.
Hardness is 10 in Mohs Scale
Diamonds have been admired for millennia, and some historians estimate it was traded as early as 4 BC. One of the reasons it is so admired and valued is because of the process by which a diamond must be formed well below the earth’s crust, then forced upward until it is uncovered.
But before this process was understood, many ancient civilizations believed that diamonds were lighting made real on earth. Perhaps this is the reason that diamonds have often been associated with great healing powers. Many thought the diamond could cure brain disease, alleviate pituitary gland disorders, and draw toxins from the blood.
Historically, the diamond first became a popular gemstone in India, when the Moghuls and Imperial Colony easily mined diamonds from deposits along three major rivers. Today, the diamond is most widely known as the stone to give as part of an engagement ring.
Throughout history, however, the diamond has nearly always symbolized eternal and lasting love. So, whether you’re getting engaged, or simply want to give yourself a truly meaningful gift, the diamond has both beauty and enduring symbolism.
May = Emerald
Emerald is a gemstone and a variety of the mineral beryl colored green by trace amounts of chromium and sometimes vanadium. Most emeralds are highly included, so their toughness (resistance to breakage) is classified as generally poor. Emerald is a cyclosilicate.
The word “emerald” is derived (via Old French: esmeraude and Middle English: emeraude), from Vulgar Latin:
esmaralda/esmaraldus, a variant of Latin smaragdus, which originated in Ancient Greek: (smaragdos; “green gem”)
Hardness of 7.5–8 on the Mohs scale
Emeralds, like all colored gemstones, are graded using four basic parameters–the four Cs of connoisseurship: color, clarity, cut and carat weight. Before the 20th century, jewelers used the term water, as in, “a gem of the finest water”, to express the combination of two qualities: color and clarity. Normally, in the grading of colored gemstones, color is by far the most important criterion. However, in the grading of emeralds, clarity is considered a close second. A fine emerald must possess not only a pure verdant green hue as described below but also a high degree of transparency to be considered a top gem.
In the 1960s, the American jewelry industry changed the definition of emerald to include the green vanadium-bearing beryl. As a result, vanadium emeralds purchased as emeralds in the United States are not recognized as such in the UK and Europe. In America, the distinction between traditional emeralds and the new vanadium kind is often reflected in the use of terms such as “Colombian emerald”.
The emerald was mined in Egypt as early as 330 BC, but some estimate that the oldest emeralds are 2.97 billion years old.
Cleopatra is perhaps the most famous historical figure to cherish emeralds. She even claimed ownership of all emerald mines in Egypt during her reign.
The Egyptians used emeralds both in jewelry and in their elaborate burials, often burying emeralds with monarchs as symbols of protection.
On the other side of the world, the Muzo Indians of Colombia had well-hidden and prized emerald mines. These mines were so hidden, it took the Spanish conquistadors nearly twenty years to find them.
Like other gemstones, the emerald was believed to have many mystical powers that accompanied its beauty. There were those who thought the emerald could cure stomach problems, control epilepsy, and stop bleeding. Maybe due to its soothing green color, it was also thought to be able to ward off panic and keep the wearer relaxed and serene.
Today, emerald is a symbol of loyalty, new beginnings, peace, and security, making it not only a beautiful gem to wear, but also a meaningful gift to be treasured by the receiver. It is still widely prized by the rich and famous, with Elizabeth Taylor’s famous emerald pendant selling for $6.5 million in 2011.
June = Pearl & Alexandrite
A pearl is a hard object produced within the soft tissue (specifically the mantle) of a living shelled mollusk or another animal, such as a conulariid. Just like the shell of a mollusk, a pearl is composed of calcium carbonate (mainly aragonite or a mixture of aragonite and calcite) in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other shapes, known as baroque pearls, can occur. The finest quality natural pearls have been highly valued as gemstones and objects of beauty for many centuries. Because of this, the pearl has become a metaphor for something rare, fine, admirable, and valuable.
Hardness of 2.5–4.5 on the Mohs scale
The most valuable pearls occur spontaneously in the wild but are extremely rare. These wild pearls are referred to as natural pearls. Cultured or farmed pearls from pearl oysters and freshwater mussels make up the majority of those currently sold. Imitation pearls are also widely sold in inexpensive jewelry, but the quality of their iridescence is usually very poor and is easily distinguished from that of genuine pearls. Pearls have been harvested and cultivated primarily for use in jewelry, but in the past were also used to adorn clothing. They have also been crushed and used in cosmetics, medicines, and paint formulations.
Pearls have been used as an adornment for centuries —at least as far back as ancient Greece, where they believed pearls were tears of the gods. The oldest known pearl jewelry was discovered in the sarcophagus of a Persian Princess who died in 520 B.C.
Ancient Japanese folktales told that pearls were created from the tears of mythical creatures like mermaids and nymphs. Early Chinese civilizations believed that dragons carried pearls between their teeth, and the dragon must be slain to claim the pearls—which symbolized wisdom.
Other cultures associated pearls with the moon, calling them “teardrops of the moon.” Hindu folklore explained that dewdrops fell from the moon into the sea, and Krishna picked one for his daughter on her wedding day.
Because natural pearls were so rare throughout history, only the richest echelon could afford them. During the Byzantine Empire, rules dictated that only the emperor could wear these treasured gemstones. Ancient Egyptians were often buried with their prized pearls.
Tudor England was known as the Pearl Age because of the stone’s popularity with the upper class during the sixteenth century. Portraits showed royals wearing pearl jewelry and clothing adorned with pearls.
Pearls became more accessible in the early 1900s when the first commercial culturing of saltwater pearls began in Asia. Since the 1920s, cultured pearls have almost completely replaced natural pearls in the market—making this classic gemstone affordable for nearly any budget.
The alexandrite variety displays a color change (alexandrite effect) dependent upon the nature of ambient lighting. Alexandrite effect is the phenomenon of an observed color change from greenish to reddish with a change in source illumination. Alexandrite results from small-scale replacement of aluminum by chromium ions in the crystal structure, which causes intense absorption of light over a narrow range of wavelengths in the yellow region (580 nm) of the visible light spectrum. Because human vision is most sensitive to green light and least sensitive to red light, alexandrite appears greenish in daylight where the full spectrum of visible light is present, and reddish in the incandescent light which emits less green and blue spectrum. This color change is independent of any change of hue with viewing direction through the crystal that would arise from pleochroism.
The controversial history of alexandrite dates to Imperial Russia, where it was first discovered in emerald mines near the Tokovaya River in Russia’s Ural Mountains. Its Finnish discoverer initially mistook it for emerald before realizing it changed colors under different light sources.
Hardness of 8.5 on the Mohs scale
According to legend, this gemstone was named for Alexander II because it was discovered on the future czar’s birthday in 1834. Because alexandrite’s red and green hues matched Russia’s military colors, it became the official gemstone of Imperial Russia’s Tsardom.
Russian jewelers were fascinated by this rare chameleon-like gem. George Frederick Kunz, the master gemologist at Tiffany & Co., was also fond of it and produced a series of alexandrite rings between the late 19th and early 20th century. Alexandrite was occasionally used for jewelry in Victorian England, as well.
After Russia’s mine deposits were exhausted, the popularity of alexandrite waned until new supplies were discovered in Brazil in 1987. Brazil, Sri Lanka, and East Africa are now the main sources for alexandrite, though these are not as vividly colored as the original Russian stones.
Because it’s so scarcely available, fine quality alexandrite is practically unaffordable to the public. Even lower quality stones are expensive and limited in supply.
Since the 1960s, labs have grown synthetic alexandrite—not to be confused with simulated alexandrite, which is actually corundum or colored crystals infused with chromium or vanadium for color. Creating synthetic alexandrite is an expensive process so even lab-grown stones can be costly.
July = Ruby
July is the seventh month of the year (between June and August) in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars and the fourth month to have the length of 31 days. It was named by the Roman Senate in honor of the Roman general, Julius Cæsar, it being the month of his birth. Prior to that, it was called Quintilis.
It is on average the warmest month in most of the Northern hemisphere (where it is the second month of summer) and the coldest month in much of the Southern hemisphere (where it is the second month of winter). The second half of the year commences in July. In the Southern hemisphere, July is the seasonal equivalent of January in the Northern hemisphere.
Hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale
Symbolic of passion, protection, and prosperity, the ruby has been revered since ancient times.
Rubies have been particularly prized in Asian countries. Records suggest that rubies were traded along China’s North Silk Road as early as 200 B.C. Chinese noblemen adorned their armor with rubies because they believed the gem would grant protection. They also buried rubies beneath building foundations to secure good fortune.
Ancient Hindus believed they’d be reborn as emperors if they offered rubies to the god Krishna. In Hindu folklore, the glowing fire within rubies burned so hotly that they allegedly boiled water. Greek legends similarly claimed that ruby’s warmth could melt the wax.
In Burma—a significant ruby source since at least 600 AD—warriors believed that rubies made them invincible. They even implanted rubies into their skin to grant protection in battle.
Many cultures also admired ruby as a symbol of love and passion. Rubies have long been considered the perfect wedding gem.
Though ruby has a long history, it wasn’t recognized as a variety of corundum until 1800. Prior to that, red spinel, tourmaline, and garnet were also believed to be ruby. Even the Black Ruby, one of the famed crown jewels of England, was considered one of the largest cut rubies until determined to be spinel.
Imitation ruby dates back as far as Roman times, though it wasn’t synthesized until the early 1900s.
The red fluorescence power of ruby helped build the first working laser in 1960. Rubies—both natural and synthetic—are still used to make lasers, as well as watches and medical instruments.
After classical Burmese mines depleted, the Mong Hsu region of Myanmar started producing rubies in the 1990s. Though these lacked the rich red hue of traditional Burmese Rubies, they were treated with heat to improve saturation and transparency. Heat treated rubies is a common practice nowadays.
August = Peridot
Peridot is gem-quality olivine, which is a silicate mineral. As peridot is the magnesium-rich variety of olivine.
The origin of the name peridot is uncertain. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests an alteration of Anglo-Norman pedoretés (classical Latin pæderot-), a kind of opal, rather than the Arabic word faridat, meaning “gem”.
The earliest use in England is in the register of the St Albans Abbey, in Latin, and its translation in 1705 is possibly the first use of “peridot” in English. It records that on his death in 1245, Bishop John bequeathed various items including peridot to the Abbey.
Hardness of 5.5–6.5 on the Mohs scale
Peridot jewelry dates back as far as the second millennium BC. These ancient Egyptian gems came from deposits on a small volcanic island in the Red Sea called Topazios, now known as St. John’s Island or Zabargad.
Ancient Egyptians called peridot the “gem of the sun,” believing it protected its wearer from terrors of the night. Egyptian priests believed that it harnessed the power of nature, and used goblets encrusted with it to commune with their nature gods.
Some historians believe that Cleopatra’s famed emerald collection may have actually been peridot. Through medieval times, people continued to confuse these two green gems. The 200-carat gems adorning one of the shrines in Germany’s Cologne Cathedral were long believed to be emeralds as well, but they are also peridots.
This gemstone saw a revival in the 1990s when new deposits were discovered in Pakistan, producing some of the finest peridots ever found. Some of these “Kashmir peridots” measured more than 100 carats.
The most productive peridot deposit in the world is located on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona. An estimated 80 to 95 percent of the world’s peridot supply is found here.
Thanks to these rich deposits, the modern demand for peridots can now be met easily, giving people born in August affordable options for wearing this beautiful green birthstone.
September = Sapphire
Sapphire is a gemstone, a variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminum oxide. It is typically blue in color, but natural “fancy” sapphires also occur in yellow, purple, orange, and green colors; “parti sapphires” show two or more colors. The only color which sapphire cannot be is red – as red-colored corundum is called ruby, another corundum variety. Pink colored corundum may be either classified as ruby or sapphire depending on locale. This variety in color is due to trace amounts of elements such as iron, titanium, chromium, copper, or magnesium.
Hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale
Commonly, natural sapphires are cut and polished into gemstones and worn in jewelry. They also may be created synthetically in laboratories for industrial or decorative purposes in large crystal boules. Because of the remarkable hardness of sapphires – (the third hardest mineral, after diamond at 10 and moissanite at 9.5) – sapphires are also used in some non-ornamental applications, such as infrared optical components, high-durability windows, wristwatch crystals, and movement bearings, and very thin electronic wafers, which are used as the insulating substrates of very special-purpose solid-state electronics.
The sapphire has been popular since the Middle Ages. Back then, the celestial blue color of this gem symbolized heaven and attracted divine favor and wise judgment.
Greeks wore sapphire for guidance when seeking answers from the oracle. Buddhists believed it brought spiritual enlightenment, and Hindus used it during worship. Early Christian kings cherished sapphire’s powers of protection by using it in ecclesiastical rings.
Ancient Hebrews believed that the Ten Commandments were engraved on tablets of sapphire, though historians now believe the blue stone referenced in the Bible may have been lapis lazuli.
Classical violet-blue sapphires traditionally came from the Kashmir region of India between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The world record price-per-carat for sapphire was set by a gem from Kashmir, which sold at auction for $242,000 per carat (more than $6.74 million total) in October 2015.
Famous star sapphires like the 1404.49-carat Star of Adam, the 563.4-carat Star of India and the 182-carat Star of Bombay came from Sri Lankan mines.
Australia was a significant source of sapphires until deposits were discovered in Madagascar during the 1990s. Madagascar now leads the world in sapphire production.
In 1902, French chemist Auguste Verneuil developed a process to make synthetic sapphire. The abundance of synthetic sapphire unlocked industrial applications spanning integrated circuits, satellite communication systems, high-durability windows, and scientific instruments.
This gem became a symbol of royal love in 1981 when Britain’s Prince Charles gave Lady Diana a 12-carat blue sapphire engagement ring. Prince William later gave this ring to Catherine Middleton when he proposed in 2010.
Today, top-quality blue sapphire remains one of Mother Nature’s rare gems.
October = Opal & Tourmaline
Opal is a hydrated amorphous form of silica; its water content may range from 3 to 21% by weight but is usually between 6 and 10%. Because of its amorphous character, it is classed as a mineraloid, unlike crystalline forms of silica, which are classed as minerals. It is deposited at a relatively low temperature and may occur in the fissures of almost any kind of rock, being most commonly found with limonite, sandstone, rhyolite, marl, and basalt. Opal is the national gemstone of Australia.
Hardness of 5.5 – 6.5 on the Mohs scale
The internal structure of precious opal makes it diffract light. Depending on the conditions in which it formed, it can take on many colors. Precious opal ranges from clear through white, gray, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, magenta, rose, pink, slate, olive, brown, and black. Of these hues, the black opals are the rarest, whereas white and greens are the most common. Opals vary in optical density from opaque to semitransparent.
According to Arabic legend, opals fell from the sky in bolts of lightning. Australian aborigines, meanwhile, believed that the creator came to earth on a rainbow, leaving these colorful stones where his feet touched the ground.
In 75 AD, the Roman scholar Pliny compared opals to volcanoes and vibrant paintings, noting that their dancing “play” of color could simulate shades of any gems.
During the Middle Ages, people believed that the opal possessed the powers of each gemstone whose color appeared in its sheen, making it a very lucky stone.
But Sir Walter Scott’s 1829 book, “Anne of Geierstein,” transformed opal’s lucky perception. The story featured an enchanted princess who wore an opal that changed colors with her moods. A few drops of holy water extinguished the stone’s magic fire, though, and the woman soon died.
People began associating opals with bad luck. Within a year after publication of Scott’s book, opal sales in Europe fell by 50 percent.
Discoveries of opal deposits in Australia revived opal’s image after 1850. The outback began producing 95 percent of the world’s supply, and many of its finest opals.
The world’s largest and most valuable opal, “Olympic Australis,” came from Coober Pedy, Australia in 1956, during the Olympic Games in Melbourne. Valued at $2.5 million in 2005, this gem measures 11 inches long and weighs 17,000 carats (7.6 pounds).
After scientists discovered the spherical silica structure of opal in the 1960s, they figured out how to synthesize it in 1974.
Since then, opal has gained more popularity through recent discoveries in Ethiopia. Material mined in the Shewa Province in 1994 wasn’t desirable because it was dark and tended to crack easily. But deposits in the Wollo Province, discovered in 2008, brought vivid play-of-color displays to the market.
Australia’s depleting supplies of classic opal impact the price of this uniquely kaleidoscopic gem. Because its flashing play-of-color can suit many changing moods and tastes, the opal stays in high demand.
Tourmaline is a crystalline boron silicate mineral compounded with elements such as aluminum, iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium, or potassium. Tourmaline is classified as a semi-precious stone and the gemstone comes in a wide variety of colors. The name comes from the Tamil and Sinhalese word “Turmali” or “Thoramalli”, which applied to different gemstones found in Sri Lanka.
Egyptian legend tells that tourmaline found its famed array of colors when, on its journey up from the earth’s center, it passed through a rainbow. Because of its colorful occurrences, tourmaline has been confused with other gems throughout history.
Hardness of 7 – 7.5 on the Mohs scale
In the 1500s, a Spanish conquistador found green tourmaline in Brazil—which he mistook for emerald. His error held until the 1800s when mineralogists finally identified tourmaline as its own mineral species.
Variations of the name “schorl” may have been used to describe black tourmaline even before 1400. The name comes from a village in Saxony, Germany, (now called Zschorlau) near a mine with black tourmaline deposits.
The Dutch East India Company brought Sri Lankan tourmaline to Europe for centuries before traders realized it was the same mineral as schorl.
American tourmaline deposits caused the gem’s spike in popularity. In 1876, mineralogist George Kunz launched a craze when he sold green tourmaline from Maine to Tiffany & Co.
In the early 1890s, tourmaline was reported in California—where Native Americans had, for centuries, given certain colors of the gem as funeral gifts.
At that point, China represented the biggest market for tourmaline. The Chinese Empress Dowager Cixi was particularly fond of pink tourmaline, and she purchased large quantities of it from deposits in San Diego County.
The Chinese market was so critical to tourmaline, in fact, that when the Chinese government collapsed in 1912, it took tourmaline trade down with it.
Brazilian tourmaline discoveries in the 1980s and 90s reignited interest in this gem because material mined in Paraíba displayed such striking neon greens, radiant blues, and vivid violets. This region has produced the world’s finest, most valuable specimens of tourmaline—including the world’s largest, weighing 191.87 carats.
While plenty of tourmaline is mined around the world, it’s rare to find fine gem-quality tourmaline in bright colors. This range of material means that the price of tourmaline can vary almost as much as the color.
November = Topaz & Citrine
Topaz is a silicate mineral of aluminum and fluorine. Topaz crystallizes in the orthorhombic system, and its crystals are mostly prismatic terminated by pyramidal and other faces. It is one of the hardest naturally occurring minerals and is the hardest of any silicate (i.e., silicon-based) mineral. This hardness combined with its usual transparency and variety of colors means that it has acquired wide use in jewelry as a cut gemstone as well as for intaglios and other gemstone carvings.
Hardness of 8 on the Mohs scale
Yellow gems have been called variations of the name topaz for thousands of years – long before mineralogists determined that topaz occurs in a range of colors and that many yellowish stones belong to other mineral species.
Ancient texts from the Greek scholar Pliny to the King James Bible referenced topaz, but because of this longstanding confusion, they likely referred to other yellow stones instead.
During the Renaissance in Europe, people believed that topaz could break spells and quell anger. Hindus deemed topaz sacred, believing that a pendant could bring wisdom and longevity to one’s life. African shamans also treated the stone as sacred, using it in their healing rituals.
Russia’s Ural Mountains became a leading source of topaz in the 19th century. The prized pinkish orange gemstone mined there was named Imperial topaz to honor the Russian czar, and only royals were allowed to own it.
Since the discovery of large topaz deposits in Brazil in the mid-19th century, topaz has become much more affordable and widely available.
Processes were developed in the 1960s to turn common colorless topaz blue with irradiation treatment. This variety has since flooded the market, making it one of the least expensive gems available.
Light blue varieties of topaz can be found in Texas, though not commercially mined there. Blue topaz became an official gemstone of Texas in 1969—the same year Utah adopted topaz as its state gemstone.
Citrine is a variety of quartz whose color ranges from a pale yellow to brown due to ferric impurities. Natural citrines are rare; most commercial citrines are heat-treated amethysts or smoky quartzes. However, a heat-treated amethyst will have small lines in the crystal, as opposed to a natural citrine’s cloudy or smokey appearance. It is nearly impossible to differentiate between cut citrine and yellow topaz visually, but they differ in hardness. Brazil is the leading producer of citrine, with much of its production coming from the state of Rio Grande do Sul. The name is derived from the Latin word citrina which means “yellow” and is also the origin of the word “citron”.
Hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale
Sometimes citrine and amethyst can be found together in the same crystal, which is then referred to as ametrine. Citrine has been referred to as the “merchant’s stone” or “money stone”, due to a superstition that it would bring prosperity.
Citrine quartz has been adored since ancient times. The name citrine was used to refer to yellow gems as early as 1385 when the word was first recorded in English. However, since the gem’s color closely resembled topaz, these two November birthstones shared a history of mistaken identities.
Quartz and topaz are actually unrelated mineral species. But before these differences were clear, many cultures called citrine (the yellow variety of quartz) by other names like gold topaz, Madeira, or Spanish topaz—contributing to the confusion.
Throughout history, people believed that citrine carried the same powers as topaz, including the ability to calm tempers, soothe anger and manifest desires, especially prosperity. To leverage these powers, Egyptians used citrine gems as talismans, the ancient Greeks carved iconic images into them, and Roman priests fashioned them into rings.
A key discovery gave citrine a boost of popularity in the mid-18th century. Mineralogists realized that amethyst and smoky quartz could be heat treated to produce lemony and golden honey hues of citrine, contributing to an abundance of affordable enhanced gems on the market.
Once citrine was distinguished from topaz, it quickly became popular in women’s jewelry as well as men’s cufflinks and rings. Today, it remains one of the most affordable and frequently purchased yellow gemstones.
December = Blue Zircon & Tanzanite
Zircon is a mineral belonging to the group of nesosilicates. Its chemical name is zirconium. Zircon forms in silicate melts with large proportions of high field strength incompatible elements. For example, hafnium is almost always present in quantities ranging from 1 to 4%. The crystal structure of zircon is tetragonal crystal system. The natural color of zircon varies between colorless, yellow-golden, red, brown, blue, and green. Colorless specimens that show gem quality are a popular substitute for diamond and are also known as “Matura diamond”.
The name derives from the Persian zargun meaning gold-hued. This word is corrupted into “jargoon”, a term applied to light-colored zircons. The English word “zircon” is derived from “Zirkon,” which is the German adaptation of this word. Yellow, orange, and red zircon is also known as “hyacinth”, from the flower hyacinthus, whose name is of Ancient Greek origin.
Hardness of 6 – 7.5 on the Mohs scale
Zircon is the oldest mineral on earth, dating back more than 4.4 billion years. Found in the earth’s crust, it’s common in most sands and sedimentary deposits, as well as metamorphic rocks and crystallized magma.
Due to its chemical makeup, zircon has survived ages of geologic events like erosion and pressure shifts – recording these changes like a time capsule. Zircon contains the radioactive element uranium, which changes the stone’s chemical structure and color over time, giving us important clues about the formation of our planet.
During the Middle Ages, people believed that zircon could induce sound sleep, ward off evil, and bring prosperity and wisdom.
Blue zircon, in particular, was popular during Victorian times, and frequently adorned English estate jewelry from the 1880s. Zircon with a cloudy or smoky appearance was also popular in mourning jewelry.
In the 1920s, heat treatment became the customary practice to enhance the color of zircon gems for jewelry. Zircon has also been used in the decorative ceramics industry.
Today, zircon is considered a grounding stone that increases confidence and compassion. It is said it can bring visions into reality and provide the guidance needed to achieve goals.
While zircon is popular among gem collectors for its range of colors, consumers seem most enamored with the blue variety, and otherwise confused about the history and possibility of this expansive gem.
Tanzanite is the blue and violet variety of the mineral zoisite belonging to the epidote group. The gemstone was discovered by Manuel d’Souza in the Mererani Hills of Manyara Region in Northern Tanzania in 1967, near the city of Arusha and Mount Kilimanjaro. Tanzanite is only found in Tanzania, in a very small mining area (approximately 7 km long and 2 km wide) near the Mererani Hills.
Tanzanite is noted for its remarkably strong trichroism, appearing alternately blue, violet and burgundy depending on crystal orientation. Tanzanite can also appear differently when viewed under alternate lighting conditions. The blues appear more evident when subjected to fluorescent light and the violet hues can be seen readily when viewed under incandescent illumination. In its rough state tanzanite is usually colored a reddish brown, and much of it requires heat treatment to remove the brownish “veil” and bring out the blue violet of the stone.
Hardness of 6.5 – 7 on the Mohs scale
The gemstone was given the name ‘tanzanite’ by Tiffany & Co. after Tanzania, the country in which it was discovered. The scientific name of “blue-violet zoisite” was not thought to be consumer friendly enough by Tiffany’s marketing department, who introduced it to the market in 1968. In 2002, the American Gem Trade Association chose tanzanite as a December birthstone, the first change to their birthstone list since 1912.
Unlike many well-known gems that have been in use for centuries, tanzanite’s history is relatively modern.
The common story of tanzanite’s discovery tells of Maasai herders who found blue crystals in the Merelani Hills near Arusha, Tanzania while tending livestock in 1967. They notified a prospector named Manuel d’Souza, who promptly registered claims with the government to begin mining.
Initially, d’Souza thought he was mining sapphire, but the crystal was soon identified as a vibrant blue variety of zoisite – a mineral that had been around since the early 1800s.
Tiffany & Co. recognized this blue gem’s potential to rival more expensive sapphire and agreed to become its main distributor. Instead of publicizing “blue zoisite” – which sounded a little too much like “suicide” – Tiffany named the gem tanzanite to highlight its exclusive geographic origin and introduced it with a promotional campaign in 1968.
An estimated two million carats of tanzanite were mined before the Tanzanian government nationalized the mines in 1971. The government divided the mines into four sections, or blocks, in 1990. Tanzanite One Mining Ltd., the world’s largest tanzanite producer, holds the rights to Block C, which is larger than the other blocks combined.
An independent study from 2012 suggests, at a production rate of 2.7 million carats per year, that Block C’s tanzanite deposits may deplete in as soon as 30 years.
Tanzanite may not have the long history of other gems, but with such limited supplies and rapidly growing popularity, it is highly prized for its rare beauty.