Category Archives: Birthstone Guide

The Curious Lore of Birthstones: Sapphire

~ SEPTEMBER ~

sapphire crystal

Sapphire is the official bithstone for the month of Septmeber and the Zodiac signs of Pisces, Taurus, Virgo, and Sagittarius.  It is given for the 5th and 45th wedding anniversaries, which the star sapphire is given on the 65th wedding anniversary. 

In ancient Latin, it was called “Sapphirus,” meaning the Stone of Saturn.  And although sapphires glimmer like the heavens, this earthly gem is commonly found in the south Pacific.  The island of Sri Lanka, nicknamed “Gem Island,” has been an important source of sapphires, rubies and other gemstones for over two thousand years.  Sapphires from the island typically range from light to medium blue and have been cut weighing up to several hundred carats. 

sapphire tundra jewelry necklaceAlthough blue is by far the most popular and well known color for sapphires, they can be almost any shade including green, yellow, orange, brown, pink, purple, white, and colorless.  Padparadscha is the name for the rare orange-pink variety and has a higher value than blue sapphires.  Another precious variety is the color changing sapphire, which shows different colors in different lights- blue in natural light, and violet in artificial light.  A similar effect is also seen in alexandrite.  On the other end of the price range are yellow, orange, lavender, and other pastel shades, which are especially affordable. 

Heating colorless and very pale blue sapphires to high temperatures is done to give them an intense blue color.  This treatment can also improve the clarity of the stones by removing tiny inclusions.  But not all inclusions are bad.  Tiny rutile needles have an optical property called asterism.  This is the star shaped effect seen in star sapphires and is usually only seen in cabochon cuts.

The first synthetic sapphires were in 1902 and is hard to tell from natural sapphires except by professionals.  The price of lab grown sapphires differ quite a bit, and smaller stones are frequently used in less expensive jewelry. Continue reading

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The Curious Lore of Birthstones: Peridot

~ AUGUST ~

 peridot raw stones

Peridot is named after the French word peritot, meaning gold, probably because the mineral can vary towards this color. It is the official birthstone for the month of August, may be given as a gem on the 16th wedding anniversary and is the stone for the Zodiac sign of Libra.

I have always heard this gem pronounced as “pear-a-doe” and until recently believed this was correct. An educator recently told me that the original pronunciation is actually per’i-dot. However, I think that pear-a-doe may have come into common usage, because I found two dictionaries that offer both pronunciations.

peridot_giftbearer.jpgPeridot has been called “an Evening Emerald,” for under artificial light, the stone glows a brilliant green. It is similar to the emerald but softer in intensity. Peridots of two or three carats are expensive, and a fine eight-carat stone is considered extremely rare. Any stones beyond eight carats are collectors or museum pieces. Two of the finest peridot displays containing some of the largest and best specimens are in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the Field Museum in Chicago. The Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC has a cut peridot stone of 310 carats.

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The Curious Lore of Birthstones: Ruby

~ JULY ~

 ruby- crystal and gems

The Queen of gems, deep red ruby is the rarest and most valuable gemstone. It’s the second hardest natural mineral, next to diamond. Above all other gemstones, including Diamonds, Rubies are the most expensive per Carat – a 15.97 Carat faceted Mogok Ruby was sold at Sotheby’s in New York for an amazing $3,630,000 in October 1988. This comes to $227,301 per Carat!  

It is from the Latin “ruber” meaning red.  Because of its beauty and rarity, the Greeks called it the mother of all gemstones. The Romans called it a flower among stones. Ruby varies in color from dark to purple red, and is the July birthstone.  It’s the anniversary gemstone for the 15th and 40th year of marriage and the Zodiac Birthstone for Capricorn. 

ruby- passementerieThe earliest record for the mining of Rubies goes back more than 2,500 years ago in Sri Lanka. Burma is the world’s largest provider of high quality Rubies. Burmese Rubies from the Mogok Valley are considered the finest in the world. Thailand, with large deposits near the Cambodian border, was previously the world’s largest provider of Rubies, but the mining has fallen off recently.  Bright red stones are mined in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Vietnam. Brownish-red rubies are from Thailand. Darker stones are generally produced from the mines in Australia, India, Russia and USA (Georgia, North Carolina and Wyoming).  African Rubies have heavy inclusions and India is famous for supplying Indian Star Rubies. Gems without inclusions are very rare.  Most have inclusions which are not visible to the naked eye, and they don’t reduce the value of the stone as long as there is brilliance.

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The Curious Lore of Birthstones: Pearls

~ JUNE ~  

Lore of Birthstones- Pearls- elements by dawnPearl is the official birthstone for the month of June and is also the birthstone for the Sun Signs of Gemini and Cancer. Fresh water pearls are given on the 1st, 3rd, 12th and 30th wedding anniversaries. 

An organic gem, pearls are formed inside mollusks such as oysters and mussels. They are formed when an irritant such as a tiny stone or bit of sand gets inside the mollusk’s shell. A shiny substance, called nacre, is secreted around the object to protect the soft internal surface of the mollusk. As layer upon layer of nacre coats the irritant, a pearl is formed. Light that is reflected from these overlapping layers produces an iridescent luster. This process of building a solid pearl can take up to seven or eight years. The most valuable pearls are perfectly symmetrical, relatively large, are naturally produced and have a high degree of iridescence.

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Biblical Birthstones

Breastplate of Aaron

The Breastplate of Aaron is believed to be the foundation of the modern birthstones.  This religious armour was set with twelve stones that correspond with the twelve tribes of Israel as well as the signs of the zodiac.  However, different cultures have developed different gemstones lists.  Gemstone.org is an interactive site that will show you which traditional and non-traditional stones correspond with your specific birthdate. 

http://www.gemstone.org/gem-o-rama/gem-o-rama_birth.html