By Ashley Bailey
, Tuesday, September 12, 2006 12:00 AM
Worn for spiritual and obvious aesthetic qualities, birthstones remain the popular must-have accessory moving into Spring
Magical powers. Healing properties. Status symbols. Dating back to biblical times, gemstones have long been valued for spiritual and aesthetic qualities alike. Judo-Christian tradition resulted in the release of the modern birthstone list by the American National Association of Jewelers in 1912. To this day, gemstones remain a popular, must-have accessory.
From aquamarine, which represents the month of March, to December’s blue topaz, gemstones signifying one’s birth month have proved their staying power. Bob Hoskins, senior gemologist at Whiteflash.com, points to some gems being more popular than others, like sapphires and, of course, diamonds, ranging from the common to rare, exquisite Hearts & Arrows, the most valued diamonds on the market today.
“The king of all gemstones is the diamond,” says Hoskins, “because of its optical properties and durability.” Its popularity can also be traced back hundred of years to the traditional wedding ceremony and vows. According to Hoskins, the best diamonds on the market are those cut with what’s known as Hearts & Arrows precision. Whiteflash.com, an online diamond and specialty jewelry boutique, is best known for its Whiteflash A Cut Above brand of Hearts & Arrows Super Ideal cut diamonds, but also sources specialty gems around the world.
“There are numerous types of gemstones,” says Hoskins. He suggests doing a little research before investing in your birthstone, or any gemstone for that matter. “Gemstones range from a few dollars a carat to museum prices,” he says. Not to mention, some that may be in a higher price bracket lack durability to withstand everyday wear.
Below is a list of gemstones by month, followed by some interesting (and fun) facts.
January: Ahh, the garnet…believed to be symbolic of love and the desire for a loved one's safe travel and speedy homecoming. Did you know that Noah hung garnet on the ark to light his way through the great flood? Garnets are imbued with a deep crimson color and are not expensive.
February: Feel the power with amethyst…so powerful, ancient Greeks believed amethyst protected against intoxication. In ancient times amethyst was considered more valuable than a diamond…but not today says Hoskins. “They are inexpensive today,” he says. Keep amethyst close to your heart, or bring it out at night, as they lose color with sunshine or heat.
March: Derived from the Roman word “Aqua,” meaning water, and “mare,” meaning sea, aquamarine resembles the pale blue waters of the Mediterranean. “Unlike other gemstones, aquamarine is typically flawless,” says Hoskins. Compared to Amethyst, aquamarine is expensive, going for hundreds of dollars per carat.
April: April showers bring diamonds…we wish! The hardest substance known to man, the diamond has been revered throughout history and even today. Ancient Buddhists saw the diamond as a symbol of religious virtue, and in the Middle Ages, it was believed to ward off bad dreams and to cure insanity! And of course, diamonds have forever possessed the “bling bling” factor. Thought to be first mined in India; today diamonds are found primarily in Australia, the Soviet Union, and Africa. Truly a status symbol…diamonds are expensive, but timeless.
May: The name emerald comes from the Greek smaragdos via the Old French esmeralde, which literally translates to 'green gemstone'. During Cleopatra’s reign, she gave large emerald carvings – to her likeness of course – to visiting dignitaries. Emeralds are found in 23 mines throughout the world and each can be traced to the mine where it was born by examining its inclusions. The most valuable emeralds come from two mines in Columbia; and some are extremely expensive…thousands of dollars per carat.
June: Not a stone, a pearl is the organic product of shellfish. Pearls begin as an irritant that becomes lodged in an oyster’s body. Mother Nature then takes over and over time produces a shimmering beauty that does not have to be cut or polished…it’s perfect right out of the shell.
July: The ruby is truly the most prized birthstone of all; considered to have magical powers, it 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 as soon as danger passed. The word ruby comes from the Latin “ruber,” or red. Rubies are quite expensive and highly prized among royalty all over the world.
August: Peridot is derived from the French word, peridot, which means unclear. Legend has it that pirates believed peridot stones protected them against evil. It is also said to have been worn in the breastplate of an ancient high priest in Egypt. As its name, most peridot gems have yellow cast to them. Fine peridot comes from Burma and has less yellow. Not terribly priced, peridot can be purchased anywhere from $5 to $50 per carat.
September: Sapphires have long been a favorite among priests and kings, who considered them symbolic of wisdom and purity. Today, sapphires continue to be prominent among the royals…Prince Charles chose this as the center stone in Princess Di’s engagement ring! Though common, sapphires are prized and are expensive…hundreds even thousands of dollars per carat.
October: Opal has the unique ability to refract and reflect specific wavelengths of light. It is often simulated and enhanced, so look for white or near colorless or black body color advises Hoskins. Most opal comes from Australia and is fairly inexpensive; more costly is Lightning Ridge Black Opal.
November: Citrine, also called yellow diamond, replaced topaz as the gemstone of November – and with much controversy. Relatively inexpensive, citrine comes in colors from light to rich. A quartz material, citrine can lose color when heated. Like amethyst, Hoskins advises: “It cannot be left in direct sunlight for a long per of time…doing so will permanently alter the color.”
December: True blue, some jewelers believe blue topaz will soon be replaced with tanzanite as December’s birthstone. Available in three shades: Sky, Swiss and London Blue; but buyer’s beware, says Hoskins, “the deepest, London Blue, is often used as a less expensive substitute for Sapphire.” Topaz is not expensive.
Regardless of whether it is worn to protect against evil, or because it matches the color of your eyes, nature’s creations continue to delight and mystify with their background and beauty. Always in style, the rich history of gemstones makes for natural romance in the giving.