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Gemstones Buying Guide: Color Gems and Gemstones, The Evolution of Birthstones

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Jewelry and gems
The Buying Guide

Colored Gemstones

Mystery and magic of colored gems

The fascination with colored gemstones dates back to the very beginning of civilization. For our ancestors, the blue of sapphire produced visions of the heavens; and red of ruby was a reminder of the very essence of life. By Roman times, rings containing colored gems were prized symbols of power, and the most powerful wore rings on every joint of every finger!
Since ancient times, colored stones have been thought to possess innate magical powers and the ability to endow the wearer with certain attributes.  According to legend, emeralds are good for the eyes; yellow stones cure jaundice; red stones stop the flow of blood. At one time it was believed that a ruby worn by a man indicated command, nobility, lordship, and vengeance; worn by a woman, however, it indicated pride, obstinacy, and haughtiness.  A blue sapphire worn by a man indicated wisdom, and high and magnanimous thoughts; on a woman, jealousy in live, politeness, and vigilance. The emerald signified for a man joyousness, transitory hop, and the decline of friendship; for the woman, unfounded ambition, childish delight, and change.
Colored gems, because of the magical powers associated with them, achieved extensive use as talismans and amulets; as predictors of the future; as therapeutic aids; and as essential elements to many religious, pagan, Hebrew, and Christian.

Zodiac stones

The following list of the zodiacal gems and their special powers has been passed on from an early Hindu legend.

Aquarius (Jan 21st - Feb 21st)

Granet: believed to guarantee true friendship when worn by an Aquarian

Pisces (Feb 22nd - Mar 21st)

Amethyst:  believed to protect a Pisces wearer from extremes of passion

Aries (Mar 22nd - Apr 20th)

Bloodstone: believed to endow an Aries wearer with wisdom

Taurus (Apr 21st - May 21st)

Sapphire: believed to protect from and cure mental disorders if worn by a Taurus

Gemini (May 22nd - June 21st)

Agate: long life, health, and wealth were guaranteed to a Gemini if an agate ring was worn

Cancer (June 22nd - July 22nd)

Emerald: eternal joy was guaranteed to a Cancer born if and emerald was taken with him on his way

Leo (July 23rd - Aug 22nd)

Onyx:  would protect a Leo wearer from loneliness and unhappiness

Vigro (Aug 23rd - Sept 22nd)

Carnelian: Believed to guarantee success in anything a Vigro tried if worn on his or her hand

Libra (Sept 23rd - Oct 23rd)

Chrysolite (Peridot):  would free a Libra wearer from any evil spell

Scorpio (Oct 24th - Nov 21st)

Beryl: should be worn by every Scorpio to guarantee protection from ”tears of sad repentance”

Sagittarius (Nov 22nd - Dec 21st)

Topaz: protects Sagittarians, but only if they always show the stone

Capricorn (Dec 22nd - Jan 21st)

Ruby:  a Capricorn who has ever worn a ruby will never know trouble

An old Spanish list, probably representing an Arab tradition, ascribes the following stones to the various signs of the zodiac:

Aquarius (Jan 21st - Feb 21st)

Amethyst

Pisces (Feb 22nd - Mar 21st)

Indistinguishable

Aries (Mar 22nd - Apr 20th)

Crystal (Quartz)

Taurus (Apr 21st - May 21st)

Ruby and Diamond

Gemini (May 22nd - June 21st)

Sapphire

Cancer (June 22nd - July 22nd)

Agate and Beryl

Leo (July 23rd - Aug 22nd)

Topaz

Vigro (Aug 23rd - Sept 22nd)

Magnet (Lodestone)

Libra (Sept 23rd - Oct 23rd)

Jasper

Scorpio (Oct 24th - Nov 21st)

Garnet

Sagittarius (Nov 22nd - Dec 21st)

Emerald

Capricorn (Dec 22nd - Jan 21st)

Chalcedony

It was believed that certain planets influenced stones, and that stones could therefore transmit the powers attributed to those planets. A further extension of this belief can be seen in the practice of engraving certain planetary constellations on stones.  For example, a stone engraved with the two bears, Ursa major and Ursa Minor, would make the wearer wise, versatile, and powerful.  And so it went.  And from such thought came the belief in birthstones.

The evolution of Birthstones

The origin of the belief that a special stone dedicated to each month and that the stone of the month possessed a special virtue or “cure” that it could transmit to those born in that month, goes back to at least the first century.  There is speculation that the twelve stones in the great breastplate of the Jewish high priest may have had some bearing on this concept.  In the eighth and ninth centuries, the interpreters of the Bible’s book of Revelation began to ascribe to each of those stones attributes of the twelve apostles.  The Hindus, on the other hand, had their own interpretation.
But whatever the reason, one fact is clear.  As G. F. Kunz points out in The Curious Lore of Precious Stones, “There is no doubt that the owner of a ring or ornament set with birthstone is impressed with the idea of possessing something more intimately associated with his or her personality than any other stone, however beautiful or costly.  The idea that birthstones possess a certain indefinable, but none the less significance has long been present, and still holds a spell over the minds of all who are gifted with a touch of imagination and romance.”

Present Day Birthstones

The following is the list of Birthstones adopted by the American National Association of Jewelers:

Month

Birthstone

Alternate Birthstone

January

Garnet

 

February

Amethyst

 

March

Bloodstone

Aquamarine

April

Diamond

 

May

Emerald

 

June

Pearl

Moonstone

July

Ruby

 

August

Sardonyx

Peridot (Carnelian)

September

Sapphire

 

October

Opal

Tourmaline

November

Topaz

 

December

Turquoise

Lapis lazuli

Besides the list of birthstones and zodiacal or talismanic stones, there are lists of stones for days of the weeks, hours of the day, for states of the union, for each of the seasons, even anniversaries!

1st

Gold Jewelry

9th

Lapis Lazuli

25th

Silver Jubilee

2nd

Garnet

10th

Diamond Jewelry

30th

Pearl Jubilee

3rd

Pearl

11th

Turquoise

35th

Emerald

4th

Blue Topaz

12th

Jade

40th

Ruby

5th

Sapphire

13th

Citrine

45th

Sapphire

6th

Amethyst

14th

Opal

50th

Golden Jubilee

7th

Onyx

20th

Emerald

60th

Alexandrite

8th

Tourmaline

20th

Emerald

60th

Diamond Jubilee

The importance of color and its mystical symbolism in Gems

The wide spectrum of color available in the gemstone realm was not lost on our forebears.  Not only did strong associations with specific stones evolve, but also associations of colors with personal attributes.  Over tome, a fairly detailed symbolism came to join color with character. those attributes, as they have come down to us, include:

  1. Yellow:  Worn by a man, denotes secrecy (appropriate for silent lover); worn by a woman, it indicated generosity.
  2. White: Signifies friendship, integrity, and religious commitment (colorless) for men; purity, affability, and contemplation for women.
  3. Red: On a man, indicates command, nobility, lordship, and vengeance; on a woman, pride, haughtiness, and obstinacy.
  4. Blue:  On a man, indicates wisdom and high magnanimous thoughts; on women, jealousy in love, politeness, vigilance.
  5. Green: For men, signifies joyousness, transitory hope, decline of friendship; for women, unfounded ambition, childish delight, and change.
  6. Black: For men, means gravity, good sense, constancy, and strength; for young women, fickleness and foolishness, but for married women, constant love and perseverance.
  7. Violet:  For men, signifies sober judgment, industry, and gravity; for woman, high thoughts and spiritual love.

What colored gemstones are available today?

New stones add exciting choices

Today, gems are worn primarily for their intrinsic beauty and are chosen mainly for aesthetic reasons, not for mythical attributes. While we may own a birthstone that we wear on occasion, our choice of gemstones is usually dictated by personal color preferences, economics, and fashion.  The world of colored gems today offers us an almost endless choice.  New gems have been discovered and are being made available through the major jewelry companies. If you like red, there are rubies, garnets, red tourmalines, red spinels, and even red diamonds and red “emeralds” (the more correct name for red emerald, gemologically, is red beryl). If you prefer blue, there are sapphires, iolite, blue spinel, blue topaz, blue tourmaline, tanzanite, and blue diamonds.  For those who prefer green, there are emeralds, tsavorite (green garnet), green zircons, green tourmaline, green sapphires, peridots, and even green diamonds.  And those who love unusual shades of blue and green, dazzling neon shades in sparkling, transparent stones, there are the remarkable, rare, newly discovered “Paraiba” or “Hetorita” tourmaline from Brazil, considered by many to be the most exciting gemological discovery, in terms of color, in this century.

The following articles will look at colored gemstones in more detail, and will suggest a variety of stones available today in every hue. With colored gems available for almost everyone, in almost any color, at almost any price, you have a wide range of affordable options.

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To Web Masters:

The article above can be used on your web site or newsletter.

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Bijan Aziz is the owner and Web Master for The Jewelry Hut.

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