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An Introduction to Gemstones

A gemstone is the naturally occurring crystalline form of a mineral which is desirable for its beauty, valuable in its rarity, and durable enough to be enjoyed for generations. Gemstones are among the most individual of nature's creations: perfect crystals, with no two alike. 


Gemstones Although some gemstone varieties have been treasured since before history began and others were only discovered recently, all are nature's gifts to us, and our gifts to our children. 

People believe that gemstones have healing powers. If you want to find out more, please click here.

Here, we list more than 30 of the most popular gemstone varieties but there are many more rare collector's gemstones. Some varieties also come in a range of colours. 


Are you a fan of fancy sapphires? Or a lapis lazuli lover? We hope all of your questions can be answered here!

 


Varieties

[Visit our extensive Gemstone Variety Listing]

.AquamarineAquamarine, the "gem of the sea", derives its name from "sea water". The reference is obvious: aqua sparkles like the sea and its colour is pale to medium blue, sometimes with a slight hint of green. Aquamarine is the birthstone for March. Legends say that it is the treasure of mermaids, with the power to keep sailors safe at sea. Aquamarine is said to be a particularly strong charm when immersed in water (which is a good thing, since that is when sailors need its power most!) Aquamarine was also said to have a soothing influence on land, especially on married couples. Its power to help husbands and wives work out their differences and ensure a long and happy marriage makes it a good anniversary gift. Aquamarine also protects against the wiles of the devil.

EmeraldEmerald has been treasured for at least 4,000 years and the ancients prized it as the gemstone symbolising love and rebirth. is said to quicken the intelligence as well as the heart. Legend gives its owner the gift of eloquence. The ancient emerald mines of Cleopatra, long a mystery, were discovered again a hundred years ago near the Red Sea, but the mines were exhausted thousands of years ago. Egyptian mummies were often buried with an emerald on their necks carved with the symbol for verdure, flourishing greenness, to symbolise eternal youth. Emerald is the birthstone for May and the anniversary gemstone for the twentieth year of marriage, the perfect emblem of an enduring love.

 


RubyRuby was said to be the most precious of the twelve stones God created when he created all things and this "lord of gems" was placed on Aaron's neck by God's command. In fact, rubies are today still more valuable and rare than even the top quality colourless diamonds. A 27.37-carat Burmese ruby ring sold for US$4 million at Sotheby's in Geneva in May 1995. The most important factor in the value of a ruby is colour. The top qualities are a saturated pure spectral hue without any brown or blue. The word red is derived from the Latin for ruby; ruber. After colour, the other factors that influence the value of a ruby are clarity, cut, and size.

SapphireSapphire, the celestial gemstone, has been treasured for thousands of years. The ancient Persians believed that the earth rested on a giant sapphire and its reflection coloured the sky. Sapphire is found in all the colors of the heavens, but the most famous and valuable sapphires are a rich intense blue, a truly royal hue. Sapphire has long symbolized truth, sincerity, and faithfulness. Tradition holds that Moses was given the ten commandments on tablets of sapphire, making it the most sacred gemstone. Because sapphires represent divine favour, they were the gemstone of choice for kings and high priests. The British Crown Jewels are full of large blue sapphires, the symbol of pure and wise rulers.

OpalOpal, natures fireworks,was much loved and valued highly by the Romans, who called it opalus. Opal was also treasured in the Middle Ages and was called ophthalmios, or eye stone. Some thought the opal's effect on sight could render the wearer invisible and they were recommended for thieves! Queen Victoria and her daughters revived the fashion for wearing opal. Queen Victoria was one of the first to appreciate opals from an exciting new source: Australia. Ancient opal came from the mines near Cervenica, Hungary. Ancient opal fanciers never had the chance to see the opal of Australia, where the opal of today was born, which far surpasses the beauty of Hungarian opal in fire and brilliance. Fire opal can be found in both faceted and cabochon cuts, including many interesting fancy shapes.

AmethystAmethyst, a Royal Purple, has long been considered a royal colour so it is not surprising that amethyst has been so much in demand during history. Fine amethysts are featured in the British Crown Jewels and were also a favourite of Catherine the Great and Egyptian royalty. Because amethyst was thought to encourage celibacy and symbolize piety, amethyst was very important in the ornamentation of Catholic and other churches in the Middle Ages. It was, in particular, considered to be the stone of bishops and they still often wear amethyst rings. The Greek work "amethystos" basically can be translated as "not drunken." Amethyst was considered to be a strong antidote against drunkenness, which is why wine goblets were often carved from it! Amethyst ranges in colour from pale lilac to deep purple.

History

A beautiful opal called the orphanus was set in the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor. It was described as follows: "as though pure white snow flashed and sparkled with the color of bright ruddy wine, and was overcome by this radiance." This opal was said to guard the regal honor. Opals are also set in the crown jewels of France. Napoleon gave Josephine a beautiful opal with brilliant red flashes called "The burning of Troy," making her his Helen. Shakespeare found in the opal a symbol of shifting inconstancy, likening play of color to play of mind in one of the most apt uses of gemstone symbolism in literature. In Twelfth Night, he writes: "Now the melancholy God protect thee, and the tailor make thy garments of changeable taffeta, for thy mind is opal."

Collecting agate bowls became common among European royalty during the Renaissance and the Louvre has some particularly spectacular examples. The agate mines in the Nahe River valley in Germany were exhausted in the nineteenth century, led to cutters using the agate deposits of Brazil, which also sparked exploration and discovery of Brazil's rich deposits of amethyst, citrine, tourmaline, topaz, and other gemstones.

If you'd like to read more about the myriad of gemstone varieties, don't forget to visit our Gemstone Directory

Special thanks to the International Colored Gemstone Association for permission to reproduce graphics/text from their website.

 
 
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