Precious Stones Guide
Precious stones that are classified as natural have evolved naturally over time. Mineral precious stones are found in places like gravel, rocks and pebbles. When these precious gems are cut and polished they can be set in precious metals to create stunning and striking pieces of jewellery. Natural precious stones can be very valuable and are not to be mistaken with synthetic stones which are grown in laboratories to create a visually similar stone.
Amethyst is a form of quartz that is violet in colour. Its name is derived from the Greek words “ἀ methustos” meaning “not drunk”. The ancient Greeks made wine goblets from amethyst and wore it while consuming alcohol believing it would prevent intoxication. Amethyst is found in or attached to rocks such as granite. When exposed to high levels of heat, Amethyst will turn yellow and is known as a Citrine. Amethyst is the birth stone for the month of February.
Aquamarine is a member of the Beryl family making it a mineral stone. Its name comes from a Latin phrase meaning “Water of the Sea”. At its best, it is a pastel sea blue but green variants do exist. The blue colour is due to trace amounts of Iron in Beryl. Yellow or pale coloured Beryl can be treated with heat to create a refreshing blue Aquamarine. As the universal symbol for youth, hope and heath, Aquamarine is also the birthstone for the month of March.
Bloodstone is also known as Heliotrope and is a form of chalcedony which is a quartz variant. Bloodstone is a mineral stone and is commonly green chalcedony with red inclusions. It is these red inclusions that give the Bloodstone its name as they are said to resemble specks of blood. The name Heliotrope comes from the Ancient perception of how the stone reflects light. Most commonly set in precious metals, crushed Bloodstone is also used in India for medicinal purposes and as an aphrodisiac.
Citrine is a beautiful yellow quartz stone and is the birthstone for the month of November. Its name originates from the French word “citron” which simply means “lemon”. Most Citrine stones are Amethysts that have been baked at extremely high temperatures. It can also occur that heat from magma beneath the surface at close proximity to amethyst produces natural Citrine, however they are quite rare. Citrine is traditionally set in yellow gold as the tone of the gold compliments the yellow colour of the stone. However, it is set in other precious metals to suit all taste. On its own or paired with gemstones like diamond, Citrine looks fabulous in pendants, rings and earrings alike.
Cubic Zirconia is commonly used in jewellery of all kinds. It is a synthetic, hard-wearing stone that is clear in colour and flawless however it can be produced in a multitude of colours. It is used as a diamond imitator due to their visual likeness however the Cubic Zirconia does not possess a diamond’s fire or brilliance.
Diamond is possibly the most popular of all precious stones. It is the hardest naturally occurring material and can only be scratched by another diamond. While traditionally clear in colour, a number of coloured variants do exist. Diamond is the birthstone for the month of April and is the anniversary gemstone for 60 years of marriage. Jewellery set with diamonds comes in a multitude of styles with engagement rings being the most popular as a diamond is a symbol of love.
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As a member of the Beryl family, Emerald is a precious mineral stone. It is one of the most highly prized of all the precious gems. The name “Emerald” is said to come from the Sanskrit expression meaning “Green” due to its vibrant green colour. This green colour is due to trace amounts of chromium in Beryl. A flawless emerald without any inclusions is very rare to find and will usually be a small sized stones. As a soft and precious stone, care should be taken to protect your Emerald jewellery. Legends suggest wearing an Emerald could cure ailments such as poor eyesight, infertility and represent luck, rebirth and success. Emerald is the birthstone for the month of May.
Garnet is the birthstone for the month of January. Its name is derived from the Latin word “Granatus” meaning “like a grain” as during those times gem stones were said to look like grains or seeds. Garnet is a deep red colour. They are said to offer the wearer guidance in the night and protection from nightmares while also bringing fidelity, chastity, victory and truth.
Opal is the birthstone for October and also the national gemstone of Australia where most of the world’s supply comes from. It is a form of silica and is made of up approximately 6% to 10% of water. It can vary from having a light to dark body colour and because internally it can diffract light there are flashes of many vibrant colours throughout its surface.
Pearls are classified as organic as they are produced by shellfish such as oysters and mussels. Natural pearls which evolve spontaneously in the wild are rare and expensive. They occur when an oyster is protecting itself from an irritant such as a parasite. The oyster produces a pearl sac which encloses the irritant; it then begins to coat it in nacre. This build-up of nacre creates a stunning, lustrous pearl.
Because natural pearls are so rare, cultured and freshwater pearls are produced and used in jewellery making. Oysters are used to create cultured pearls by placing a stimulant such as flesh from another oyster or a bead which causes the oyster to produce the pearl sac and coat it with nacre. Similarly freshwater pearls are made in the same process but using freshwater mussels instead of oysters.
Pearl is a timeless classic that has been loved by women all over the world for centuries. It is used to create strings of pearl necklets and bracelets along with pendants, earrings and rings. Set in precious metals and teamed with other gemstones like diamonds and amethyst, a pearl piece of jewellery will be treasured forever. Pearl is also the birthstone for the month of June.
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Peridot is the birthstone for the month of August and is only found in the colour green, although the shade can range from a pale to an olive green. This variance in green is due to the iron content in each stone; a higher level of iron makes a more intense green stone. Peridot can be found in rocks, meteorites and interestingly in lava brought to the surface from volcanos.
Quartz is a mineral stone that is found in copious quantities in the Earth’s crust. Its name came from the German word “quarz” which means “hard”. Depending on which minerals are present in Quartz, they can be a variety of different colours. Amethyst and Citrine are purple and yellow in colour and are both quartz stones. Quartz was used in the building of Newgrange, Co. Meath - the Irish word for Quartz is “grian cloch” meaning “stone of the sun”.
Ruby is a mineral stone belonging to the corundum family, which Sapphire also belongs to. Its colour varies from pink to deep red; the variance in colour is due to the presence of chromium in the gemstone. The finest rubies are bright red or “Pigeon-Blood Red”. Ruby is known as the “Lord of the Gems” because of its rarity and beauty. Legends believed a fine ruby would protect its owners land, home and ensure they lived in harmony. Ruby is the birthstone for the month of July and also the anniversary gemstone for 40 years of marriage.
The word Sapphire is derived from the Greek word meaning “blue” and was originally called “the Stone of Destiny.” One of the most precious gemstones, some sapphires can even be more valuable than diamonds. Sapphire is so well known for its striking blue colour, though blue is not the only colour of sapphire. Other popular colours are pink, yellow, violet, green and clear sapphires. Clear sapphires are sometimes used as Diamond substitutes. Blue sapphire is the birthstone of September.
Tanzanite is a mineral gemstone that is a member of the Zoisite family and is a stunning blue colour with a vibrant purple tint. It was only discovered in 1967 and was named after Tanzania, the country where it originates; it has yet to be found in another location. Jewellery set in Tanzanite has become a must-have due to its exclusivity as it can only found in one origin in the world. Due to its soft nature, Tanzanite is generally set in rings and pendants using precious metals.
Topaz is a mineral stone that is also the birthstone for the month November. Its name is derived from the Greek word “Τοpáziοs” which is the ancient name for St. John’s Island in the Red Sea. Topaz is clear and colourless but has different variants depending on the minerals present. Colours range from colourless, orange, yellow, red, brown pink and blue. Naturally occurring Blue Topaz is quite rare so other coloured topaz stones are sometimes heat treated to create a darker blue. Ancient Greeks believed that Blue Topaz could increase strength and make the wearer invisible.