Today’s post is a guest post from Evgenia Fraschetti of Amber Regina. I’m very excited to introduce her to you, and so thankful that she took the time out of her very busy schedule (she just became a new Mom!) to share all these interesting amber facts with us. I grew up in the Baltic and my Mom was always wearing amber jewelry, but there is plenty I didn’t know – I learned a lot of new things here. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Gemstones’ Category
Pretty, powder pink rose quartz is THE gemstone when it comes to love, so I thought this would be a good time to feature it, with Valentine’s Day around the corner.
Rose quartz is (obviously) part of the quartz family (which also includes, among others, amethyst, opal, and citrine) and comes in colors ranging from very pale, translucent pink to dark rose. Some have rutile needles which gives the stone an asterism effect, and you can find transparent stones as well, but they are much more rare, and so pale in color that you can hardly tell they’re pink. (more…)
Their new holiday collection is all about glitz and glam, and I really like it. New beads include five new Pave beads – round beads pave set with glittering cubic zirconias in different colors (clear, blue, black, brown and pink), and a sterling silver Christmas stocking bead. (more…)
With holiday travel fast approaching, I thought a post featuring charms that protect travelers would be a timely subject. Travel insurance is all well and good, but with air travel becoming more of a hassle every time, gas prices constantly fluctuating, and fall hurricanes and winter snow storms are on our doorstep, those of us who travel can use all the added protection we can get!
All cultures have their own special way of doing this, and as we saw in the black cat charms post, in certain parts of England, having a black cat on a ship is believed to help keep storms away, and having one in the house is thought to bring fishermen back safely.
Here are a few other charms, amulets and talisman believed to help get you to your destination (and back) without hiccups (read about the protective properties of each below the images):
Runes are characters (often thought to have magical powers) from several different alphabets that were used by Germanic people around the 3rd – 13th centuries. This Nephrite pendant (which also comes in other materials) has a hand carved bind rune (a combination of two or more runes) of Raidho (symbolizing the journey of Life, means of transportation, street smarts, travel, movement) and Elhaz (symbolizing protection, safety). Handmade by Carine of NYC Spellbinder
2. St Christopher
While not formally a saint any more, St Christopher has long been considered a protector of travelers, and is carried by Catholics (and others) all over the world. Vintage silver and enamel St. Christopher charm with a 1940’s sedan on the reverse side. From Eleanor Brown Boutique
3. Traveler’s Prayer
The Traveler’s prayer (Tefilat HaDerech in Hebrew) is a traditional Jewish prayer recited at the beginning of a trip for a safe journey. Black Italian braided leather bracelet with a 14k gold and sterling silver charm inscribed with a part of the prayer. From Most Original Gifts & Jewelry
Most Original Gifts & Jewelry
Moonstone, a member of the feldspar group, is associated with much folklore. including attracting passionate love, aid in gardening, balancing emotions, and providing travel protection, especially on water and at night. All useful things to get help with for sure! Vintage (1930s-40s) 14k gold and moonstone pendant from Arnold Jewelers (via Ruby Lane)
Malachite is a green copper carbonate said to help the wearer be comfortable in changing situations, assist with releasing negative experiences, and provide protection from accidents, especially in air travel. Handmade Malachite and sterling silver pendant by Alysha Bushey
Amber, fossilized pine tree sap from millions of years ago, was carried by travelers for protection in ancient times. Today, Amber is more known for clearing negative energy, and anybody who has been at an airport lately knows what a valuable property that can be! Cognac-colored Baltic amber pendant set in 925 sterling silver by Amber Regina
Milagros (“miracles” in Spanish) are small charms that have been used in Spanish folk culture for centuries. They are traditionally used in religious offerings and for healing, but are also carried for protection and good luck. Donkey sterling silver charm. with a turquoise flower on an oxidized chain from Sundance Catalog
8. Kotsu Anzen
The Japanese Kotsu Anzen omamoris are traffic safety charms, amulets that protect travelers from accidents while for example riding a bike, motorcycle or driving. Polyester and rayon Kotsu Anzen from IKI Japan
No, not the fancy brand with the gorgeous orange boxes. This time, we’re talking about the ancient Greek god of of roads and travel. Hermes had a lot on his plate, and among his numerous duties was being the patron god and protector of all travelers. Black onyx amulet engraved with the Star of Hermes by Best Amulets
Earlier this year, my husband and I were on vacation in San Diego and I took the chance to visit the GIA (the Gemological Institute of America), something that had been on my wish list for quite some time. Their headquarters facility, which houses their lab (where they do diamond grading, gemstone certification, pearl classification, etc.), school, museum and library, is located in Carlsbad, about an hour or so north of San Diego. The GIA is right on the coastline, beautifully situated a little bit up on a hill with unobstructed views of the ocean.
The museum is open to anyone who wants to visit, and they offer tours every weekday. You have to call at least 24 hours ahead to sign up, but I recommend calling at least 48 hours in advance (when I called the day before I wanted to visit, they were already booked for private tours, so I signed up for one two days later).
It’s not huge, but very interesting, and a fun visit if you’re into gemstones. Make sure to bring your ID – you won’t get in without it. The guard at the entrance to the parking lot will take it and run a check (it seemed like a pretty thorough one, he was gone for quite a while).
Once you’re in, you enter the huge lobby with floor to ceiling windows with gorgeous views of the ocean and a few glass cases with gemstones, etc (my favorite was the one with tiny pieces of stones in every color you can imagine – so pretty, and educational too!). (Click on the photos to see them larger)
We were a group of around 8 (from mixed backgrounds; two were scientists, others “just” gemstone fans like me, some in the business of making and selling jewelry, etc.) who met up with our charming guide Peggy. Peggy started the tour by taking us outside to show the enormous 1-ton Swarovski crystal octahedron (the largest in the world) in the “Tower of Brilliance”, which apparently glows like magic in the sun (unfortunately we didn’t get to see that; it was cloudy when we were there) and told us a bit about the background of the school.
We then went back inside and went from a giant 800 lb piece of rock crystal quartz (4.7 feet high!) with spectacular rutilation to the cafe/museum part, and then for a walk through the school, where gemstone, diamond and mineral exhibits are mounted on the walls all around.
The tour took about 1 ½ hours, and we both really enjoyed it. I knew much of what was covered already, but my husband learned many new things, and we saw a lot of gorgeous gemstones. If you’re in the area and are looking for something different to do one day, I highly recommend it!
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In the modern tradition, the birthstone for March is the gorgeous Aquamarine (in the mystical tradition it’s Jade and in all others Bloodstone – more on those in separate posts).
Aquamarine is a member of the Beryl family, which also includes Emeralds (green), Morganite (pink – purple), Heliodor (yellow), Goshenite (Clear) and Bixbite (red, very rare). Pure beryl has no color – these stones get their different hues from impurities, and in the case of Aquamarine it comes from iron. The stones are also almost always heat treated which enhances the blue color by removing some of the green and/or yellow that may be present.
The word Aquamarine comes from the Latin aqua (water) and mare (sea) and it certainly is an apt description of the colors of these stones, which range from a pale light blue to deep greenish hues. They are fairly abundant and are mainly mined in Brazil, but also in Madagascar, India, Nigeria, Russia, China and the US.
The stones can come in huge sizes and it is not unusual to see large cut aquamarines of 40 – 50ct. Aquamarines can be quite affordable, but the price of course depends on size and quality. Greenish-blue ones with lots of inclusions are at the lowest end of the price scale, while clear (no inclusions), intensely sky and dark blue stones usually fetch the highest prices. Having said that, beryl sometimes have inclusions that produce rare asterism (star) and cat’s eye effects, and aquamarines with either of those can be quite costly.
Aquamarine Healing Properties
Aquamarines are said to protect seafarers, enhance communication, help you stick to your goals in life, become less self-centered, alleviate depression and anxiety, calm fears, promote tranquility and a light heart and boost creativity and intuition. Holding an aquamarine while meditating helps you focus and go deeper into the meditation. It is also believed to help with the immune system (allergies), the thymus gland, spleen, heart, throat, lymph nodes, eye inflammation, arthritis, and varicose veins.
In addition to being the birthstone of March, it is the planetary stone for Pisces, the state gem for Colorado, the birthstone for October in the Roman, Hebrew and Arabic tradition, and the 19th wedding anniversary stone.
I love aquamarine and always carry a small rondelle with me when I’m not wearing aquamarine jewelry – I find it calms and centers me, especially when I hold it in my hand. Give it try yourself and see what you experience.
As usual, I have selected a few favorite aquamarine charms and pendants:
Collage by Charms Guide
1. Handmade sterling silver and aquamarine necklace pendant by Colorado-based artist Nancy Green
2. Sterling silver Donatella flower charm with an aquamarine dangle. From Macy’s
3. Handmade sterling silver and aquamarine Tree of Life pendant by Florida-based artist Miss M. Turner of Phoenix Fire Designs
4. Vintage 14k gold bracelet with amethysts and aquamarines from Ross-Simons
5. Handmade silver and aquamarine owl charm by British silversmith and artist Caroline of Little Bird Studio 22
6. 14k white gold necklace with an aquamarine and diamond flower pendant from Angara
7. Copper, tin and brass Hamsa hand talisman with aquamarine, glass and Swarovski Crystals. From AmuletGifts.com
8. 14k gold and aquamarine bead charm from Pandora
9. Tiny sterling silver and aquamarine charm from The Black Bow
10. Handmade hammered sterling silver and aquamarine pendant by TatianaG
All content: © Charms Guide
Amethyst is a member of the Quartz family. Quartz is a mineral, the most abundant on earth, and not only does it make up around 12% of the earth’s crust, it is everywhere. Even those of us who are not living under a rock have quartz all around, perhaps without realizing it. Your TV, computer, watch, cell phone and granite kitchen counter top all contain quartz.
Quartz is commonly divided in two groups – Macrocrystalline (which has visible individual crystals) and Cryptocrystalline (which has crystals you need a microscope to see, sometimes also called Microcrystalline). Amethyst is the purple variety of quartz, and it is part of the Macrocrystalline group.
Amethyst is the birthstone for February (except for in the Mystical tradition, where it is Bloodstone. We will cover Bloodstone in the March birthstone post, because it is the birthstone for March in several other traditions), the astrological birthstone for Aquarius, Pisces, and Sagittarius and the 4th, 6th and 17th wedding anniversary gemstone. It has been known and used “forever”, and it was one of the stones in the breastplate of Aaron. It is mainly found in Brazil; other locations include the US (Arizona), Canada, Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay, Germany, India, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Namibia, Zambia and Russia.
Amethysts range in color from pale pinkish purple to deep violet and they are the most popular of the quartzes. In spite of that, they are very affordable (the darker the stone, the more expensive it is, generally), and if you’re shopping for the high end variety, you want to look for nice, clear transparent stones without inclusions (i.e. things like bubbles, crystals, graininess, cracks etc. inside the stone). In jewelry, you most often find them faceted or cabochon cut.
Amethysts are sometimes heat treated to alter the color slightly, and when lighter varieties are exposed to heat, they “turn into” citrine (so most citrine on the market is amethyst that has been heat treated).
The ancient Greeks thought amethyst could prevent intoxication and instill a sober mind. The name comes from the Greek “amethustos”, which means “not drunk”. In traditional dramatic Greek fashion, there is the story of Bacchus (a.k.a. Dionysus) and the young maiden Amethyst. A mortal had insulted Bacchus, who as revenge decided to let tigers go after the next human who happened to come along. It turned out the be Amethyst on her way to worship the Goddess Diana. Diana knew of Bacchus’ plan and to spare Amethyst turned her into a quartz pillar, which made Bacchus so remorseful that he wept tears of wine, which turned the now quartz pillar Amethyst purple.
Amethyst Healing Properties
Amethyst is one of the most important stones in crystal healing, believed to get rid of negativity and promote a more positive view on life, protect its wearer, aid in meditation, help when going through major life changes, heal a broken heart and make the wearer able to trust others and fall in love again.
It also helps with addictions, stress, nightmares, insomnia, anger, grief, and feelings of being victimized. On a physical level, it alleviates arthritis and balances the thyroid, helps with headaches and strengthens the skeleton.
And it might be worth it to invest in some amethyst jewelry even if it’s not your birthstone. Crystal Energy Therapist Karen Ryan says “If you could choose only one crystal to wear for healing, Amethyst is the one – it heals all things at all levels”.
Luckily, there are tons of gorgeous pieces to choose from. Here are some of my recent favorite amethyst charm and pendant finds:
Collage by Charms Guide
1. Sterling silver and amethyst clip-on charm from Pia Jewellery
2. Antique Victorian 15 and 18k gold and amethyst pendant (can also be worn as a brooch). From Fourtané Estate Jewelers
3. This is such a unique pendant! A slice of swirly Oco geode with an amethyst “focal point” set in sterling silver. By Glimmering Gems
4. Sterling silver and amethyst charm from The Black Bow
5. 18k white gold raja Meditation bell clip-on charm, set with black diamonds and amethysts. By Paul Morelli
6. Oxidized Pandora silver charm bead set with 3 amethysts
7. Sterling silver necklace with amethyst bear charm by Honeywild
9. Small antique (ca 1900) Edwardian suffragette pendant in 14k gold set with an amethyst, a peridot and 22 diamonds. From The Three Graces
10. Customized sterling silver and amethyst charm by Lauren Grace
All content: © Charms Guide
The birthstone for January is Garnet in pretty much every tradition except for the mystical where it is Emerald (more on Emeralds in a separate post). Garnet is also the anniversary gemstone for the second and sixth year of marriage, the zodiac birthstone for Capricorn and Aquarius, and the planetary stone for Pluto.
I love the brilliant sparkle of garnets (it also happens to be my birthstone), and I’m not the only one. They have been popular for thousands of years (even though many of the varieties we talk about here have been found in the past century), both as adornment and as protective talismans. Legend has it that Noah put a garnet in a lantern to light his way in the night, and the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used them in jewelry.
As usual, if you want to skip the text and go straight to the featured charms and pendants, just scroll down to the end of the post.
Garnet Healing Properties
In crystal healing, garnets in general are connected to the sacral chakra and are believed to help with the reproductive system and PMS, boost passion for life, charisma, creativity and libido, stabilize emotions, combat negativity and feelings of inferiority, inspire love, bring luck, success and protection. (There is more on the specific properties for each type of garnet in the descriptions below).
Physical Properties of Garnets
Garnet is most often thought of as a red gemstone (indeed the word “garnet” is often used to describe deep red items), but the fact is that garnets come in many different colors, each with its own name and properties.
Garnets are a family of silicates with basically the same crystal structure, and the variations in color are due to different chemical compositions. There is a lot of overlapping between the different types, and trade names abound. Even the experts sometimes disagree on what’s what, but everyone agrees that there are two main groups – Ugrandite and Pyralspite – which each include three “main species”.
Simply put, the Ugrandites are calcium silicates and include Andradite (iron), Grossular (aluminum) and Uvarovite (chromium) garnets. The Pyralspites are aluminum silicates and include Almandine (iron), Pyrope (magnesium), and Spessartite (manganese) garnets. Each of these “main species” have several “sub”-varieties which are usually a blend of two or more of the main types. The colors vary depending on the balance of the blend, and unlike many other gemstones, they are never treated, so what you see is what nature actually created. Good job, nature!
Almandine Garnet is a deep purple or brownish red. It is an abundant and affordable stone, the most common of the garnets. It is thought to help the wearer focus, increase productivity, and promote stamina. The Almandine family also includes:
Rhodolite Garnets, a blend of Almandine and Pyrope. The name comes from the Greek and means “rose stone”, and these very pretty pink garnets come in many shades from light pink to purple. They were first discovered in North Carolina in the late 1800s, but today they are mainly mined in India and Africa. It is a fairly abundant and affordable variety. The most sought after (and most expensive) color is Raspberry pink. Rhodolites are believed to help with frigidity, stabilize the metabolism, and enhance inspiration and intuition.
Mozambique Garnets. Also a mix of Almandine and Pyrope, and very similar to Rhodolites, but a bit darker and more on the red side. Widely available and affordable.
Umbalite Garnets are a blend of Almandine and Pyrope with a little bit of Spessartite mixed in, resulting in a purplish pink stone, ranging from light to dark fuchsia. It is really a variety of Rhodolite named for the location where it is mined (the Umba Valley of Tanzania). Pretty rare and sought after, they can be on the expensive side.
Star Garnets (also known as Asteriated Almandine) are such a dark red they almost look black. It is the state gemstone of Idaho (where, in addition to India, they are mined) and they get their name from rutile needles (mineral “straws” running through the stone), which create a star-like effect known as asterism. The most common is a four-ray pattern, but they are also found with six rays (supposedly in Idaho only). They are always cabochon cut, and fairly affordable.
The Pyrope garnet family includes Rhodolite, Mozambique, Umbalite (all described above), and of course Pyrope. Pyropes (also known as Bohemian garnets) are those deep blood red stones that people usually think of when hearing the word garnet. They were extremely popular during the Victorian era and are often found in antique jewelry. Today however, they have faded from fame, and are consequently very affordable.
This rarest and most expensive family of garnets include Demantoid, Mali, Melanite, Topazolite and Rainbow garnets.
Demantoid Garnet is the star of the Andradite family and comes in a variety of green hues, from pale peridot-like yellow-green to intense, deep emerald-like hues. The stone, one of Karl Fabergé’s favorites, was first discovered in the mid 1800s and is the rarest, most brilliant, and most expensive of all the garnets (generally, the darker the green and the clearer the stone, the more expensive it is). Demantoid garnets are believed to boost vitality and alleviate fear, insecurity and feelings of loneliness.
Mali Garnet (sometimes called Grandite), a mix of andradite and Grossular garnet, was discovered in Mali in 1994. This beautiful brilliant yellow-green (and many shades thereof) stone is very rare and consequently expensive.
The dramatic black opaque Melanite get its color from titanium (it is also sometimes referred to as Black Andradite Garnet or Titanian Andradite). It is common, very popular in jewelry, and inexpensive. Melanite is thought to remove energy blockages, enhance relationships and remove anger, distrust, envy and jealousy.
The yellow Topazolite is named for its similarity (in color) to topaz, and comes in hues ranging from yellow-green to darker brownish amber yellow. It is rarely found in pieces large enough to use in jewelry. It is believed to help stabilize spiritual and emotional turbulence and protect frail people and young children.
Rainbow garnet is a dark brown (with an orange tint) iridescent Andradite first discovered in Japan in 2004 (now also mined in Mexico and New Mexico). It is among the most rare of all the garnets and you don’t see it a whole lot in jewelry.
The Grossular Garnet family has quite a wide color range and includes Tsavorite, Hessonite, Merelani Mint, Rosolite, Leuco and Hydrogrossular garnets. In crystal healing, Grossular garnets are thought to help with emotional trauma and promote peace and tranquility, both externally and internally.
The intensely green Tsavorite Garnet, ranging in hues from bright yellow green to deep, almost bluish green, was first discovered by Scottish geologist Campbell Bridges in Tanzania in 1967. Tsavorite was eventually brought to the US where Tiffany & Co’s Henry Platt gave it its name and started promoting it. It is a rare and difficult stone to mine, but in spite of that, less expensive than emeralds. It is, however, the second most expensive of the garnets, and prices for “perfect” stones equal those of Demantoid. Tsavorite is connected to the heart chakra and is thought to help with inflammatory diseases (like rheumatism and arthritis), kidney function and boost the immune system.
Merelani Mint Garnets are “cousins” of Tsavorites and get their name (Merelani) from the area in Tanzania where they were first discovered. Also a brilliant, sparkling green, but lighter in hue (mint green), these garnets are rare and expensive.
Hessonite Garnet ranges in color from almost clear to warm golden yellow, orange and brownish orange red and is also known as the Cinnamon Stone. It has been used in jewelry for thousands of years, particularly in carved pieces like intaglios and cameos. It is a fairly affordable stone thought to have many healing properties. It is an important stone in Ayurveda, where it is known as Gomed, and is associated with the planet Rahu. In short, it is believed that wearing a good-sized hessonite garnet can counter the ill effects that Rahu can cause, and it also brings luck, wealth, good health, success and longevity. In western crystal healing, it is believed to promote self respect, regulate hormones, and help us move forward in life and take on new challenges.
Rosolite is a bright pink Grossular garnet that ranges from transparent to opaque. They are mostly mined in Mexico, very rare and usually too small to be cut to gemstones.
Leuco (from the Greek leukos, meaning “white”) garnets are fairly rare, transparent, colorless Grossular garnets, hardly ever seen in jewelry.
Hydrogrossular garnets, also called Transvaal Jade, are inexpensive, opaque Grossular garnets from the Transvaal region of Africa.
Spessartite (or Spessartine) Garnets
Spessartites are my favorites! The garnets in this family come in many hues of orange, from bright sunny “juicy” hues to deep orange-red. They get their orange color from manganese, and the more iron (in the form of almandine) the stone contains, the darker the orange. Spessartite garnets are thought to help with fertility, lactose intolerance, depression and fear, strengthen the immune system, promote creativity, confidence, beneficial risk taking and rational thought. This family includes:
Spessartite (or Spessartine). First discovered in the mid-1800s in Spessart (Germany), the bright orange Spessartite was for some reason not particularly popular, except for among gemstone connoisseurs and collectors. These days, they are very popular, but in spite of that, fairly affordable, thanks to their relative abundance.
Mandarin Garnets (also known as Tangerine) are highly sought after Spessartites from Namibia. They were first discovered in 1991, and the find helped propel Spessartite garnets into the spotlight. They are darker in color and much more expensive than “regular” Spessartites.
Malaia (or Malaya) Garnets, a mix of Spessartite, Almandine and Pyrope, were first discovered in Tanzania in the 1960s. Colors range from pinkish orange to orange/brown/pink with a touch of yellow (stunning!) to rich honey hues to deep red orange, and the most priced are those described as peach colored. They are very rare (only found in the Umba Valley of East Africa) and prices range from fairly to very expensive.
There is also a variety called Imperial garnet, which is very similar to the Malaia; the difference is that the Imperial garnets come from Madagascar or the Linde province of Tanzania. They are a mix of Spessartite and Pyrope and come in colors from very pale peach to red pink, often with rutile inclusions.
Color Change garnets are amazing! A mix of Spessartite and Pyrope, they appear to change color depending on the lighting situation. Some are dramatically different, shifting from grayish green when viewed in daylight to deep red in incandescent light; some go from pale yellow in daylight to bright orange in incandescent; while others display only slight shifts in hue. It has always been said that garnets come in every color except blue, but the discovery of certain color change garnets changed that: there are some that look blue in artificial light (and purplish pink in daylight). Color change garnets are rare, popular, and expensive.
The dark green Uvarovite garnets were first discovered in Russia in the 1830s and are rarely found in clear gemstone quality. More common is Uvarovite drusy (drusy is a term for a coating of crystals that have formed on the surface of a rock, giving it a sparkly, sugar-like appearance) and as drusy has become quite popular in the jewelry world, you can find quite a bit of it. It is fairly inexpensive.
You occasionally also come across a few other garnet names such as:
These are not other varieties of garnets, they are names given to the stones above by traders, sellers, etc. for various reasons.
- Kashmarine is Spessartite from Pakistan
- Taveta is blue color-change garnet from Kenya’s Taita-Taveta region (pretty spectacular)
- Hollandine was the original name for Mandarin garnets
- The term “Champagne” is sometimes used to describe yellow-brown Andradite and Imperial garnets
- Gooseberry is another name for Grossular garnets – the word Grossular comes from the Latin grossularia, which means “gooseberry”.
That was a lot of information! Here, finally, is my selection of charms and pendants that showcase some of these beautiful gemstones:
1. Stunning antique (ca 1910) 14k rose gold pendant set with 95 Demantoid garnets. From Past Era Antique Jewelry.
2. 14k Rhodium-plated white gold charm with diamonds and Tsavorite garnets. By JewelryWeb
3. For once, something for the guys: a sterling silver and color change garnet tag necklace by David Yurman. The garnets are a bluish green in daylight and purple-red in incandescent light.
4. Pandora sterling silver and Melanite pendant
5. Sterling silver necklace with a checker cut Spessartite garnet charm pendant by New York artist Yvonne Raley. NOTE: I have to confess that I bought this necklace as a birthday present to myself – I just fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. But no worries, Yvonne has one more identical charm pendant and more jewelry featuring Spessartite in the works (as well as lots of other gorgeous gemstone jewelry).
6. 14k gold and Rhodolite Garnet charm by JewelryWeb
7. Grossular garnet, Tsavorite and sterling silver egg pendant by Fabergé.
9. White freshwater pearl stretch bracelet with a sterling silver and Almandine garnet charm. By Amy Conway.
10. Hammered 14k gold pendant set with a Hessonite garnet by Massachusetts artist Laura Roberson.
Collage by Charms Guide
All content © Charms Guide
Birthstones in general are thought to have begun with the biblical breastplate of Aaron (around 1300 B.C.) – a garment set with 12 precious stones – and it is believed that each stone was associated with a zodiac sign (like in Vedic astrology and Ayurvedic medicine). The tradition of associating specific gemstones with particular months is rumored to have begun in Poland in the 1700s, and the list as we know it today here in the US was adopted as a standard by the National Association of Jewelers in 1912.
The Birthstones For December
While most agree on which stone(s) go with which month, there are some variations. For December, the standardized stones in the modern tradition are Tanzanite, Turquoise and Zircon. Some also include Blue Topaz, but in several ancient traditions (as well as Ayurveda), Ruby is the stone for this month. So the December birthstone color is mainly variations of blue, with the blood red ruby as an exception.
As always with gemstones, each birthstone is said to have certain properties, meanings and powers. Here is a little bit of information on each stone (scroll down to the end of the post to see my selection of a few favorite charms incorporating these stones):
A mineral discovered in Tanzania as late as 1967, Tanzanite (scientifically known as blue Zoisite) didn’t become an official birthstone of December until 2002 (and is the only addition to the original list from 1912). Its natural color is a brownish red, and it takes a good bit of heat to bring out that purple/deep blue color. It was discovered after a wildfire on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro by geologist Manuel D’Souza who brought it to Tiffany & Co’s attention. They re-named the Zoisite “Tanzanite” and brought it to the market with great success. It is a popular, rare and consequently expensive stone – it is only found in Tanzania and once the supply is gone, it’s gone. Tanzanite is also the anniversary gemstone for the 24th year of marriage.
Tanzanite is said to help open the heart and third eye chakras and aid in communication with the spiritual world.
The word Zircon derives from the Arabic and means gold and color, and Zircon (not to be confused with cubic zirconia) does come in a variety of colors. Its natural hues are in the brown, orange and red family, but it also comes in green and yellow and, with the help of heat treatment, clear and blue. The clear variety has long been used as a diamond imitation, but today, the most popular hue is blue (a very pretty light pastel aqua color). Zircon can be found in many places around the world (although most are mined in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam), and it is a relatively inexpensive, and very popular, gemstone.
Zircon is an important stone in Ayurvedic medicine, where it is thought to bring wisdom, a noble heart, good luck, joy and wealth. It also relieves pain, helps with sleep problems, and protects the muscles, bones, nerves and organs. I think we can all use one of these!
Pure Topaz is clear as glass, but thanks to a variety of impurities, it also comes in many colors, including red, pink, brown, yellow (November’s birthstone), orange, purple, green and blue. The blue variety is the most popular one, and while it does sometimes occur naturally, the blue color is most often achieved with the help of irradiation (radiation) and heat treatment. The resulting colors range from a pale baby blue (known as Sky Blue) to the crisp Swiss blue to a nice, rich deep, almost teal, blue (called London or Super Blue). Blue Topaz, which is also the anniversary gemstone for the 4th year of marriage, is available in abundance, and as with all gemstones, the price depends on the purity and size of the stone, but in general, it is quite affordable.
Blue Topaz is said to balance one’s emotions, bring mental clarity, truth, abundance, joy and love, and help the third eye’s ability to see at a higher level. Other topaz healing uses include wounds and eating disorders.
Turquoise is one of the oldest known gemstones, used and appreciated for thousands of years, not only for its beauty, but also because it was believed to be a good luck talisman. Turquoise is of course turquoise, and it gets its blue-green color from copper. There are other, less common, variations on the color such as a deeper blue-green and bright green, and the color depends on the chemical composition of the earth where it is formed. The best quality Turquoise is a solid robin’s egg blue with no discolorations or veins, and most of these can be found in Iran and the southwestern part of the US. Turquoise, which is also the 11th wedding anniversary gemstone, is plentiful and affordable.
An important stone in crystal healing, turquoise is thought to protect the (physical) body, help the chi flow and combat depression. It helps with communication and creativity and strengthens the immune system. It is also believed to bring friendship, courage, a long life, happiness and good luck.
The popular Ruby is the birthstone for December in the Ayurvedic and Traditional system. In the modern, standardized list of birthstones, it is the stone for July, and it is also the 40th wedding anniversary gemstone as well as the zodiac birthstone for Capricorn. It is the red variety of the mineral corundum (a crystalline form of aluminum oxide) – all other corundum colors are called sapphires. The red color is the result of the (natural) addition of chromium, and colors range from light pink to deep red. Most rubies are heat treated to bring out richer color and more clarity, and the darker the color, the more valuable the stone. It is an expensive gemstone (several thousand dollars per carat for top-notch stones) – a ruby bracelet owned by Marlene Dietrich sold at Sotheby’s in 1992 for $990,000 (it was admittedly jawdroppingly stunning, but still!).
Ruby stimulates the heart chakra and is said to protect the heart from emotional suffering, aid in making wise decisions, promote happiness, a positive outlook, and ideal relationships. It is also thought to help with detoxification, eye problems, heart conditions, remove infections in the blood, reduce nightmares and depression and ward off evil spirits.
Whew, that was a lot of information! Let’s move on to the visual part of this post – my handpicked selection of some of my favorite December birthstone jewelry:
Collage by Charms Guide
1. Sterling silver charm with Turquoise, Rhodonite, Mother-of-Pearl, Sugilite, and Malachite inlay. By Carolyn Pollack
2. Sterling silver and turquoise charm necklace by Dogeared
3. Sterling silver and ruby heart charm from Blue Nile
4. Sterling silver bead charm with silver and Tanzanite heart dangle by Lovelinks® by Aagaard
5. Sterling silver necklace with silver key and Blue Topaz charm by Fifilabonge
6. 14k gold and blue zircon Mother and child charm from Reeds Jewelers
7. 18k gold, topaz and onyx evil eye charm from Links of London USA
8. Charm necklace with gold dipped flower and faceted Blue Topaz from Simply Brie Designs
9. Sterling silver and blue topaz baby shoe charm from Netaya
10. Rose gold, turquoise and Swarowski crystal charm bracelet by Jaidan Designs