Ultimate Guide to Gemstones: Everything You'll Want To Know

Author Veronica Rose
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Date Nov 13, 2020

We’ve covered some of the basics before in blogs here and there but not like this! There are so many stones with their own interesting facts and origins, we thought we would make one big guide to make things easier on you. Here you can find all the gemstone information you’ll ever need in one place. In this ultimate guide we will enlighten you on all aspects of your favorite gemstones from its vast and expanding history to how to care for it and clean it.


Aquamarine

Known as the gem of the sea, aquamarine’s name actually comes from the latin words aqua marina, meaning seawater. It was known to keep sailors safe and guard against storms, as well as bring hope, health, harmony and happiness to its wearers.

Many people know aquamarine to be March’s birthstone but what you may not know is that it is also recognized for the 18th wedding anniversary as well and is meant to symbolize the reawakening of love, kindle friendships, and elevate the spirit.

As a member of the beryl family, it is sister to emerald and known for its range of serene, oceanic shades of blue from pastel to medium light blue-green or light green to a deep blue. Often less vivid in smaller stones, the color of aquamarine can get quite intense in larger stones. Its value is measured by shade and color so an aquamarine stone with deep blue hues, void of internal marks is considered most valuable.


Tanzanite

December’s birthstone, tanzanite is the recognized gift for the 24th wedding anniversary, as well as the birth of a child which is inspired by the native Massai tradition of wearing blue beads and fabric for a healthy and positive life. The recent discovery of Tanzanite in 1967 made a huge impact on the gemstone market. While looking for sapphires, a Portuguese prospector discovered this stone in Tanzania, which quickly won the public’s heart after being named and promoted by Tiffany & Co. Tanzanite can be found bearing various colors such as yellow, golden brown and green and is routinely enhanced by traditional heating methods to produce shades of violet blue to purple.


Sapphire

This gemstone, I’m sure you know is most commonly known by its shades of celestial blue-although you might not know that sapphires also happen to come in almost every color except for red, despite its name deriving from the latin word for blue, sapphirus. This stone is also one of the hardest gemstones, second to only diamonds and is ideal for all types of jewelry, especially rings. The birthstone for September, sapphires are also the preferred gift for the 5th and 45th wedding anniversaries, symbolizing truth and promise keeping. The gem of sincerity, it was believed to inspire peace, joy, wisdom, and prosperity as well as good health and well-being, illuminating the true inner beauty of those who wear it.


Ruby

This fiery red gemstone has always been associated with deep love and passion, believed to burn with an inextinguishable internal fire. Also the color of blood, ruby signified great courage and its durability and hardness make it an ideal gemstone for all types of jewelry, especially rings. July’s birthstone, ruby is also the traditional gift for the 15th and 40th wedding anniversaries. This stone has historically been used as a talisman to ensure harmony, guard against sorrow, inspire confidence and bring success. The gem of gusto, the ruby brings to light the electrifying personality of those who wear it. The name derived from the latin word ruber, meaning red, only comes in this color although its colors vary greatly from shades of purplish red to bluish red to orangey red in medium to dark tones.


Emerald

Boasting a long history as a jewel fit for kings and queens, emerald has been prized for its vivid rich green color as far back as the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Revered as a talisman of good fortune, emeralds are believed to bring health and wealth to its wearer. A birthstone for the month of May, emerald is also chosen as a gift for the 20th or 35th wedding anniversary. Traditionally, this stone has been thought to protect and renew relationships, upheld as a symbol of devotion, contentment and undying love. Imbuing a calming influence, emerald clarifies insights and enlightens the aura of those who wear it. Sister to aquamarine and a member of the beryl family, emerald is known for its shades of green which can vary from light to dark, sometimes revealing a cool blue-green or warm yellowish-green. Although it’s just a step down on the MOHs hardness scale, emeralds have to be handled with special care and should be removed when doing anything strenuous.


Garnet

This gemstone’s name is derived from the Greek word “granatum,” meaning grain or seeds, which reminded the ancient Greeks of the ruby pearls of the pomegranate and is connotative of the stone’s deep red color. In centuries past, garnets were thought to light up the night and offer protection from nightmares and travelers would carry a garnet to protect them against misfortune when they were far from home. Birthstone of January, garnets are also a representation of the color of love and passion, and are a loving and traditional gift for the 2nd wedding anniversary. Garnets are known to vary in color but the most known are red and green. Red garnet remains the most abundant and well-known type of this gemstone.


Tourmaline

Tourmaline is arguably the most diverse gemstone available, possessing a dazzling array of colors. The name tourmaline actually means multi-colored which makes sense as there are even bi-colored and tri-colored tourmalines where two or more colors appear side by side in the same gemstone, as seen in the gem closest to the right in the photo above. Tourmalines can be found in a variety of colors including dark green, deep blue to blue-green indicolite, pink to deep red rubellite and watermelon tourmaline. In addition to being the October birthstone, tourmaline is also the chosen gift for the 8th wedding anniversary, and is considered the gemstone of enlightenment and resolution. Fostering compassion, composure and reflection, tourmaline is believed to reveal the most captivating characteristics of those who wear it.

 

Opal, Moonstone and Turquoise

Opal: This stone is known by many as “nature’s gemstone kaleidoscope” due to its myriad of light-reflecting prisms which are formed when countless silica particles are settled in fissures of a host rock. Over eons, this silica lattice has gelled and hardened into an amorphous structure we call an “opal” or as the ancient Romans call it “The Queen of Gems”. As opals are moved even slightly, light waves refracted and transmitted from prisms reveal the multi-colored hues characterizing “fire-bearing” varieties. This display of dancing hues is known as a “play of color” and can occur in many forms. Some opals like the Peruvian Pink opal or the Blue opal display no play of color, whereas the white, “crystal”, semi-black, black and boulder are the main ones that display play of color and the Black opal is the finest full-color array and is considered one of the most valuable of all gems. The Mexican opal, most known as the “Fire Opal” is most often seen in its translucent orange, orange-red or yellow-orange hues with no play of color like the sabertooth opal seen in the photo above. To care for your opal, simply wear it and treat it with the same care as you would with a fine emerald or tanzanite.

Moonstone: Moonstone is considered a good luck gem, especially for lovers, believed to be the captured moonbeams that reached earth. Gifting a moonstone to someone is said to arouse passion and love. This stone is also credited with calming nerves, strengthening resolve and guarding against recklessness. In addition to being June’s birthstone, moonstone is a variety of feldspar that shimmers with a soft glow caused by tiny internal birthmarks that reflect and scatter light. A moonstone’s sheen can look either silvery white or soft blue. It can also occur in subtle tinted shades of peach, gray and silver green.

Turquoise: A December birthstone, turquoise is light to dark blue or blue-green. This stone may contain narrow veins of its host rock known as the matrix, sometimes in a web-like pattern. Turquoise was widely used in treasures fit for Pharaohs as it was originally discovered by the ancient Egyptians. Tibetans revered the gemstone as a talisman of good fortune whereas Native American Indians used it as a shaman’s stone.



Citrine and Amethyst

Citrine: Believed to inspire optimism and good spirit, Citrine is revered as a gift of the sun by the ancients. This golden quartz-family gem is a symbol of warmth and affection. November’s birthstone, citrine is also recommended for the 13th wedding anniversary, to signify fidelity and bliss. A gemstone of joy and contentment, citrine illuminates the sunny disposition of those who wear it. Derived from the French word, citron, meaning lemon, the stone can vary in color from pure yellow to golden honey to smoky brown, although it is the intense orange colors that are considered the most valuable. To clean, use warm soapy water and a soft brush. An ultrasonic cleaner is generally safe, but avoid using a steamer and any contact with harsh chemicals. This stone is actually sister to amethyst and you can see both the citrine and amethyst stones morphed together in the rare stone seen in the photo above. 

Amethyst: Revered by ancient Greeks as a talisman, when worn, amethyst was thought to entice the highest, purist aspirations of humankind, believed to inspire courage, calmness and contemplation. The birthstone of February, amethyst is also a gift for the 1st and 6th wedding anniversary to symbolize sincerity and sacred love. A gem of optimism and good fortune, this stone reveals the positive vibrations that surround those who wear it. Amethyst is a member of the quartz family and comes in a variety of purple shades, each varying in their own intensity-ranging from pale lilac to reddish or bluish velvet to deep purple with its own red highlights.


Zircon

Among its many attributes, zircon is thought to bring wisdom, wealth and protection to those who wear it. Prized as a talisman since medieval times, it was believed to clarify the mind, improve confidence and inspire the spirit. This stone is available in many colors including yellow, orange, green-blue, brown and red which is its most sought after hue. Brown zircon is its most common color but it is frequently enhanced by traditional heating methods to produce red and blue colors, and sometimes yellow to improve its color. Green zircon is not usually enhanced.


Topaz

Topaz was thought to fuel matters of the heart, inspire courage, increase intuition and sharpen wit. This only makes sense as its name, topaz, derives from the ancient Sanskrit word tapas, meaning fire. Other than being November’s birthstone, topaz is recognized as a gift for the 23th wedding anniversary, symbolizing love, truth and devotion. This stone was historically believed to sweeten dreams and dispositions, revealing the gracious and charismatic qualities of those who wear it. Coming in a variety of colors, topaz’s rarest hues are natural pink, red and fine gold orange. Its most valuable hue is the intense fiery-golden imperial topaz, particularly in medium to large sizes.

 

To clean your gemstones, use warm soapy water and a soft brush with the exception of opal, emerald, tanzanite, and turquoise.  It is recommended for all gemstones to avoid contact with any harsh chemicals and to be removed during any strenuous activity.  A professional inspection and cleaning is recommended annually or as needed!

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