Valentines Day

Every year, February 14th is a day when millions of loved ones across the world share gifts; primarily flowers, chocolate, and jewelry, to show their love. Restaurants are filled with couples who are celebrating their relationship over a gourmet meal.

The story of Valentine’s Day starts back in 496 AD. Saint Valentine was a bishop who held secret marriage ceremonies for young soldiers. When Claudius II became emperor of Rome, he banned the soldiers from getting married because he felt that married men were more emotionally attached to their families, which made them weak. The bishop realized the injustice of this decree; and therefore met with the soldiers and their loves to secretly marry them. Unfortunately, Valentine was found out and arrested. It is believed he was executed on February 14th. Thus February 14th became a day for all couples to celebrate their love for each other; and a day to celebrate Valentine, a true believer in love, who became it’s patron saint.

February 14th became observed annually by young Romans who offered handwritten gestures proclaiming their affection for the woman in their hearts. This day still lives on as St. Valentine’s day.

Garnet is January’s Birthstone

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There are over 20 species of garnet, but only 5 are commercially important as gemstones.  Red garnet is one of the most common gemstones, which have a long history.  From 23-79 AD, red garnets were among the most widely traded gems.  From 475–1450 AD, red garnet was favored by clergy and nobility.  Thousands of years ago, red garnet necklaces adorned the necks of Egypt’s pharaohs, and they were actually entombed with their mummified bodies because they were thought of as prized possessions for the afterlife.
In ancient Rome, carved garnets in signet rings were used to stamp important documents.  In the 1500’s, the availability of red garnet increased with the discovery of the Bohemian garnet deposits in central Europe.  The source reached it’s peak in the late 1800’s.
Garnet is available in different colors; however, they are not widely available.

Turquoise, Blue Topaz, and Zircon are used for December’s birthstone

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Turquoise is found in only dry and barren regions.  The traditional source for the finest quality, which is often referred to as “robin’s egg” blue, is the Nishapur district of Iran, formerly known as Persia.  This is often referred to as “Persian blue”, whether or not it was actually mined in Iran.
Turquoise has a rich history.  It is one of the world’s most ancient gems.  Rulers of ancient Egypt adorned themselves with turquoise jewelry, and more than 3000 years ago, Chinese artisans were carving it.  It is the national gem of Tibet, and has long been considered a stone that guarantees health, fortune, and protection from evil.
Turquoise is plentiful and available in a wide range of sizes.  It is most often cut into cabochons, but will also be cut into beads and inlays.  In the U.S. turquoise is famous for it’s jewelry made by Native Americans.  They used it as a ceremonial gem and as a medium of exchange.  Elaborate turquoise pieces are prized by collectors.

Topaz is November’s Birthstone

Topaz is used for the November birthstone, as well as citrine quartz. Topaz often forms as large crystals and has no visible inclusions. Topaz shows pleochroism, which is the display of different colors under different lighting conditions, when holding the crystal in different directions.

Topaz comes in an array of different colors. The most widely available is blue, which starts out as colorless, and is treated to give it it’s blue color. Some topaz is called by it’s color, for example, blue topaz and pink topaz. Some topaz have trade names. Imperial topaz is a reddish-orange color and is the most valuable. Sherry topaz is a brownish yellow/orange color. Topaz in these colors are called “precious topaz”. This separates them from the less valuable gemstones, citrine and smoky quartz. Precious topaz is found in Ouro Preto in Brazil and in the Ural Mountains in Russia.

Most authorities agree that the name topaz comes from “Topazios”, an old Greek name for an island in the Red Sea. Some trace the origin back to the Sanskrit word topas, meaning “fire”. The ancient Greeks believed that topaz gave them strength. For centuries, many people from India believed that wearing topaz above the heart assures long life, beauty, and intelligence.

 

topaz

Opal is October’s Birthstone

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Throughout history, Opal has been regarded as the most magical of all gems.  It is known for the phenomenon called “play of color”.  Unlike any other gemstone,this magnificent gemstone flashes all the colors of the rainbow.  This is caused by microscopic spheres which are stacked.  When light travels and bends between the spheres; this causes diffraction, which is the breaking up of colors.
     Opal formed in dry regions when a rainstorm would come and the dissolved silica would seep deep into the underground rocks.  The silica deposits between the rocks is what forms the opal.  Opal is made up of 20% water.  In the 1890’s, Australia became the primary source for this gem.
There are 5 types of opal:
  1. White opal – semi-translucent with play of color against a white bodycolor
  2. Black opal – translucent with play of color against a dark bodycolor
  3. Fire opal or Mexican opal – generally transparent with a orange bodycolor
  4. Boulder opal – translucent to opaque with play of color against a dark bodycolor.  Matrix, part of the surrounding rock, becomes part of the finished gem.
  5. Crystal or Water opal – transparent with a clear background which shows exceptional play of color.
Many cultures have credited opal with supernatural powers.  Europeans have considered the gem a symbol of hope, purity and truth.

Sapphire is September’s Birthstone

Blue gemstones isolated on white. Sapphire. Topaz. Tanzanite

When we think of Sapphire, we think of the color blue.  However, sapphire comes in most colors.  It is part of the mineral species, corundum.  Ruby is actually corundum which is red.  All of the other colors of corundum are called “fancy sapphires”.
Corundum can show a phenomenon called asterism, which is a star-effect on the curved surface of a “cabochon” cut stone.  Another phenomenon which can occur with corundum is called the “color-change” effect.  The gemstones will change color under different lighting.
Kashmir sapphire is known to be the most highly prized sapphires.  They have a deep, intense, velvety blue color.They come from the Kashmir region on the India-Pakistan border.
The Padparadscha sapphire has a pinkish-orange color and is rare, making it very valuable. It is named from the Sinhalese from Sri-Lanka, for the lotus blossom.
Sapphires come from a variety of sources such as Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Madagascar and Australia.
The world’s most famous engagement rings, Princess Diana and Kate Middleton, have sapphires as the center stone.
Sapphires have decorated the robes of royalty and clergy members for centuries.
Sapphire symbolizes nobility, sincerity, and faithfulness.

Peridot is August’s Birthstone

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Peridot comes from the Arabic word, “faridat”, which means “gem”.  It has been called the “gem of the sun”.  Most peridot is formed deep inside the earth and was delivered to the surface by volcanic eruptions.  Some peridot came to earth in meteorites from outer space; however, this is extremely rare.
Ancient Egyptians mined peridot on an island in the Red Sea called Topazios, now known as St. John’s Island or Zabargad.  This is the source for many large fine quality peridots, which are displayed in museums all over the world.
The most favored color is a richly saturated pure grass-green, which is usually only seen in gems that are 10 carats and larger.  Most peridot are yellowish-green.
The finest large peridots come from Myanmar-formerly Burma; and from Pakistan.  More standard sizes and qualities come mostly from the United States and China.

Ruby is July’s Birthstone

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Ruby is the most valuable variety of the Corundum mineral species.  It commands the highest per-carat prices of all colored gemstones.
The name Ruby comes from the Latin word “ruber”, which means red.  The finest quality rubies are a vibrant red with few inclusions.  Like Diamonds, to find this quality over 1 carat is very rare.  The majority of rubies have many inclusions which can affect the transparency, and thus, lower the value of the rubies.
Rubies have always been associated with love and passion because of it’s color.  There have been a host of legends about rubies over the centuries.  Ancient Hindus believed that those who offered fine rubies to the God Krishna would be re-born again as emperors.
People in India believed that those who owned rubies were kept safe from enemies.  In Burma, warriors used them to keep them invincible in battle.
Rubies became one of the most sought after gems of European royalty and of the wealthy.  Many believed that by wearing them, you would be guaranteed health, wealth, wisdom, and love.
It has been called the most precious of the 12 stones created by God.

Pearl is June’s Birthstone

Pearls have been used as symbols of wealth and status for thousands of years.  They have been treasured by royalty, and have been passed from generation to generation. Pearls have always symbolized modesty and purity.  Pearls are nature’s treasures which have always represented the power, mystery, and magic of the world’s waters.
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There are three types of pearls.
1) Natural pearls are formed in mollusks without any human intervention.
2)Cultured pearls are formed in mollusks with the help of humans.  An irritant or seed is inserted into the mollusk, which then   causes the mollusk to create a secretion which forms a nacre around the nucleus; thus,creating a pearl.  It takes a very long time for the pearl to be fully formed.
3)Simulated pearls are a substance that are made to look like pearls but are not; usually a glass or plastic bead.
Pearls come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. The qualities that determine a natural or cultured pearl’s value are it’s: size, shape, color, surface luster or reflection, surface spotting, nacre thickness, and matching (for a strand or bracelet, or earrings).
Pearl care:
Put pearls on after applying hairspray, makeup, perfumes, and lotions.
Wipe clean with a soft cloth after wearing.
Keep separated from diamonds and other gemstones so they will not get scratched.
Exposure to heat and chemicals can damage pearls.
If taken care of, your pearls will look beautiful for years and years!

Emerald is May’s Birthstone

The most valued variety of the mineral beryl.  Emerald was once cherished by Spanish conquistadors, Inca kings, and Pharaohs.  The oldest emeralds are almost 3 billion years old and are from South Africa.  The first known emerald mines were in Egypt.  Cleopatra was known for her passion for Emeralds and used them in her royal adornments.
Smaragde
Legend states that emerald was one of the four precious stones given to King Solomon by God.
It was believed that the wearer of the fine gemstone had the ability to foresee the future, as well as be protected against evil.  It is also believed to cure diseases.