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Birthstone and Anniversary Stones:





Text Box: The Jewelry Doctor
Iris Rocker, AJP, (GIA)








Structure:  Cubic


Mohs hardness  7.5


Chemical composition:





Garnet is the modern day birthstone for the month of January.  It is also the gem that is used for the 2nd and 6th wedding anniversaries.  Most people think that all garnets are red in color.  That is, in fact, untrue, although red is the most common color of the gemstone. This is often referred to as the Almandine garnet.  It is located in the southern United States, Brazil, Southern Asia and Madagascar.  However, other colors of garnet include yellow (Hessonite,  purple (Pyrope) and green Demantoid)  The green garnet is extremely rare and highly prized.


The name garnet comes to us from the Latin granatum malum and means pomegranate.  Jewels made from garnet have been made since the Bronze Age, over 3,000 years ago.  Garnet jewelry has been found in Egypt (3100 B.C.),  Sumeria (2300 B.C.) and Sweden 2000 (B.C.).  The Ancient Greeks treasured the gem as did the Romans, who gave it its name.

Legend has it that Noah suspended garnet in the ark in order to disperse light.

Because the gem is commonly blood red, it was believed during the Middle Ages, that garnets could protect European knights against wounds and even bring the wearer a military victory.  Common people thought that the gem had medicinal purposes.  Medieval garnets were also hailed as being able to cure depression, keep bad dreams at bay, relieve fevers, stop bleeding and much more.  In Japan and China, the garnet was used to make bullets as it was believed that the gem could inflict more damage on an intended victim.  These bullets were used up until the end of the nineteenth century.


Nowadays, garnets are revered more for their beauty than for their “magical” powers.  However, many believe that garnets symbolize a happiness and lasting love and friendship.








Structure: Trigonal


Mohs hardness: 7


Chemical composition:




February’s birthstone is the amethyst.  It’s a lovely purple-colored gem.  The amethyst is also a proper gift for couples celebrating their 4th, 6th or 17th year of wedded bliss.  It comes from the Greek word “amethystos”, which means against drunkenness.  The gem was believed to prevent inebriation if placed inside one’s wine glass.


A Greek myth tells the origin of the amethyst.  Bacchus (aka Dionysius), the God of Wine,  was angry with mankind.  He was insulted by a mere mortal and could not abide by that.  So, to get his revenge, he vowed that the next human to cross his path would be eaten by tigers.

Amethyst, a beautiful young maiden, who was on her way to pay tribute to the goddess Diana, happened upon Bacchus’ path. Diana turned the lovely girl into a statue of crystallized quartz so that she would not become the tiger’s prey.  When Bacchus saw the statue, he wept wine tears and repented.  His tears stained the statue purple.


Amethysts run the gamut of purple from light lilac to a deep, rich, almost wine-red-purple to green.  The rich, dark purples have been a favorite of royalty, stemming back to the Minoans of the 2nd century B.C.  During the 15th century, amethysts were worn by the French royal family on ceremonial occasions.


Amethysts are most often found in South America and Africa.  They also have been mined in Urals of Russia, Sri Lanka, Mexico and Arizona.  These lovely gems have been placed in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs and used as medieval medications to sharpen the mind and protect the wearer from sorcery.  In Arabia, it was believed to relieve people from symptoms of gout and from bad dreams.


One of the largest amethysts in the world is housed in the National History Museum in London and is 343 carats.









Structure: Hexagonal


Mohs hardness: 8


Chemical composition:




In 1912 the American National Association of Jewelers decided to name Aquamarine, a blue-green member of the beryl family of gems, as the birthstone for the month of March.  Actually, aquamarine ranges in color from a very pale blue to a deep-blue aqua color.  The stone is dichroic, appearing blue or colorless as the stone is viewed from different angles.  The stone is found in a variety of places including Kenya, Nigeria, Madagascar, Russia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  However, the most valuable stones tend to come from Brazil.  Brazilian aquamarines, which are commonly known as Santa Marias, tend to be rich in color, closely resembling the ocean.


Aquamarine gems are not only colorful, they are also quite strong, registering an 8 on the Mohs scale.  In ancient times, it was believed that aquamarine, which translated from its Latin roots means “seawater”, could keep sailors safe during their sojourns.  It was also thought that the gem could prevent seasickness.


These gems are very versatile.  This makes aquamarine a favorite of jewelers and jewelry designers worldwide.  The gem looks great in just about any cut and is used in a wide variety of fine items ranging from rings to bracelets and everything in between.


** Almost all aquamarines on the market has been heat treated to enhance its color.  Care must be taken not to overheat the stones, as they may become colorless.










Structure: Cubic


Mohs hardness: 10


Chemical compositionC

April’s birthstone might just be the most famous and well loved gem in the entire world, the diamond.   Diamonds are the strongest and most durable substances on earth.  They’re comprised of crystallized carbon and are able to reflect the light beautifully.  Diamonds were discovered in India around 500 B.C.  The name diamond comes from the Greek root “adamas”, which translates to unconquerable or indestructible.


Diamonds have become to be known as the absolute symbol of true love.  They are the anniversary gemstone for the 10th and 60th years of marriage as well as the jewel of choice for engagement rings all over the world.  Contrary to popular belief, all diamonds aren’t colorless.  The gem occurs in hues of pink, red, blue, green, purple, orange, yellow, brown and even black.


Diamonds are considered to be quite powerful.  Over the centuries, it was believed that they could protect the wearer against poison, phobia, nightmares, witchcraft, arguments, insanity and demonic possession, among other things.  It was also considered an accurate indicator of infidelity.  For example, a diamond placed on the sleeping chest of a wayward lover brought the truth into the light.  Another test rested a diamond on top of a wife’s head while she slept.  If she turned to her husband in her sleep, she was true to him.


Diamonds have also played part in just about every major religion and society the world has ever known.  The Talmud mentions a holy man who wore a diamond on his person.  The gem would turn dim if an individual who came before him was guilty.  If they were innocent, the gem was supposed to shine brighter than before.


The worlds most expensive diamond to date was 100 carats and was purchased for over $16 million in 1997.  The largest diamond known to man is the Cullinan.  It’s 3,106 carats and rests in the Tower of London.  It’s part of Edward VII’s scepter.  Perhaps the most famous diamond is the Hope diamond, a beautiful deep blue 45.5 carat diamond that is housed at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington D.C.


The majority of the world’s diamonds are not fit for jewelry.  Diamonds have been mined all over the globe in locales as diverse as South Africa, Brazil, India, Russia and Australia.  Diamonds are judged on their quality using the four C’s—color, cut, clarity and carat.  Their popularity has not diminished, nor is it expected to.







Structure: Hexagonal


Mohs hardness: 7.5—8


Chemical composition:






The emerald is a type of beryl that is a beautiful, rich and radiant green, due to its high chromium content.  This gem, the birthstone of the month of May, takes its name from the Greek root “smaragdos” which means “green gemstone”.  Natural emeralds contain small deposits of iron which doesn’t detract from, but rather enhances the value of the gem.


These beauties were revered by the Aztecs and Incas of Central and South America, where some of the best specimens of emeralds have been and can still be found.  In fact, Colombia and Brazil are considered the finest locations to uncover these beautiful beryls.  They can also be unearthed in India, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Russia.


In Egypt, emeralds were buried with mummies.  The oldest known emeralds come from the infamous “Cleopatra Mines” and were a much duller green than the emeralds we’ve come to know and love.  The gem stone was also popular in ancient Rome and India.  In the Vedas, scriptures of the Hindu religion, healing properties are attributed to emeralds.  There were also considered to promote well-being and bring good luck.  Today, emeralds are used to increase the clairvoyance of the wearer as well as to enhance love and add to one’s sense of contentment.  They’re a harmonious stone.


Although they are a tough gem, they are prone to cracks.  Such a fissure in the gem can impact its value and durability.  As a result, most emeralds undergo some form of treatment prior to purchase.  Oils and epoxy resins are often used to fill-in surface cracks and improve the gem’s transparency.


In addition to being the May birthstone, emeralds are given as traditional gifts for the 20th and 35th anniversary.  They’re also considered a wonderful alternative on the 55th wedding anniversary.








Structure: orthorhombic


Mohs hardness: 3


Chemical composition:

CaCO3C3H18N9)11, nH2O


June’s birthstone is the pearl, a brilliant gem that’s organic in origin.  Pearls, unlike most other gems, are created inside certain species of mollusks., such as oysters and clams.  There are two kinds of pearls, natural and cultured.  A natural pearl is formed when a small irritant, like a piece of sand, gets trapped inside the mollusk’s soft tissue.  This causes the animal to secrete nacre, a substance known as “mother of pearl”, which builds up, layer by layer, to produce a smooth, hardened pearl.  Cultured pearls, which makes up the majority of pearls used in jewelry today, are made when an irritant is purposely introduced to the mollusk to facilitate pearl production.


Unlike diamonds and many gemstones, pearls don’t need to be cut.  They come out of their home ready to wear.  Many ancient peoples, such as the Persians, Hindus and Romans were drawn to this gem and used them to display their wealth and status.  Roman women even wore pearls in their sleep to remind them how rich they were.  In India, legend has it that pearls were dewdrops from heaven that fell into the ocean and caught by shellfish during the first rays of the rising sun.  Soldiers and warriors wore the gemstones on their swords to symbolize the tears and sorrow that the weapon brings.


Pearls naturally come in many different colors, such as black, blue, gold, lavender, pink and peach as well as the traditional and popular white and off-white varieties.  Pearls can also be painted.  They hold color, including rich metallics, very well.  Pearls can be found all over the world including Mexico, Indonesia, Bavaria and the United States, Japan and Sri Lanka.  The pearl is a gem of modesty and purity.  It is worn by many prides and denotes these qualities.  It has always been believed to be an agent of goodness and is supposed to bring the wearer comfort in difficult times.  They are also thought to improve memory and solidify friendships.  The gem was even used in medicine.  The Persians believed it could cure insanity, among other diseases.  In Ancient China, it was given as an aid to increasing longevity.  In modern times, some individuals utilize pearls in drinking water to stabilize hormones or worn directly on the skin to alleviate headaches.


Pearls are a very sensitive gem.  They can become dull if you don’t wear them often or if you expose them to chemicals including perfume and makeup.  They should also be re-strung often—at least every other year—which makes them a high-maintenance jewel.










Structure: Trigonal


Mohs hardness: 9


Chemical compositionAl2O3



The ruby is a rich, red color.  Its name is derived from the Latin, “ruber” which means red.  The ruby is a variety of the mineral corundum.  Corundum is a hard mineral, only diamonds rank higher on the Mohs scale, which is used to measure hardness.  In other colors, corundum crystals are considered sapphires.  Rubies range in hues from orange-red to purple-red.  The purer the red color they are, the more prized they are.  The red in a ruby is derived from the element chromium.


Rubies can be found the world over.  The best samples of these gemstones hail from Mogok Valley in Burma.  Other beautiful ruby specimens can be found in Thailand, India, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania, Kampuchea and part of the United States.


Ruby mining dates back two and a half millennia.  This makes the ruby an ancient gemstone. It’s even mentioned in the Bible.  For example, in the Book of Exodus, a ruby which was referred to as the sardius a the time, appeared in Aaron’s breastplate, along with other world-renowned gems.


During the Middle Ages, people thought the gem would bring them good health, guard against wicked thoughts as well as amorous desires and pursuits.  Rubies were just one gemstone that was believed to cure bleeding.  They were also thought to hold the power of prediction.  IF the gem darkened in color, this foretold misfortune, illness or death.  Legend has it that Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, predicted her own troubles due to the darkening of her ruby.


In the modern era, the ruby has the distinction of being used to make up the first lasers.  In fact, synthetic rubies are sometimes employed for this very purpose.  These same synthetics, which are created in laboratories, are often sold in jewelry at a much more affordable price.

The ruby is often used as an engagement alternative to the diamond.  If worn on the left hand, it’s believed to bring the wearer good luck.  It is, of course, the birthstone for July as well as the gift of choice for the 15th and 40th wedding anniversaries.







Structure: Orthorhombic


Mohs hardness: 6.5—7


Chemical composition:





The birthstone for the month of August is peridot. (pronounced perio)  It’s also used as the 16th wedding anniversary gift.  The peridot, is a variety of olivine.  Olivine is a composite of two other minerals, fayalite which is rinch in iron and forsterite, which is magnesium rich.  The iron in fayalite is what gives the peridot its unique color.


Peridot hails from the French word “peritot”, which means unclear.  It is generally a lime green color and is often called the “Evening Emerald” because the gem appears greener under artificial lights.  In fact, during the Middle Ages, Crusaders who went to the Middle East from Europe brought the gem back, thinking it was an emerald.


Zabargad, an island in the Red Sea that is also known as St Johns, has been mined for peridots since ancient times.  Interestingly enough, the word zabargad, means olivine in the Arabic language.  Turkish sultans of the Ottoman Empire collected  these gems.  In the Topkapi Museum in modern day Istanbul, there lies a golden throne which is decorated with almost 1,000 of these precious stones.


Wonderful varieties of peridot can be found in Burma, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Oahu, one of the Hawaiian Islands.  The Hawaiians actually revere the gem.  They believe it is symbolic of the goddess Pele’s tears.


The peridot was once thought to bring power and influence to the owner. Ground up, the gem was taken internally as a treatment for asthma.  The stone has also been used to induce sleep, attract love and calm anger.









Structure: Trigonal


Mohs hardness: 9


Chemical composition:   Al2O3



Sapphire is chosen for the birthstone for the month of September.  Sapphires are similar in structure to the ruby, which is the birthstone for July.  Both of these luscious gems are a variety of the mineral corundum.  In fact, sapphires exist in just about every color including yellow, black, white, orange, pink and brown.  There are no red sapphires because red corundum gems are strictly known as rubies.


The Ancient Persians called the sapphire a “celestial Stone” because they believed the earth rested upon a huge sapphire, which reflected its color and turned the sky blue.  In Ancient Greece, the stone was special to the god Apollo and was worn by his worshipers at the Oracle of Delphi.  The Hebrews made mention of the sapphire as being one of the gems on Aarons breastplate in the Book of Exodus.


During the Middle Ages, sapphires were believed to represent the purity of the soul.  Priests, who were supposed to remain celibate, wore them as a means of protection from “the temptations” of the flesh”.  Kings, queens and other members of the upper nobility wore the gems in rings and brooches to keep them safe.  It was also believed that a sapphire would turn darker in color if the wearer was an unfaithful lover.


Sapphires are traditionally given as gifts for the 5th, 23rd and 45th wedding anniversaries.  Of course, this beautiful gem is popular for many other occasions and is found in all different types of jewelry including rings, bracelets and pendants.  Sapphires are found in Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Burma, Brazil and the United States.  The largest sapphire resource in the world is Australia.








Structure: Amorphous


Mohs hardness: 6


Chemical composition:

SiO2, nH2O




The Opal, which has its root in the Latin word “opalus”, meaning precious jewel, has been lauded the world over for centuries in no small part due to the fact that the gem refracts and reflects specific wavelengths of  light.  The Ancient Romans called the gem “Cupid Paederos”, which signified they thought the gem was like a child as beautiful as love.  Ancient Greeks thought that the opal had the power of  foresight.  Even Cleopatra,  is believed to have worn one to attract the attentions of Marc Antony.  Finally, an ancient Arabic legend states that opals were created in a fiery flash of lightning from Heaven itself.

The truth is that opals, which are non-crystallized silica, are minerals found near the earth’s surface.  It is structurally similar in composition to quartz but with nearly 10% more water.  Opals have been with us since pre-historic times.  Most opals are found in southern Australia.  However, deposits of the luminous gem have been taken from areas in Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ireland and parts of the southwestern United States.

Opals hold a special significance for the Aboriginal tribes of Australia.  They believe that the gems have a strong spiritual value.  Opals are considered to be remnants of an ancestor who has left the jewel behind specifically for the purpose of reminding his/her survivors that he/she had roamed the earth.  The Wangkumara people tell a story in which their ancestors created fire from opals, with the assistance of a Muda, a special Creator entity who alternated between human and pelican form.

Opals, which are generally white or colorless, are VERY delicate.  Extreme caution must be taken when cutting the gems as they can crack.  Harsh chemicals and heat may also lead to drying and destruction of this precious gem.

Up until the fourteenth century, the opal was considered a harbinger of hope and the bearer was promised protection from infection, impurities and overall bad health.  However, after the Black Death swept Europe, the opal was believed to be the cause of it.  Some superstitious folk noticed that the color of the gem would change as the wearer became more ill.  Actually, the gem’s color did change, but it wasn’t due to anything sinister.  The opal is very sensitive to temperature changes.  If the wearer went from feverish to cold, for example, the opal would be bound to change appearance.

In Elizabethan England, the opal came back in fashion.  It was renouned for its beauty.  Shakespeare referred to it as “the queen of gems” in his play, Twelfth Night.  Even Queen Victoria gave it to her children as a gift.

Despite its varied history and sensitive nature, the opal is still a very popular gemstone.  It is the preferred gem for those born in  October, although Pink Tourmaline can be given as an acceptable substitute.  Opals are beautiful, powerful and iridescent.  They radiate an extraordinary and positive energy.


Yellow Topaz, or Citrine






Structure: Orthorhombic


Mohs hardness:  8


Chemical composition:






The birthstone for the month of November is the yellow topaz.  Topaz comes in  many other colors including orange, red, blue and green.  The topaz comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “fire”.  The ancients used the gem to control heat.  They believed that the topaz could cool boiling water.  It was also thought that the gem could calm an angry spirit and cure a fever.

The topaz is a relatively hard stone and is composed of aluminum silicate fluoride hydroxide and associated with beryl, mica, quartz, tourmaline, cassiterite and fluorite, among other gems and minerals.

Citrine, the yellow variety of quartz, is considered an alternate birthstone for November.  This is because the yellow topaz is incredibly rare and very expensive.  The yellow citrine varies in color between shades of yellow and orange only.  It is also very affordable, even for the poor.  The gem is believed to keep away evil forces and enemies.   It is also supposed to maintain harmony in the home.  Most consider the citrine to be a lucky gemstone, especially for those who are ruled by the planet Jupiter.

The gem, which rates a solid 7 on the Mohs scale, has been historically found in Spain, Scotland, France and Hungary.  It can also be found in Uruguay and Brazil.  The citrine also exists as a man-made entity which adds to its affordability and availability for all.








Structure: Triclinic


Mohs hardness: 6


Chemical composition:

CuAl6(PO4)4(OH)8, 5H20







Turquoise is the birthstone of December and the gem of choice for the 5th and 11th wedding anniversaries.  This valuable mineral is non-transparent, which means you can’t see through it.  The turquoise, which is a hydrous copper aluminum sulphate, is available in every shade between the colors of blue and green.  The Native Americans ascribe spiritual power to the gem, which can be found in the American southwest as well as in Australia, Iran, Afghanistan and locations all over the Middle East.


In fact, the gem was first brought to Europe by Turkish traders.  The semi-precious jewel was mined for millennia by the Egyptians and can be dated back as far as 6,000 B.C.  Turquoise is believed to calm the mind and relax tension in the body.  It is supposed to soothe the emotions and reduce stress.  The Native Americans often carve the stone in animal shapes which represent different divinities.  These shapes would then be left on the burial sites to guard the dead.  They also believe that the gem can ward off illness.  When given as a gift, it is supposed to bring happiness and riches to the recipient.  Warriors often attached turquoise to their bows and arrows to ensure that their shots hit the desired targets.


This gemstone, which is a favorite among Hollywood stars such as Cameron Diaz, registers a 6 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This means it is not as hard as many other gemstones, which is why it is often dyed and treated with resins to make the stone harder.  The jewel if sound in all kinds of jewelry, including rings, necklaces and bracelets.