The Origin of Birthstones

The origin of the birthstone goes back thousands of years to the time of Moses. It was at his command that the Breast Plate of the High Priest was made with the twelve colors, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, and a corresponding gemstone was attributed to each color. Over the centuries, the number twelve developed mystical proportions. There were twelve tribes of ancient Israel, twelve apostles, twelve foundation stones of the Holy City, twelve months of the year and twelve signs of the zodiac. As time passed, people wanted to own all twelve stones of the sacred Breast Plate and began wearing one gemstone set into a piece of jewelry each month and changing it as the months changed. Eventually, in a quest for individuality, people began wearing only his or her stone of birth all year, giving birth to the twelve birthstones. Each birthstone supposedly represents a magical power. Some were said to ward off evil, protect the wearer in battle, cure blindness, gout and palsy, and even immunize the wearer from drunkenness.

 

Garnet - January Birthstone

The garnet at its best is a deep, rich red or purple-red although they come in practically every color except blue. They range from pale orange to dark red and violet.

Early scientists named the stone from the Latin granatus, which means "seed like," because garnet crystals in a rock reminded them of the shape and color of pomegranate seeds. The garnet was known thousands of years before the Christian era and in ancient writings is probably mentioned as ruby or carbuncle. The latter term is still applied to the red garnet cut in the cabochon form.

Not only was the garnet regarded as the gem of faith, constancy, and truth, but it was believed also to possess many curative powers. At one time it was ground into a powder and used as a poultice, for red garnet was said to relieve fever, and yellow garnet was the prescription for jaundice.

Asians used garnets as bullets in the belief that their strong red color would inflict a deadly wound. Such bullets were used in India in 1892 during a rebellion. Many garnet missiles were kept as curiosities. This use has also been mentioned in stories of Indian wars in the Southwest.

As an amulet, it was very much favored by travelers, for it was said to protect and preserve honor and health, cure the wearer of all diseases and guard him against perils during a journey. All these powers were said to double for people born in January.

The garnet is the fourth stone in Aaron's breastplate, and its ruddy warmth and brightness are so great that Noah was supposed to have lighted the ark with its light. Christian tradition considered the blood-red garnet symbolic of Christ's sacrifice and in the Koran it illuminates the fourth heaven. The Egyptians wore garnets as talismans, too, and the Aztecs offered them as tributes to the gods. The Greeks, as long ago as 500 B.C., were the first to use garnets as signet rings.

Because the color of the garnet has long been associated with blood, it was considered an incomparable cure for all disorders of the blood. Since anger causes the face to flush, the garnet was used as a charm against the effects of anger and was said to be a calming influence and even a remedy for mental instability. Soldiers in combat wore garnets for protection against battle wounds.

The most expensive garnet is the brilliant green variety called demantoid (diamond like), which approaches emerald shade and exceeds the diamond in fire or dispersion. The finest of these garnets, which are quite rare, are found in the Ural Mountains.

 

Amethyst - February Birthstone

Amethyst, the most valuable crystal of the quartz family, comes in many colors ranging from pale delicate lilac to rich deep purple. It derives its name from a Greek word meaning "not intoxicated" and has been known historically for its supposed power to help one maintain that condition!

According to ancient myth, Bacchus, the god of wine, was so enraged over a slight by the goddess Diana that he vowed that the first person to enter his forest would be devoured by his tigers. This hapless mortal turned out to be the beautiful virgin Amethyst, who was on her way to worship at the shrine of Diana. As the ferocious beasts sprang on her, she called on Diana for help and was turned into pure white stone. In repentance for his cruelty, Bacchus poured the juice of grapes over the stone and gave it its purplish-violet color.

In memory of the transformed nymph, the stone that bears her name was endowed with the ability to protect the wearer from the evils of intoxicating drink. The custom of drinking wine from cups of amethyst evolved in the belief that the gems would ensure one remained sober.

The Amethyst was credited with many other extraordinary attributes. Among its reputed benefits was an ability to quicken the intelligence and make the owner more successful in business, protect the soldier and assure victory, help hunters, guard against contagious diseases, and control evil thoughts.

To men, the amethyst promised sober judgment and industry; to women, lofty thoughts and religious love.

Catherine the Great was so fond of the amethyst that she sent thousands of workers to search for the gem in the Urals; the stones they brought back were prominent among her royal jewels. Many other monarchs admired the amethyst and identified with its supposed power. This admiration is the source of the expression "royal purple." The amethyst appears in the coronation regalia of England, in the king's scepter and in the coronet of the Prince of Wales.

The amethyst, too, has had religious associations. It was among the gems in Aaron's breastplate and is worn by many bishops in the Roman Catholic Church.

The most valued hues of amethyst range from deep purplish-red to purple-red. Deep, evenly colored specimens are particularly desirable. The principal sources of fine-quality amethyst include Brazil, Uruguay and the Ural Mountains. Other areas of the world that have produced important quantities are Sri Lanka, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, the United States, Madagascar and Iran.

 

Aquamarine or Bloodstone - March Birthstones

Two gem stones have been assigned as birthstones for the month of March: the aquamarine and the bloodstone.The aquamarine derives its name from aqua and mare meaning "sea water." It was poetically described by an ancient writer as "...a thousand leagues of sunlit sea imprisoned in a cup." Its color varies from deep blue to greenish-blue and is like the transparent sea itself. Aquamarine has long been considered the symbol of happiness and everlasting youth. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans valued it highly, and many museums exhibit aquamarine specimens enhanced by old intaglio engraving and cameo carving. It was once the special talisman of ocean travelers, reputedly assuring them a successful voyage and safe return. The hopeful counted on it to renew married love, develop forbearance, cure laziness and further litigation.In the Middle Ages the aquamarine was said to bestow insight and foresight and, on the other hand, to have the power to induce sleep. 

The supposed power of the stone to fight evil was said to enable its wearer to conquer all wickedness. Water in which an aquamarine was soaked was believed to cure eye trouble, stoppage of breath and hiccups. Aquamarines were associated with the purity of the oceans and hence were credited with the power to keep its wearers clean in body and spirit. The ancients wore aquamarines engraved with the head of Neptune, the sea god, to protect them against the perils of the deep. In Egypt the stone is believed to have been used to invoke the aid of cunning water spirits and mighty heroes. 

In the ordering of the New Jerusalem, the gem was assigned to St. Thomas, the apostle, who made long journeys by sea to preach the faith.The lovely color in aquamarines is caused by a minute amount of iron compound. The aquamarine is the blue variety of beryl, the same mineral as emerald. 

The best aquamarines have great transparency and brilliance and often come in large crystals.In 1910 an aquamarine crystal was found in Brazil that weighed 243 pounds and was so transparent that objects could be seen through its long dimension of nineteen inches. The British Museum of Natural History has on display a flawless sea-green specimen that weighs 879.5 carats, and the American Museum of Natural History has several cut specimens, including a 271-carat Russian aquamarine, a 335-carat gem from Sri Lanka, an emerald-cut 144.5-carat Brazilian stone, and another one of top quality weighing 400 carats. Experts consider the most beautiful aquamarine ever discovered to be one that came from Brazil and was once owned by that country's emperor Dom Pedro. Aquamarines are mined principally in Brazil.In America the aquamarine was given an enormous boost in popularity in 1906 when President Theodore Roosevelt's daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth of "Alice Blue Gown" fame, was given a beautiful heart-shaped aquamarine by Vice President William Howard Taft as a wedding gift.

The companion birthstone for March is the bloodstone, which is mainly worn by men and is often carved with monograms, initials or crests.The bloodstone is said to represent the blood of Christ Jesus. Bloodstone gems have been embellished with a thorn-crowned head of Jesus so placed that the red of the bloodstone simulate drops of blood trickling down his hair and face. Such gems are especially revered as Christian amulets.The bloodstone was once thought to be able to check hemorrhages. Certain Indians also considered the bloodstone a remedy, but they first cut it into the shape of a heart. Because of its religious significance, the bloodstone has reputedly had many other curative powers and was once used to counteract poisons.As the March birthstone for men, the bloodstone is supposed to give its wearer courage and make him brave in the face of all danger. In addition, it is reputed to impart wisdom and an ability to detect and foil enemy plots.

 

Diamonds - April Birthstone

The hardness and durability of the diamond have always stood for an eternally incorruptible principle that protects its wearer from evil. In addition, the fact that white light is composed of all colors convinced the ancients that the diamond, the gem of light akin to the sun, was a combination of all the other precious stones.

The diamond has played a part in almost every religion. In the Talmud, a gem supposed to have been the diamond was worn by the high priest and served to show the guilt or innocence of one accused of any crime. If the accused were guilty, the stone was supposed to turn dim; if innocent, it shone more brilliantly than ever.

The Hindus classified diamonds and rubies according to four castes. The Brahman diamond meant power, riches, friends and good luck; the Kshatriya diamond was reputed to prevent the onset of old age; the Vaisya stone was supposed to bring success; and the Sudra was supposed to bring all manner of good fortune. Soldiers believed that a diamond carried into battle would keep them safe from harm and even render them invisible.

The far-reaching magic of the diamond included indomitable power against poison, fears, nightmares, sorcery, quarrels, lunacy and possession by devils. Diamonds brought power, riches, success, friends, everlasting youth and the promise of serenity and contentment.

Like the emerald, the diamond was reputed to be a reliable test for fidelity. A stone placed on the breast of a sleeping lover was expected to make him tell all. Another device was to rest a diamond on a wife's head without her knowledge while she slept. If she was faithful, she would turn to her husband in her sleep; if not, she would move away.

An old English ballad tells of the romance of a beautiful princess who gave her suitor a ring set with seven diamonds as a memento on his departure for a sea journey. Some distance from home, he observed that the diamonds had turned pale. He saw this as a sign that the princess had found a new love. He hurried back just in time to prevent her marriage to another. Need we add...they lived happily ever after.

 

Emerald - May Birthstones

The emerald, as green as spring grass and new foliage, will always be the symbol of faith, kindness, goodness and the promises of nature. Lovers believed the gem was endowed with the power to reveal the faithfulness of one's beloved.

The emerald's supposed healing benefits included curing fever and epilepsy when worn around the neck. If suspended so that a stone touched the abdomen and another emerald was placed in the mouth, the result was supposed to be relief of the ravages of dysentery.

At the time of the Spanish conquest, an emerald the size of an ostrich egg was worshipped by the Peruvians and called the Emerald Goddess Umina. Like other precious relics, it was only displayed on high feast days, when the Indians flocked to the shrine with gifts for the goddess. The priests had suggested the donation of emeralds, saying that they were daughters of the goddess and she would be pleased with them. A huge store of emeralds was thus collected, but they were destined to fall into the hands of the Spanish conquerors. The mother emerald, however, was so cleverly hidden that the invaders never found it. Many of the pillaged emeralds were destroyed because the new owners thought the test of a real emerald was it ability to withstand the blows of a hammer. The old and entirely false myth that a genuine diamond could survive such a test may have been responsible.

The emerald has been the favorite of many historical figures. Alexander the Great had a large one set in his jeweled girdle; and emeralds were prominent among the stones in Charlemagne's crown.

The word emerald has been traced to many ancient languages and in each case means "green." As the birthstone for those born in May, the emerald denotes love and success.

 

Pearl, Alexandrite, or Moonstone - 
June Birthstones

A pearl is not a stone at all. It is the organic product of a few types of shellfish. The pearl is the only gem that does not have to be cut and polished. It is ready to wear when taken from the shell in which it has grown.

The Egyptians, Persians and Hindus held the pearl in great esteem and the Romans learned of it from them. Julius Caesar was a great fancier of pearls. The couches and trappings of the Romans literally glowed with pearls. Roman women wore them in their sleep to remind themselves of their wealth.

The pearls brought back from the Orient by the Crusaders probably spread the appreciation of these gems to Europe, where they were worn as personal ornaments by men and women of high rank. In fact, pearls were so much in vogue that a subsequent period in European history was called the Pearl Age.

Not only was the pearl sacred to the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, and to her Roman counterpart, Venus, (who also came from the sea). The white radiance of the gem made it a favorite of Diana, the chaste moon goddess.

Pearls were dedicated to the Angel Gabriel and adorned the gates of the New Jerusalem, probably the original "pearly gates." They were fundamental in the Table of the Koran and the Hindus thought them the divine creation of Vishna.

The pearl has always been the gem of modesty and purity and has been believed to have a power for the good: to bring succor in troubled times, to cement friendships and to strengthen weak hearts and memory. The pearl supposedly gives its wearers the courage to resist and overcome evil, eases irritability, wards off pestilence, increases the fruitfulness of oxen and cures blood disorders!

The most beautiful pearl ever is claimed to be La Peregrina, "The Wanderer," a gem with a long and colorful history. It was found over four hundred years ago in Panama by a black slave who was said to have been given his freedom in return for this extraordinary pearl. It was then sent to King Philip II of Spain by his conquistadors in 1570. This matchless white pearl, which weighs over twenty-seven carats and is about one and a half inches long, was given to Mary I of England and then to Prince Louis Napoleon of France, who sold it to a British Marquis to raise needed cash. It disappeared for a period and in 1969 was bought by Richard Burton as a birthday gift for Elizabeth Taylor.

As the birthstone for June, the pearl brings a promise of health and longevity.

There are two alternate birthstones for June. One is the alexandrite, the other the moonstone.

The alexandrite has the remarkable property of displaying two colors: green by day and red at night. Poets have spoken of this variety of the mineral chrysoberyl as "an emerald by day and a ruby by night."

This gem derives its name from the fact that it was discovered on the birthday of Alexander II, czar of Russia, in 1839 -- the year the then heir-apparent reached his majority. The story goes that a group of miners in the Ural Mountains found some stones that looked like emeralds, but when they took them back to the camp that night, the campfire light made them shine red. In the morning, however, the stones shone green again. The men soon realized that they had found a new gem. Red and green were the imperial Russian colors, making the alexandrite of special meaning in that country.

The alexandrite is regarded as a harbinger of good luck.

The moonstone is named for the bluish-white internal reflections that seem to have a silvery play of color like the moon. The more of this silvery light a stone has and the more translucent it is, the greater its value. Not all moonstones have this pearl-blue hue; some have a green, blue or yellow tint. When the gem is turned back and forth, its shows silver rays that have been compared to moonbeams dancing over the water.

The moonstone has no sharp edges and is sometimes liked to a raindrop or tear. The Asians, steep in gem lore, point out that when there is a moon there is no rain and so the name, moonstone, means "no tears." The moonstone is believed to arouse tender passions in lovers. According to legend, a moonstone placed in the mouth while the moon is full gives lovers the power to read their futures together.

Moonstones have been found in Switzerland, Sri Lanka and more recently in India. Small stones are found relatively often; larger stones of unflawed quality are more rare.

The moonstone has always been regarded as bringing luck and is held in high esteem in the Orient where it is believed that it has a live spirit that moves as the stone is turned. Superstition says it has the power to hypnotize the person who gazes at it as it moves back and forth. In India it is regarded as sacred and can only be displayed on a yellow cloth since yellow is a sacred color in that country. The Moonstone Temple, built about 1100 BC. at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, had altar steps paved with moonstones. Its ruins are still visible.

As a June birthstone, the moonstone is a lucky gem that stands for friendship.

 

Ruby - July Birthstone

The ruby, or star ruby, has been said to surpass all other stones in virtue and value. The Hindus valued it so highly that they called it the "king or the leader of precious stones." When they classified rubies by castes according to their quality, no inferior stone was allowed to touch a superior one, lest the great powers of the better gem be diminished. They also believed that whoever gave rubies to the god Krishna was virtually certain to be reborn an emperor in a future reincarnation. The ruby meant a life of peace and health for the owner and the assurance that his land and rank would never be taken from him. His garden would be safe from storms and his future filled with good fortune.

Many men of science believed in the medicinal powers of the ruby and praised its therapeutic value. When, in 1663, English physicist Sir Robert Boyle supported this view, rubies were offered for sale by druggists as cures for various ill. The famous "ruby elixir" was created by a secret method for wealthy patients. It was placed on the tongue, which subsequently became cold and heavy, as did the fingers and toes. This was followed by violent shivering. When these effects had disappeared, the cure was considered complete. The stone was also used as a disinfectant in certain dread diseases. Even the infamous Ivan the Terrible had some kind words to say about the ruby when he declared it very good for the heart, brain and memory and an excellent blood purifier. It has even been claimed that the ruby is empowered to settle disputes and assure friendly reconciliation.

The poet Rudyard Kipling wrote of the ruby in "A Dedication to 'Soldiers Three'":

And they were stronger hands than mine
that digged the Ruby from the earth --
More cunning brains that made it worth
The large desire of a king.
As the birthstone for July, the ruby signifies contentment.

 

Peridot or Sardonyx- August Birthstone

The peridot, the birthstone of August, is so radiant that it was called the "gem of the sun" by the ancients who believed it had the power to ward off darkness. The peridot is bright olive green, so brilliant that it flashes even in dim light.

The peridot was favored for earrings because of the belief that its power over light was transferable to sound and would make even the faintest sound more audible. The peridot was thought to put evil spirits to flight, drive off the terrors of the night, and endow its owner with a sane mind, a kind temperament, and persuasive eloquence. For the peridot to exert its full powers as a talisman, however, it had to be set in gold. For it to work as a defense against the wiles of evil spirits, the stone had to be pierced and strung on the hair of an ass and then attached to the left arm!

When ground into a powder, peridot was taken as a remedy for asthma and when held under the tongue, it was supposed to lessen the thirst of a fever.

Many beautiful examples of peridot were brought back from the Mediterranean area during the Crusades, by loot or by trade. These found their way into the cathedrals of Europe where they were presented as emeralds. The peridot is sometimes called the "evening emerald."

The most important source of peridot has been the island near Egypt in the Red Sea now known as St. John's (formerly Sebirget, which is the Arabic word for Peridot). It is here that the most beautiful medium-dark-green crystals are found. The mines that produced peridots were worked as early as 1500 BC., and in those days Zebirget was known as the Isle of Serpents because it was infested with poisonous snakes that made mining operations difficult. Later, a reigning Egyptian monarch had the snakes driven out so that work could proceed. The workers who lived on the island were forced by the king to dig for the stones and deliver them to the royal gem cutters. Reportedly, because it was difficult to distinguish the lustrous peridots in daylight, the searchers would go out at night, mark the location of the stones, and return the next day to work the area. The monarchs valued the stones so highly and feared theft so greatly, that guards were posted and ordered to kill any suspicious persons approaching the shore.

As the birthstone for August, the peridot assures married happiness.

The sardonyx, the alternate birthstone for August, was one of the stones set into the breastplate of the High Priest Aaron. In the Book of Revelation it is the fifth stone in the foundation of the New Jerusalem.

This stone is multi-layered and its name is derived from that quality and the fact that it is a reddish-brown veined onyx. The name is used incorrectly for carnelian and, more often, for sard or carnelian onyx.

The sardonyx is known as the "gem of courage" for orators and bashful lovers. It was said to be a charm against such assorted afflictions as warts, boils, cramps, the evil eye and the wicked thoughts and impulses of witches.

It was a favorite gem of the ancients and many thousands of years ago the Egyptians engraved these gems as scarabs and beetles and wore them as talismans. Roman soldiers often wore sardonyx stones engraved with Mars, the god of war, to render them brave and fearless in battle. Probably the most famous sardonyx was the one set in the gold ring and carved with the portrait of Elizabeth I. The Queen gave this ring to her lover, the Earl of Essex, as a memento and keepsake.

 

Sapphire - September Birthstones

The throne of celestial judgment is supposed to rest on sapphire. According to the Book of Revelation, it is the second stone in the foundation of the New Jerusalem.

One ancient writer noted that "the figure of a ram or bearded man engraved on a sapphire has the power to cure a person from many ailments and free him from poison or demons." At the time it was believed to remove all impurities and foreign matter from the eyes. It is said that Charles IV used an oval sapphire for this purpose.

Oriental tradition described the sapphire as a guiding gem, one that warded off evil omens and brought good fortune to its owner. the nineteenth century explorer Sir Richard Burton, who translated The Arabian Nights, owned a large sapphire and claimed that it brought good horses and prompt service wherever he went.

Ranging from pale sky-blue to the deepest indigo, the sapphire was believed to have the power to attract divine favor. Ever since it was called the "gem of gems" by the bishop of Rennes in the twelfth century, it has been a favorite for ecclesiastical rings. The ancient Egyptians said that wearing a sapphire would make the stars move into a favorable position and that the star sapphire -- a sapphire in which the crystalline structure reflects light in the form of a six-rayed star -- appeared especially for this purpose.

Since the sapphire was supposed to produce such beneficent magic, evil could not prevail in its presence. The very proximity of the stone would kill reptiles as well as venomous insects. The sapphire was long honored as a talisman against evil spirits. When King Solomon adopted the sapphire for his seal, the stone became even more of a symbol of wisdom and clear thinking. This latter quality is the one it still represents today as the birthstone of September.

 

Opal or Tourmaline - October Birthstones

The opal is often considered to be the most beautiful and desirable of all gems because it is highlighted with all the colors of the rainbow.

According to legend, the wearer of an opal will be urbane and courteous and protected from the wrath of others. The stone was also reputed to make its owner invisible to foes and thereby exempt from misfortune. Opals were supposed to drive away despondency and evil thoughts, cure kidney diseases and cholera, soothe the eyes and nerves and protect against lightning. It was believed to make wishes come true and was particularly favorable to children, the theater, amusements, friendships and emotions. it is the gem of inspiration in the arts and in love.

The opal was regarded as a means to clairvoyance, one far more effective than the traditional crystal ball.

The word opal is derived from the Latin opulus and the sanskrit upala, meaning "precious stone" and was one of those in the breastplate of Aaron. It was the lucky stone of the Romans who called it cupid paederos, which meant "child beautiful as love," and who revered it as the symbol of hope and purity.

Pliny described the opal as possessing "the fire of the carbuncle, the brilliant purple of the amethyst, and the sea-green color of the emerald, all shining together in incredible union." The Arabs believed that opals fell from heaven in flashes of lightning and thus acquired their colors. In ancient Greece opals were supposed to confer foresight and prophecy on their owners.

Black opal has been regarded as an exceptionally lucky stone and in early times was made artificially by dipping light-colored stones into ink or by allowing burned oil to enter cracks produced by heating.

Blondes are supposed to have a special fondness for opal necklaces which were believed to guard the color of their hair!

Opals have been worn by many well-known figures. Queen Victoria was especially proud of her opal collection and gave a magnificent opal to each of her five daughters as mementos. Sarah Bernhardt, the famous French actress, whose birthstone was the opal, never considered herself well-dressed without her opal jewelry. This added enormously to it popularity. The Roman senator Nonius chose exile rather than sell his beloved opal ring to Mark Antony' the ring was found in Nonius' tomb.

As the birthstone for October, the opal stands for hope.

Although tourmaline, the alternate birthstone for October, was probably known to the ancients and must have been present in many of the Oriental mines yielding precious stones, there are no definitive descriptions of the gem by early writers.

During the seventeenth century, dark green tourmaline crystals shipped to Europe from Brazil were called Brazilian emeralds and incorrectly credited with a hardness greater than that of true emeralds. However, early in the eighteenth century it was discovered that these crystals had a unique property. One warm summer day, while some Dutch children were playing with stones that had been brought home by navigators, they were amazed to see that the stones attracted small bits of ash and pieces of paper. The children's parents, summoned to view the phenomenon, were astounded at the magnetic properties of these stones, which were later given the name, aschentrckers, meaning "ash drawers."

The word tourmaline however is derived from the ancient Singhalese word tormall, meaning "mixed precious stones." The tourmaline is a complex silicate combined with various metallic elements; since each contributes a different color, the observer is often confused into believing the gem is a ruby, emerald or sapphire.

The most valuable variety of tourmaline is red to purplish-red to violet-red. it comes in an infinite variety of hues and tones. Most common are green and light red tourmalines, but others are dual-colored stones in blue, yellow and pink, brown and black. Some stones show several colors; they may be one color at the base, another at the center and a third near the apex. In others, the interior portion will be one color and the peripheral zone another. When the central portion is pink and the periphery green, the resulting combination is called a "watermelon" tourmaline. Cat's-eye tourmalines also are found in a variety of colors.

Brazil is still the most important source of tourmaline, but recently California has become a significant producer. Other sources include Madagascar, Maine, Sri Lanka, Burma and Russia.

Tourmaline may be cut into any style, including step, brilliant, mixed and cabochon. It is often carved into flowers, leaves and similar forms and set in jewelry with diamonds and other colored stones.

 

Topaz - November Birthstones

The topaz comes in many colors, but the yellow variety, discovered in the Middle Ages during a quest for a supreme golden stone, is the most familiar. At one time, all yellow-colored stones were called topaz.

In Oscar Wilde's Salome, Herod tries to persuade Salome to withdraw her request for the head of John the Baptist by offering her great riches. Among the treasures he describes are "topazes as yellow as the eyes of tigers, topazes as pink as the eyes of wood pigeons." In addition to the varieties Herod offered are blue, brown, red and colorless topazes.

The name topaz is a derivative of the Sanskrit word topas meaning "fire." When worn as an amulet, it was as said to drive away sadness, strengthen the intellect and bestow courage. A topaz mounted in gold and hung around the neck was believed to dispel enchantment.

The powdered stone was put in wine and used as a cure for asthma, insomnia, burns and hemorrhage. It was regarded as the stone of fruitfulness and faithfulness and one that conferred cheerfulness on the wearer. It was supposed to calm passions and prevent bad dreams. The topaz was believed to counteract poison and instantly quench the heat of boiling water. All these magical powers were supposed to increase or decrease with changes of the moon.

The topaz was a holy stone signifying St. Matthew, and pilgrims flocked to Rome just to touch the topaz owned by Popes Gregory II and Clement VI, which was said to cure all ailments and to bring health.

The topaz was credited also with banishing the fear of death and ensuring a peaceful demise. It gave its owner faith and charity and symbolized true friendship, lasting love, intelligence and beauty.

Of all the colors in which topaz is found, the violet-red stones are the most valued. The sherry topaz is so called because its color resembles that of sherry wine. Valuable topaz displays a slightly velvety texture and has a high luster. Citrine, or topaz quartz is sometimes sold as genuine topaz but a reputable jeweler will correctly represent it for what it is. Blue topazes are often quite beautiful and some rare specimens are comparable in color to aquamarines and, more rarely, to sapphires. All colors except yellow and brown are light to very light in tone. Other factors being equal, the darker the tone the more valuable the stone.

An old verse says of this November birthstone, which stands for fidelity:

 

Tanzanite- December Birthstone

Discovered in Tanzania less than 40 years ago, tanzanite is fast becoming one of the most popular gemstones available today. This modern versatile gemstone is now the new birthstone for December.

Tanzanite is an exotic blue-purple stone that combines the regal purple color of a fine amethyst and the alluring blue of a sapphire. Most tanzanites mined today are often heat-treated to remove unwanted colors. This process turns dusty brown stones permanently into the mesmerizing blue-purple stones so sought after today.

Your tanzanite jewelry should give you many years of wearing pleasure if cared for properly. It is best cleaned professionally by a King's Jewelry diamontologist. But if home-cleaning is necessary, use lukewarm water with a mild, soapy solution. To maintain your gem's brilliance, clean with a small bristle brush, especially on the back where the dirt collects. Do not clean with a home ultrasonic machine. Protect your tanzanite from sharp blows to prevent breaking or chipping.