Romancing The Stone: Gem Lore - A Valentine's Guide to the History & Significance of Some Popular Gemstones

Ever since the first curious cave-dweller broke open a geode and offered its sparkling, gorgeously hued interior to his vastly surprised but appreciative mate, man has scoured the earth for shiny stones to please his beloved. Take heed, all of you who now seek the perfect Valentine's Day gift for your special someone.

Flowers are first - nothing says "I love you," better than a dozen long-stemmed red roses. Candy is dandy - a luscious tray of her favorite indulgence all wrapped up with a big red bow, can be well nigh irresistible. Champagne on ice is a great backstop - a nice bottle of Cristal, chilling in a silver ice-bucket, two tall champagne flutes nearby.

Imagine though, on the table beside the champagne glasses, a discreet, flat box, the sheen of black velvet glowing in the candlelight, proclaiming its unmistakable origins in some jeweler's shop. How better to remind your sweetheart of your devotion than with a present of fine gems - a delicate pendant with matching earrings, or a gem-encrusted tennis bracelet? Perhaps the gift of pearls would please your love?

Fabulous Faceted Gems from jewelryexport.com
Fabulous Faceted Gems from jewelryexport.com
Stunning Ruby Necklace from cartier.com
Stunning Ruby Necklace from cartier.com
Rubies and Diamonds from wikimedia.commoms
Rubies and Diamonds from wikimedia.commoms
Blue Sapphires and Amethyst set in yellow gold - cartier.com
Blue Sapphires and Amethyst set in yellow gold - cartier.com
Padparadscha Sapphire from wikimedia.commons
Padparadscha Sapphire from wikimedia.commons
A naturally occurring crystal mined in Muzo, Columbia from wikimedia.commons
A naturally occurring crystal mined in Muzo, Columbia from wikimedia.commons
Faceted Amethyst from wholesalegemstones.com
Faceted Amethyst from wholesalegemstones.com

Whatever you chose, from a simple birthstone tribute to simply something lovely to wear on that special occasion, gemstones have dazzled and intrigued us since the beginnings of time.

Almost every culture to use gemstone as adornments has ascribed mystical or medicinal powers to various stones. Many gems are attributed with the ability to ward off evil or control negativity.

The ruby is the stone of wisdom, fire and passion. The traditional birthstone of July and rarest of gems, a rarely occurring, red form of the mineral corundum, it was also thought to confer great power on its bearer.

The Stone of Emperors, and worn only by royalty in Roman times, the ruby was believed to focus the vision and energy of the wearer. Highly prized in Asian countries, rubies were used to ornament the armor, scabbards, and harnesses of noblemen in India and China

The sapphire, birthstone of the September born and called by ancients the gem of the heavens, is the "other" form of corundum, the same mineral that constitutes rubies. Believed to contain the power of wisdom, it was thought it would help the wearer to solve any puzzle and overcome any obstacle.

The Star of India, perhaps the most famous sapphire in history and currently on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, is thought to be the largest star sapphire in the world.

The 182 carat Star of Bombay, housed in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., is another stellar example of a blue star sapphire.

Only one other form of that mineral besides the ruby has been given its own name instead of being called a particular color of sapphire, the Padparadscha, whose name comes from the Sinhalese word for lotus blossom.

The Padparadscha is a pink-orange corundum, originally mined in Sri Lanka, but also found in Vietnam and Africa. Padparadscha sapphires are very rare and highly valued.

The emerald, birthstone of May, was thought to have great powers of healing and was worn by Romans in the time of the Caesars to prevent the "falling sickness", as epilepsy was then known. Spanish conquistadors plundered the South American emerald mines in search of their "green fire".

Emeralds are a crystal form of the mineral beryl, and owe their green color to the addition of chromium while the gem is forming.

Natural emeralds are subject to inclusions, which greatly affect the value of the gemstone. This term refers to tiny deposits of other material such as silica in the mineral as the stone is forming.

In many gemstones, such as diamonds, inclusions that affect the clarity of the stone lessen the stone's value.

In some stones, however, such as star sapphires, the inclusion actually increases the value of the stone. Many gemstones, such as amethyst, emerald, and sapphire, are expected to have inclusions, which do not greatly affect the stone's value.

Amethyst, thought by ancient Greeks to prevent drunkenness, was also worn in amulets by medieval European sailors for protection in battle.

Amethyst is the birthstone of February, and has retained its popularity as a decorative element in jewelry since early Roman times. Also prone to inclusions, Amethyst is often cut as a cabochon, and presented in a bezel setting, or as beads or polished nuggets, in modern jewelry.

Birthday Gemstone Chart - Traditional/Modern

Perhaps a pair of dainty earrings or a birthstone pendant would be just the ticket. The chart to the right, as well as the chart below will help you choose the correct month, and a little research will make you knowledgeable about the gem.

How better to show your regard than by regaling your love with a bit of the lore about their birthstone.

Another variation, the zodiac birthstone chart...

...of great price

Exquisite gifts from the sea - sangson.com
Exquisite gifts from the sea - sangson.com
Lustrous pearls on the half-shell from thesimplefrontporch.wordpress.com
Lustrous pearls on the half-shell from thesimplefrontporch.wordpress.com

Since ancient times, pearls have been thought to possess the magical powers of the moon. It is said that Cleopatra used ground pearls in the love potion she offered to Mark Antony. Pearls dissolved in wine were a fashionable aphrodisiac in Renaissance Italy.

The oldest known pearl jewelry is a necklace found in the sarcophagus of a Persian princess who died in 520 BC, and were so valuable that the Roman General Vitellius was supposedly able to finance an entire military campaign with just one of his mother's pearl earrings.

Pearls are a traditional bride-gift in many cultures, a practice dating back to Krishna, who gave pearls to his daughter. Traditional birthstone of June, along with the Alexanderite, and symbolizing purity, they are now often given by the groom to his bride-to-be.

Gold burial mask of Tutankhamun, inlaid with turquoise, lapis lazuli, carnelian and coloured glass - wikimedia.commons
Gold burial mask of Tutankhamun, inlaid with turquoise, lapis lazuli, carnelian and coloured glass - wikimedia.commons
Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) turquoise and orange argillite inlay pieces from Chaco Canyon (dated ca. 10201140 CE) show the typical colour range and mottling of American turquoise - from wikimedia.commons
Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) turquoise and orange argillite inlay pieces from Chaco Canyon (dated ca. 10201140 CE) show the typical colour range and mottling of American turquoise - from wikimedia.commons
Slab turquoise in matrix showing a large variety of different coloration - wikimedia.commons
Slab turquoise in matrix showing a large variety of different coloration - wikimedia.commons

Turquoise, one of the traditional birthstones of December, was among the first gems to be mined.

Many of the historic sites are worked out, but some are still being mined, usually by hand, to this day.

The symbol of wealth in many cultures, only its prized blue color caused it to be used as a gemstone - a color so distinctive that its name is used to describe any color that resembles the stone.

Also valued for its protective qualities, turquoise was thought to change color with any change in the wearer's health.

The Egyptian use of turquoise stretches back as far as the First Dynasty and possibly earlier, with probably the best known example of the decorative use of this stone being in Tutankhamun's burial mask.

It was used to adorn rings and the great sweeping necklaces called pectorals.

Set in gold, the gem was fashioned into beads, used as inlay, and often carved in a scarab motif, accompanied by carnelian, lapis lazuli, and in later pieces, colored glass.

Turquoise, associated with the goddess Hathor, was so popular in Ancient Egypt that it became one of the first gemstone to be imitated by a glazed ceramic product known as faience.

The blue stone has been known by many names, but the word turquoise comes to us from 16th century French, either from the word for Turkish (Turquois) or dark-blue stone (pierre turquin).

This may have arisen from a misunderstanding about the stone's origins. Turquoise does not occur in Turkey, but was traded at Turkish bazaars to Venetian merchants who brought it to Europe.

In contemporary Western use, turquoise is most often cut en cabochon and bezel-set in silver rings and bracelets, or used in the form of tumbled, or roughly hewn beads in chunky necklaces.

While strongly sky blue stones are considered to be of superior value, mottled green and yellowish turquoise is also popular with artisans.

Light green jade bangle and a Carnelian beaded bracelet - property of author
Light green jade bangle and a Carnelian beaded bracelet - property of author
Exquisitely woven Carnelian beaded Necklace from mjcraftsdesignstudio.blogspot.com
Exquisitely woven Carnelian beaded Necklace from mjcraftsdesignstudio.blogspot.com

Perhaps a jade or carnelian bangle would be more to your beloved's liking. Once worn only by emperors, it is found in two forms - nephrite and jadeite.

Nephrite jade occurs in a creamy white form known in China as the highly prized "mutton fat" jade, as well as in a variety of green colors. Jadeite is found in more color variations, including blue, lavender-mauve, pink, and emerald-green.

Of the two, jadeite is rarer, documented in fewer than twelve sites worldwide. Translucent emerald-green jadeite is still the most prized variety even today.

Believed to confer longevity upon the wearer, jade was also carved into exquisite objet d'art by the skilled Chinese artisans of the Imperial court.

Quetzal jade, the bright green jadeite from Guatemala was treasured by Middle-American cultures. Kingfisher jade, the vivid green rocks from Burma became the preferred stone of post-1800 Chinese imperial scholars and rulers.

Carnelian, a variety of the silica mineral chalcedony derives its color from iron oxide impurities deposited in the stone when it is formed. The color can vary greatly, ranging from pale orange to an intense, almost blackish color.

Jewelry and decorative objects adorned with carnelian have been recovered dating from as early as 4th or 5th Century, BCE. Carnelian was used widely during Roman times to make engraved gems for signet or seal rings. These were used to imprint the wearers seal in wax wax on correspondence or other important documents - hot wax does not stick to Carnelian.

Naturally occurring Topaz from the Topaz mountains - gc.maricopa.edu
Naturally occurring Topaz from the Topaz mountains - gc.maricopa.edu
Peridot earrings from top10jewelryshop.blogspot.com
Peridot earrings from top10jewelryshop.blogspot.com

Topaz and peridot, the respective birthstones of November and August, make elegant companions. Early Egyptians believed topaz, also called Fire Stone, and its sister gem, citrine, were created from sunlight, a gift from Ra.

Topaz ranges in color from a clear transparent gem through light yellows, brown, and pink shades.

The ancient Greeks believed that topaz was the stone of strength, while during medieval times, it was thought to heal physical and mental disorders as well as prevent death.

In 1750, a Parisian jeweler discovered that the yellow Brazilian topaz becomes pink when it is exposed to moderate heat.

Nearly all the pink topaz used in making jewelry has been heat-treated, and is sometimes called burnt topaz. Such stones are often called Brazilian rubies, as is the very rare, natural red topaz.

Peridot has been valued since ancient times for protection. Prized by Egyptian pharaohs, the peridot was thought to imbue its wearer with foresight and divine inspiration.

Legend has it that pirates in the Middle Ages wore peridot amulets to protect them against evil.

The deposits on Saint John's Island in the Red Sea, mentioned by Pliny in his Natural History of AD 70, are still worked today and continue to produce fine gemstones.

Uncut gemstones from bkjewelry.co.uk
Uncut gemstones from bkjewelry.co.uk

Whatever you choose to beguile your love, remember that Valentine's Day is not the only appropriate occasion for giving gems.

Birthdates and anniversaries are each assigned their respective gemstone, and if invention or inspiration fails, you can always just make a gift of diamonds.

© 2010 RedElf

More by this Author


32 comments

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

They are beautiful jewelleries. The craftmanship has to be admired. Thank you for showing.


ainehannah profile image

ainehannah 6 years ago from Dublin

wildly impressed with the info in the article, and even more so that you own that fab jade set of necklace, watch and earrings! Well may you wear them


wavegirl22 profile image

wavegirl22 6 years ago from New York, NY

What a great Hub. . from the layout to the information. I love stones and gems... not so much to wear them but to look at them and understand their different 'personalities'. Born in July I have a natural love for rubies. .and if I ever were to pick a ring you nailed it on the head with the rubie and diamond ring!

Amazing read....thanks for sharing this one .. you really put alot of work into it. . and it shows!

diamonds are a girls best friend ;)


fishtiger58 profile image

fishtiger58 6 years ago from Momence, Illinois

Great article. I do so love a star sapphire so beautiful. And anything green is always good for me as it's my fav color. Thanks for an interesting read.


KellyEngaldo 6 years ago

5 Stars! Truly and evergreen hub - great photos and great verbiage! Marilyn - not my favorite but appropriate!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Hello, Hh! So glad you enjoyed the excellent craftsmanship. I enjoyed finding all the examples.

ainehannah, I am so pleased you like my jade set, especially because I made it ;)

Thanks so much, wavegirl22. I was interesting to research - there's so much information available, and it just kept getting longer. Might have to turn it into a series ;)

Thanks so much, ft! Sapphires come in such lovely colors, too - you could have a completely color co-ordinated set of accessories just using them ;)


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, Kelly. I am looking for a Carol Channing version to complement Marilyn's, but hers was the first one that came up ;)


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

So beautiful. Makes me want to run right out to Cartier's. I love the colors and clarity of the gems in the pics. Thanks for an interesting and informative hub, Red Elf!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

I think that's one reason I enjoy making jewelry so much - at least that way I can play with the gemstones for a while ;) Glad you enjoyed it P7


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 6 years ago from India

Such an interesting and informative hub! Isn't it amazing that 'mere stones' can be transformed into such stunning pieces of art?


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, FP. it never fails to intrigue me that you can never tell from the outside of a geode what an amazing surprise awaits inside!


sord87 6 years ago

Freshwater pearl is my favorite!You actually raise up the value of it in this hub as well as the value of gemstone!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, sord87. I love all colors of pearls but the amber/copper/chocolate one are my favorites ;)


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Beautiful photos of jewellery RedElf and lots of great info on gemstones. Would be great to get a sapphire for Valentine's Day!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, CM, it was fun to research - I will def keep my fingers crossed for you!


Candie V profile image

Candie V 6 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

Wow! Fantastic!! I was thinking there were actual gems for the months that have opals and pearls. You did one of the best hubs on these beautiful gems!! Thank you RedElf!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, Candie V! That's right, June has the Alexanderite as well as the pearl, and the Tourmaline is often listed as an alternative for October's Opal. I really enjoyed researching this article - so glad you enjoyed it.


Pure 6 years ago

These are fantastic!! Beautiful photos of jewellery RedElf and lots of great info on gemstones. Would be great to get a sapphire for Valentine's Day!Thanks for sharing.


Nadia Ann 6 years ago

I recently came across your Hub and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice Hub. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

NADIA ANN


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, Pure. Nice to meet you!

Greetings, Nadia Ann - so nice to meet you, too, and I'm glad you liked the hub!


nadiaazhar profile image

nadiaazhar 6 years ago from kuwait

hey redelf,i really like this hub,so beautifully arranged,i'm a big lover of gemstones jellery.though i'm born in may but my fav stone is sapphire.

thanks for sharing the info.

best regards,nadia


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Greetings, nadiaazhar! So glad you like the article. I love almost all the gems, but there are so many colors of sapphire, they almost deserve their own hub.


Enelle Lamb profile image

Enelle Lamb 6 years ago from Canada's 'California'

Wow - great information! Not many know the similarities of many of the gemstones available today. Thanks for sharing this with us, it's always good to learn new things lol!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Always happy to share, Enelle! Thanks for commenting!


electricsky profile image

electricsky 6 years ago from North Georgia

Beautiful gems. I liked the Marilyn Monroe film. Thank you for sharing.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

You are most welcome, electricsky. Thanks for your comments.


Isabella Taylor 6 years ago

Your article is a gem to read...I've never learned so much nuggets of wisdom regarding gems out there. In my fascination with gemstones, I bought the next available gem that I came across with online: a james allen Emerald and Diamond 14k White Gold Pendant. What a treat!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, Isabella - sounds like a lovely piece of jewelry.


SanneL profile image

SanneL 4 years ago from Sweden

Wow! Very impressive hub!

I loved to read the interesting facts about the beautiful Amethyst, my birthstone.

Ancient Greeks found the Amethyst to prevent drunkenness. Hmmm. . .interesting to say the least! Lol!

Rated up!

Thanks for sharing. Learned a lot!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 4 years ago from Canada Author

Hi, SanneL. Glad you enjoyed the info - well the Ancient Greeks could have been a bit off with that on, or perhaps it only works for Ancient Greeks :D As I am neither Greek not Ancient, I can't say for sure :D


theastrology profile image

theastrology 4 years ago from New Delhi

so beautiful and interesting information about gemstones. It will sure increase my gemstones knowledge.

Vote up!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 4 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, theastrology. Always glad to pass on knowledge.

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