by Kathy Batesel
Birthday Gemstones and More
As a girl, I collected rocks. As a woman, I still collect rocks! Today, I'm a bit more discriminating, perhaps, but gemstones and minerals of all types can still make my heart skip a beat.
If you've never been to a gem and mineral show, you've been deprived! Birthstone jewelry may be the most frequent exposure most of us have to these tiny treasures, but there is just so much more to them than what you'll see in a jewelry store.
Now, I'm not a gemologist. I don't craft jewelry. But I love these sparkling gems enough that I've decided to write a series of articles about them, starting with this one. Today, I'll describe a few of the different ways gemstones are used and their meanings.
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Gemstones and Minerals
Most gemstones are minerals, but few minerals are gemstones. To be considered a gem, a stone typically has shone qualities that make it desirable for adorning beautiful objects and people. This normally means it's durable and beautiful, but not always. The International Gem Society highlights the difficulty of defining gemstones, describing that amber and pearl, for instance, are organic materials, and opals are known for their lack or durability.
Often gemstones are faceted, polished, and turned into jewelry like birthstone rings, but some are unfaceted, like turquoise and coral.
Then there's the whole color thing. Most stones get their color from impurities! For instance, aluminum oxide can be colorless in its purest form, which gemologists would call "Corundum." Corundum resembles a diamond, but that same aluminum oxide becomes a ruby if the element Chromium was present when it formed, and sapphire if it instead got diluted with titanium.
The opposite is also true. A single type of stone can have many different colors. Over 200 different shades of color have been identified among diamonds.
Since I'm not a scientist, we'll keep things simple and focus on the kinds of things that are easier to remember and don't require a university science degree, shall we?
- Gemstones may be faceted or smooth.
- Gemstones are precious or semi-precious stones.
- Gems have been treasured since ancient times for supposed healing and magical powers.
- Gemstones may be natural or man-made.
- Gemstones may undergo special treatments like irradiation to produce colors that are not found naturally, like the deeper blue of an irradiated blue topaz.
For a handy reference that describes the properties, folklore, and historical data about stones using vivid pictures and easy-to-understand language, keep this book nearby.
Meanings and Magic of Gemstones
The gems we consider birthstones today are like other precious minerals in that they've long been believed to have special properties. However, they were only correlated to a wearer's birth months in the late 19th century, with tourmaline being added as an alternate gemstone in 1913. This was the last time a gemstone was officially "assigned" to a birth month.
Many sources describe different benefits for a single gem. The ones I've included here are commonly discovered when seeking a stone's significance.
Protection at sea
Soothe & calm fears
Provide clarity of mind
Blue Topaz (December)
Protection from poisons
Lifts depression & insomnia
Increases energy & stamina
Brings good fortune in business
Aids imagination, dreaming, healing
Brings growth & prosperity
Protect gall bladder
Promotes understanding in love
Friendship and love
Helps avoid misfortune
Helps avoid illness
Peace & Happiness
Helps wearer predict future
Promotes healing & good fortune
Blue Topaz (December)
Makes wearer invisible from danger
Relieve arthritis, heart disease
Strengthen body & spirit
Protection from Danger
Other Stones' Meanings
Many people believe all stones have meaning and magnetic energies. Quartz crystals, for instance, aren't particularly considered to be semi-precious stones, but have been used often by people interested in metaphysics to clarify their homes and bodies.
For a thorough list of meanings of non-faceted gemstones, visit Beadage, a website dedicated to crafting beaded jewelry.
To learn meanings of crystals and lesser-known stones, check out jewelry artist David Weitzman's article.
Buying Gemstones, Minerals, and Jewelry
I had a wonderful experience touring the famous Tucson Gem & Mineralogy show shown here. I have to add that this video doesn't begin to do justice to the displays!
Gemologists and rock-hounds from around the world come together to buy and sell their stones. It's possible to find something for every budget, but it may be hard to figure out where to start. Sellers may offer one or more of these:
- Loose, raw stones
- Loose, cut and polished stones
- Chains of beads
- Polished minerals like agate and malachite
- Crafted jewelry
- Crafted items like the White House shown in the video
Fortunately, it's not necessary to go to Tucson to buy attractive additions for your collection. You can buy loose stones or jewelry online through Ebay (make sure you're purchasing from someone reputable with a great deal of positive feedback!) or find appealing items at your local jewelry store. My husband bought me this gorgeous septarian geode locally last Christmas.
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