Garnets were prized by the ancient Egyptians, and during the Middle Ages were exchanged to signify trust and affection. High-quality garnets have vivid color and good translucency. Commonly found in a deep red, this crimson stone’s name comes from the word granatum, Latin for pomegranate seed.
The vibrantly purple amethyst, a variety of quartz, has long been worn by royalty and was a favorite of both St. Valentine and Leonardo da Vinci. Amethysts were once considered as rare as diamonds, and medieval soldiers believed they provided healing and calmness. High-quality specimens have saturated color and pure purple hues.
These light blue gemstones are a variety of the mineral beryl, as is the emerald. Long associated with water, the aquamarine was especially treasured as a talisman by ancient seafaring people. Aquamarine’s cool blue hue is believed to have a calming effect on its wearer. Look for clear, bright colors and good translucency.
April is the winner of the birthstone lottery—diamonds! Treasured for their rarity and brilliance, diamonds have been prized for centuries as the symbol of eternal love. Highly valued for their brilliance and durability, diamonds also signify strength, balance, and courage. Look for diamonds with a good balance of the 4Cs: cut, color, clarity, and carat weight.
The rich, green emerald has been held in high esteem by many cultures around the world for centuries, including the ancient Incas and Aztecs who regarded them as holy. Emerald is a variety of beryl and the finest-quality emeralds have vivid, saturated color.
The lustrous pearl is the oldest known gem and symbolizes purity and innocence. A rare gift from the sea, only about one in 20 pearl-growing mollusks will produce gem-quality pearls and no two are alike. Coveted by fashion icons and royalty, pearls have become an heirloom for generations of women around the world.
Because of its fiery crimson color, ruby has long represented romance, devotion, and passion. Like sapphires, rubies are a variety of corundum, a mineral with great hardness well suited to everyday wear. Examples of flawless rubies are extremely rare and highly prized. The best examples have good translucency and depth of color.
This vivid green gemstone is thought to ward off evil, and bring good fortune to its wearer. Peridots, like diamonds are formed deep in the earth, surfacing only during volcanic eruptions. Hawaiian mythology refers to this vibrant green gemstone as the tears of the fire goddess, Pele. Look for bright yellowish-green hues and good translucency.
Sapphire is well known for its velvety-blue hue, but pink sapphire is gaining popularity. A variety of corundum like rubies, sapphire’s natural hardness makes it an ideal gemstone for fine jewelry. A traditional symbol of nobility, truth, and romance, the most prized sapphires have good transparency and vibrant depth of color.
The dramatic opal stands out for the fiery range of colors contained within a single stone, and is typically cut into rounded cabochons to enhance its exceptional light play. The Greeks believed opals provided the power of prophecy and the stone is a celebrated symbol of loyalty, faith and hope. Look for stones with bright spots of well-distributed flashes of color.
This bright, effervescent gemstone gets its name from the French word for lemon and has been regarded as a symbol for happiness, health and vitality for centuries. High quality citrines will have good transparency and no eye-visible inclusions. They range in color from earthy deep browns and reddish-oranges to glowing yellow-orange.
DECEMBER: BLUE TOPAZ
Blue topaz is one of December's birthstones along with tanzanite and turquoise. Symbolic of wisdom and longevity, blue topaz ranges in hues from deep London blue to paler sky blue. The ancient Greeks believed that topaz gave strength to the wearer.