Birthstones and birthstone jewellery have fascinated people for centuries and it’s easy to see why.
Gemstones were originally associated with each sign of the Zodiac based on a colour system. Over time, gems became associated with calendar months. The wearing of birthstone jewellery began in 18th century Poland and the custom has spread though the world with different cultures developing their own birthstone calendars.
Immerse yourself in our birthstone guide. It is packed with intriguing facts and legends behind each gem and will help you choose your perfect piece of birthstone jewellery.
January Birthstone – Garnet
The symbol of friendship, power and happiness. Revered for its glowing hues, garnet birthstone jewellery is the perfect winter pick-me-up for a January birthday girl.
Garnet, the birthstone for January, is a family of crystallised minerals with 29 varieties, such as pyrope, rhodolite, tsavorite, spessartine, almandine, demantoid and hessonite, which have their own distinct colourings. So, while garnet is widely known as the wonderfully rich red gem you tend to see in January birthstone jewellery, it actually exists in a huge spectrum of colours including white, pink, green, orange, yellow and black. In fact, garnet can be found in every colour except for blue. The finest red garnet has an unblemished transparency and glows like a smouldering fire. Garnet ranges from 6.5-7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale and, today, the most important sources of this glorious gem are Africa, Sri Lanka and India.
Garnet is as rich in legends as it is in colour. The word “garnet” is derived from the Latin “granatum”, meaning seeds, due to the gemstone's resemblance to a pomegranate seed. It has been said that the bright quality of the garnet is so powerful that Noah used one to guide the Ark to safety. This is why garnet is known as the traveller's gem. The ancient Egyptians believed garnet to be the symbol of life while, in the Middle Ages, the stone was thought to be a remedy against fever. Many cultures believed in the protective power of the garnet; the Crusaders from the Middle Ages set them into their armour, while in India and Persia, garnet was worn as an amulet to ward off poison, plague and lightning.
Perhaps the most famous garnet is known as the "Wise One", which was set into the crown of the German emperor Otto from 912AD to 973AD.
Garnet jewellery dates back to early Egyptian, Greek and Roman times. The Ancient Greeks favoured massive gold rings set with garnets that were wider than the finger. In the 18th century, garnets were mounted onto simple hoops which are thought to be forerunners of the eternity ring. Garnet is famous for its prominence in Victorian jewellery, where it was crafted as roses or fashioned into a dome shape, known as a carbuncle.
With the recent revival of antique-style jewellery, garnet is prevalent today in reproduction Victorian jewellery. At Fraser Hart we have a stunning range of January birthstone jewellery , including garnet rings, pendants and earrings accented with diamonds to beautifully complement the stone's radiance.
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February Birthstone – Amethyst
The symbol of peace, protection and tranquillity. Steeped in fascinating history and once considered more precious than the diamond, the amethyst forms the pretty centrepiece of February birthstone jewellery.
Amethyst, the birthstone for February, is a variety of quartz. Although amethyst is always violet in hue, its colour ranges from the palest lilac to the deepest purple. It rates 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness and is primarily sourced in Russia, Brazil, Canada and Zambia.
Greek legend says that the god Dionysius, angered by a mortal, promised that he would get revenge on the next mortal that passed him by with the aid of two tigers. The next mortal to pass was the maid Amethyst who was set upon by the tigers. The goddess Diana witnessed this and turned Amethyst into crystallised stone to protect her from the animals. Dionysius, distressed at his own actions, cried tears of red wine which stained Amethyst purple and created the gem we see today in February birthstone jewellery.
"Amethyst" comes from the Greek word "amethystos" which translates as "not drunken". It was believed that amethyst protected against the effectiveness of drunkenness. Indeed, drinks were often drunk from amethyst-encrusted goblets.
A romantic stone, amethyst was said to be the favourite gem of Saint Valentine who wore a ring set with an amethyst carved with an image of Cupid. Also a stone of royalty, Edward the Confessor was the first king to wear the amethyst as a royal emblem. According to mythology, the gem inspires fairness and a sense of duty and was chosen as the stone for ecclesiastical rings; it is still worn by Bishops today. Amethyst is also said to bring about calm and serenity.
Amethyst has a 4,500 year old history, and ancient items of amethyst jewellery are still in existence. These include a stunning amethyst necklace made by ancient Egyptian goldsmiths and a necklace said to belong to a Mycenaean princess 3, 400 years ago. Victorian jewellery favoured amethysts set in gold and surrounded by pearls. With its timeless purple beauty and intriguing history, the appeal of amethyst jewellery has never waned. At Fraser Hart, we have an exquisite range of amethyst rings, pendants, earrings, bracelets and charms so, whatever her style, you’re sure to find something she’ll love in our amethyst birthstone jewellery collection.
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March Birthstone – Aquamarine
The symbol of youth, hope and health. Symbolising hope and with its delicate blue tones, aquamarine is the ideal birthstone for March, a month that brings about the start of spring and the promise of renewal.
Aquamarine is a variety of beryl and rates 7.5-8 on the Mohs hardness scale. It is more durable than emerald, also a member of the beryl family of minerals. This gorgeous stone occurs in sky-blue, sea-green and dark blue, and is dichonic, appearing blue or colourless as it’s viewed from different angles. Gem-quality aquamarines are found as hexagonal crystals which can be up to an astonishing one metre long and of flawless quality from which large water-clear stones can be cut. Key sources for aquamarine include Brazil, Nigeria, Zambia and Madagascar.
The name aquamarine comes from the Latin for sea-water, and the gem has long been associated with the ocean. It was believed to protect sailors and guarantee a safe voyage. It was thought that in the event of a storm on the high seas, tossing an aquamarine overboard would subdue the Greek god Poseidon’s anger. Some cultures still believe that the gem can ward off seasickness.
In the Middle Ages, aquamarine was known as the “magic mirror” and soothsayers used it for fortune-telling. The serene blue colour of the aquamarine has been said to cool the temper and instil calmness. Also known as the gem of eternal youth, it is considered a lucky gem which makes March birthstone jewellery a welcomed gift!
During Roman times, aquamarine was used in fantastic jewellery designs to represent marine gods but the gem became truly popular in the 17th century. At the start of the Victorian era, jewellery featured intricate relief designs of foliage and scrolls, which were often set with this glorious stone. Today, aquamarine in jewellery is often faceted to maximise its transparent blue tones. You’ll find a fabulous selection of aquamarine rings, pendants, and earrings at Fraser Hart in our March birthstone jewellery collection.
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April Birthstone – Diamond
The symbol of purity, innocence and harmony. Those lucky women born in April get treated to a gift of jewellery set with a diamond, the most highly prized and beautiful of gemstones.
No gemstone is as rare, pure, valuable or as beautiful as April’s birthstone, the diamond. Rating 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness, the diamond is also the hardest mineral on earth. While diamonds are most commonly found in white, they also exist in a rainbow spectrum of “fancy colours”, including green, yellow, brown, pink and red. The diamonds you see in April birthstone jewellery today have undergone an incredible journey which began a billion years ago at around 90 miles below sea level before high temperatures and pressures forced them to the earth’s surface. Primary diamond sources include India, South Africa, Australia and Brazil.
The word diamond is derived from the Greek “adamas” meaning unconquerable. The ancient Greeks believed diamonds to be the tears of Gods; the Romans believed they were shards of stars. Other ancient cultures thought they were solidified dew drops, and Plato considered them to embody human spirits. As the ultimate symbol of love, legend has it that Cupid’s arrow was tipped with a diamond. The ancient Hindus valued the gem for its indestructibility and considered it able to ward off evil. In the Middle Ages, the diamond was thought to protect against the plague and Queen Elizabeth I wore one in her bosom as protection. Napoleon, a great believer in the diamond’s mystic powers had the famous Regent diamond in the hilt of the sword he carried at his coronation. The diamond has the legendary power of protecting its wearer from evil when worn on the left side. There is a superstition that a gift of diamond jewellery quickens the affection and restores the love between husband and wife.
Enduring, romantic and magical, diamonds have been revered in jewellery for centuries. Perhaps the most famous example of diamond jewellery is the diamond ring presented to Mary of Burgundy by Archduke Maximillian of Austria in 1477 as a promise of love. The tradition of this, the diamond engagement ring, has continued over the years. Today, this much sought-after gem graces a whole range of jewellery, including diamond pendants, necklaces, earrings and bracelets. And, the good news is you don’t have to spend a fortune to find a beautiful piece of diamond jewellery. At Fraser Hart, we have a fabulous range of daimond jewellery and we've put together a selection of diamond birthstone jewellery that will make the perfect gift for any woman born in April.
Read our Diamond Guide to find out more about diamonds and choosing the right diamond jewellery.
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May Birthstone – Emerald
The symbol of loyalty, friendship and success. The greenest of green gems, emerald is one of the most treasured precious stones. So show your May birthday girl how much you treasure her with a gift of May birthstone jewellery. Emeralds are the green variety of beryl and the most prized of all green gemstones. The emerald’s beautiful luscious colour, combined together with its rarity, makes it a highly desirable and valuable stone. Emeralds vary in colour from light grass green to rich velvety green and derive their stunning colour from the presence of chromium and vanadium. Emeralds, the birthstone for May, are renowned for their internal flaws, and some people actually prefer a stone with small flaws over a flawless gem as this proves its authenticity. Emeralds are a durable stone, rating 7.5-8 on the Mohs hardness scales. Emerald is one of the oldest gems, mined in Egypt as early as 330 BC. Today, most of the world’s emeralds are mined in Colombia, Brazil, Afghanistan and Zambia.
Emerald is named from the Greek “smaragdos” which means green stone, and has a long history. At the earliest known gem market in Babylon in around 4,000 BC, an emerald on offer was dedicated by the Ancients to the goddess of love as it was her favourite stone. Cleopatra was also incredibly fond of the stone and claimed the Egyptians emerald mines, which now only yield poor quality stones, for herself during her reign.
As the birthstone for May, the month for rebirth, the emerald is said to grant its wearer good fortune, youth and foresight. The emerald has long been associated with eyesight which could explain why green is considered a restful colour to the eyes. Indeed Nero, who had poor eyesight, was said to use a sliced emerald to lengthen his vision in order to watch the gladiators in the arena. The emerald is also said to protect against illness, physical danger and evil.
Most emeralds used in historical jewellery came from Cleopatra’s mines in Egypt, and the Ancients used to engrave emeralds as ring stones. In Roman times, emeralds were added to other precious stones to create a spectacular effect. A magnificent necklace set with emeralds and brilliant cut diamonds with matching earrings forms part of the Russian jewels of the 18th century. In the 1850s, ribbon bows dominated a certain style of necklace set with rose diamonds and emeralds backed by silver foil. The emerald gave rise to the emerald cut which is now used to cut many gemstones, including diamonds. A step cut with the corners removed, the cut produces the optimum size of gem-quality emerald and reduces the risk of damage during setting. Today, emeralds are often set among a cluster of diamonds. At Fraser Hart, we have a sumptuous range of emerald birthstone jewellery in classic styles that will never date and modern designs that May’s birthday girl will adore.
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June Birthstone – Pearl
The symbol of modesty, chastity and purity. The epitome of style and grace June’s birthstone jewellery is the ultimate gift from the sea.
Every alluring pearl is a unique work of art taking years to form. Pearls are generated within molluscs such as oysters and mussels as a natural defence against irritants like a piece of sand or girt entering their shell. The mollusc secretes nacre – layers of calcium carbonate – which forms around the irritant and produces the beautiful gift of nature which is the pearl. Light reflecting around the overlapping layers creates the iridescent lustre, also known as the orient of the pearl. Pearls vary in colour from white and cream to pink, brown and black, depending on the mollusc and the water. In cultured pearls, an irritant is introduced to initiate the formation of the pearl. Pearls are the only gems which come from living sea creatures and require no polishing or faceting to reveal their intrinsic beauty. Pearls have a Mohs hardness of 3-4. Both freshwater and sea water pearls are cultivated in China and Japan, while freshwater pearls are harvested closer to home in Scotland, Ireland, France and Austria.
The world pearl comes from the Latin “pirum”, which means pear and refers to the shape of the pearl. Pearls have been treasured for their beauty and rarity for more than 4,000 years. Julius Caesar banned women below a certain rank from wearing pearls as they were considered to be the emblem of nobility. It was once thought that pearls were the tears of angels shed for the sins of mankind and preserved deep within the ocean. In ancient times, pearls were known as the margarite, which stems from the Greek “margaritafera”, the name given to the pearl-bearing mollusc. The English name, Margaret, is derived from this.
In the Roman era, pearls from the Red Sea were used in chandelier type earrings. With the Renaissance,, women would let their hair flow loosely, entwined with strings of pearls. In the middle of the 19th century, seed pearl jewellery was very prominent. Towards the end of the century, half pearls set in gold were evident in flower designs. Today, pearl jewellery is favoured in wedding jewellery and has also made a huge comeback in everyday jewellery. At Fraser Hart, we have an elegant range of June birthstone jewellery, featuring iridescent pearls set into earrings, pendants, necklaces, rings and bracelets.
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July Birthstone – Ruby
The symbol of love and devotion.Radiating warmth and vitality, the magnificent ruby has been a favourite in jewellery since ancient times.
Ruby is a variety of the mineral corundum which occurs in every colour of the rainbow. All colours of corundum are called sapphire, with the exception of the beautifully rich red version – ruby. Rubies occur in colours from pale rose red to the deepest carmine. The most popular colour for rubies is a deep vivid red to a slightly purple red. With a Mohs rating of 9, rubies are harder than any natural gemstone except a diamond which makes July birthstone jewellery perfect for everyday wear. Rubies are found worldwide in igneous and metamorphic rocks or as water-worn pebbles in alluvial deposits.
The ruby is said to be a gem of passion and promotes balance in love and all spiritual undertakings. The ruby has also been said to promote health and courage. Rubies take their name from the Latin “rubeus” meaning “red”. They are thought to bring love, confidence, loyalty and courage. Also believed to instil vitality and strength, rubies are revered as the Queen of all Gemstones. In the Middle Ages, rubies were thought to contain prophetic properties; it was believed that a ruby could warn its wearer by deepening in colour. Native Americans believed that offerings of a fine ruby resulted in rebirth as a powerful chief.
The Hindus likened the glowing colour of the ruby to an enduring fire. They believed its power to be so strong that, if you were to place a ruby in water, the gem’s inner heat would make it boil. In the Middle Ages, it was thought that rubies protected their sfrom drowning, and would relieve pain. A massive legendry ruby said to belong to the King of Siam was thought to prolong youth. Twice a day, he rubbed this priceless stone over his face and neck. When he died at 90, his complexion was as unwrinkled and unblemished as a young man.
The Canning jewel is one of the most famous pieces of Rennaissance jewellery. This baroque pearl pendant shaped like a merman has rubies set into the tail along with a group of rubies set into gold which hang from the bottom of the piece. Among the Crown Jewels of France that survived the French Revolution are the rubies of the Royal Collection which were redesigned and set with diamonds in 1816. Early Victorian jewellery was renowned for its gothic influence and this can be seen in heavy gold necklaces set with stunning rubies. Historically, the ruby has been chosen by kings and emperors for their coronation rings, and there is a glorious central ruby in the Imperial State Crown.
Today, modern jewellery designers use carved rubies to give a rich effect to the finished piece and often combine them with diamonds to create a sparkling cluster. Here at Fraser Hart, we have a gorgeous selection of July birthstone jewellery, including ruby rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
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August Birthstone – Peridot
The symbol of gladness, serenity and trust. Peridot birthstone jewellery with its resplendent shades of green gives August birthday girls a splash of summer colour.
Peridot is a gorgeous green gem that belongs to the olivine mineral family and has a Mohs hardness of 6.5-7.. Although it is one of the very few gemstones found in just one colour, its tones vary from yellow-green through to olive green. Like the diamond, peridot has a fascinating origin: the gemstone is formed deep inside the earth and is brought to the surface by volcanic action. Incredibly, peridot crystals have also been found in meteorites, known as pallasites, mined, faceted and turned into jewellery! Peridot was first discovered in the Middle Ages by pirates who brought the sparkling stone to Europe. However, the location was lost for centuries until the rediscovery of the mines in the 1900s. Today, peridot can also be found in China, Burma, Hawaii, Australia and Norway. Peridot can reach extremely large sizes. Indeed, a cut stone weighing 319 carats can be viewed at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.
The word peridot cames from the Arabic “faridat”, meaning precious stone. The Romans referred to the gem as evening emerald as it kept its lustre at night, remaining visible by lamplight. Marbodus, the 11th century philosopher, claimed that peridot should be set in gold, the sun’s metal, to cure fear of the dark. Peridot was the favourite jewel of Cleopatra who mistook the green stone for the emerald! The ancients believed that the peridot helped to conquer timidity and strengthen nerves while others thought the stone brought the wearer power and influence and could protect against bad dreams. It was also considered to have the power to drive away evil spirits. In Hawaii, peridot symbolises the tears of Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes.
In the early 19th century, women favoured long chandelier-style earrings with peridot set into gold. In Victorian times, the peridot was strangely featured in the design of a housefly – the creature’s wings were set with rose-cut diamonds while peridot was used to create the body. In today’s peridot jewellery, a step cut is often used to maximise the stone’s brilliance and lustre. The peridot is enjoying a revival and at Fraser Hart, you’ll find a fabulous selection of August birthstone jewellery featuring this glorious gem as the centrepiece.
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September Birthstone – Sapphire
The symbol of charm and enduring love. A gem favoured by Royals, sapphire is the majestic star of September birthstone jewellery.
Sapphire: the gem
Sapphire is a variety of the mineral corundum. In fact, all gem-quality corundum that isn’t red is called sapphire. Red corundum is known as ruby. While sapphire is most often admired for its distinct blue colour, it is actually found in a whole range of colours including pink, white, purple, green, orange and yellow. When used on its own, sapphire refers to the blue variety of the gem; all other sapphires are described by colour, e.g. pink sapphire. Sapphire itself ranges in colour from pale blue, cornflower blue to dark blue and violet blue. Sapphires can be found with a star light effect called, asterism. When viewed from above, these aptly-named star sapphires display a six-rayed star that is due to an internal crystal structure reflecting the light. Sapphires are the hardest gem other than diamond, with a Mohs hardness rating of 9, and are most frequently found in Burma, Sri Lanka and India.
“Sapphire” comes from the Greek word for blue, “sappheiros”. Mirroring the blue of heaven, sapphire is considered the most spiritual of all gemstones as it represents the purity of the soul and is known as the gem of the soul. Ancients believed it to be a charm against wanton behaviour, and to possess the power to influence spirits and promote peace, while in India, sapphire was considered to protect from evil spirits. The stone was revered by sorcerers who believed it helped them to understand obscure oracles. The Persians believed that the earth rested on a giant sapphire whose reflection could be seen as the sky. The bible says that the Throne of Heaven was made of sapphires, and the book of Exodus mentions sapphire as one of the 12 holy gemstones set in the breastplate of Aaron, the high priest.
The sapphire has always held a place of honour in royal regalia and the church. Two sapphires are set into the Imperial State Crown. A 6th century pope decreed that cardinals should wear a sapphire ring on their right hand. A secret signal that Queen Elizabeth I had passed was a sapphire ring being dropped from a window of Richmond Palace. Perhaps the most famed piece of sapphire jewellery is the stunning engagement ring presented by Prince Charles to Diana Spencer in 1981. The ring is believed to feature a Ceylon sapphire weighing 12 carats. When the ring was passed on to Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge, on her engagement to Prince William, there was a huge rise in the popularity of sapphire rings and sapphire jewellery which still remains today. Women born in this month can be treated like royalty with a gift from our spectacular collection of September birthstone jewellery.
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October Birthstone – Opal
The symbol of hope, faith and good fortune. Distinctive by its vivid play of light, the colourful opal makes an exquisite gift for those born in October.
Opal is the most prized and beautiful of the silica gemstones, and is one of the few gems that is non-crystalline. It is a soft stone with a Moh’s rating of 5.5-6.6. The iridescent flashes of colour seen within the gem change with the angle at which the stone is viewed. The play of colour is a result of its structure – a regular arrangement of tiny silica spheres – diffracting light. The larger the spheres, the more splendid the range of colours displayed. This phenomenon is called opalescence. Opals displaying opalescence are known as precious opal. Common or “potch” opal is less valuable and usually opaque without iridescence. Opal exists in many varieties, including precious black opal which has a body colour of black, dark blue or green and displays a strong play of colour, and precious white opal which has a light background colour. Fire opals get their name from their beautiful, rich translucent orange body colour and the more valuable types of this variety also display flashes of colour. Other opal varieties include water opal – a clear colourless stone with brilliant flashes of light, and banded opal, a form of opal with magnificent bands of colour. Fine quality opal is actually rarer than emerald and ruby, and 95% of it is sourced in Australia.
Opal jewellery is interwoven with myths and magic. In the times of the ancient Australian aborigines, it is thought that the creator came down to earth on a rainbow to bring a message of peace. Where his foot first touched the ground the stones mixed with the rainbow, becoming alive with its colours. Hence the birth of the opal. In Roman times, the opal was believed to be the stone of good luck, because the rainbow seen within each gem was considered as a symbol of hope. A Roman senator, Nonius, was said to prefer exile to parting with an opal the size of a hazel nut and coveted by Mark Antony. An ancient belief says that the opal protected against poisoned food and it was also thought to have the power of making those who wore it invisible to their enemies. Blondes in medieval Europe believed that wearing an opal necklace preserved the colour of their hair. This magical gemstone is also thought to heal depressions and to help its wearer find true love!
The opal was the favoured gemstone of Queen Victoria. Russian jewellers used the natural lights and colours of the gem to carve exquisite animal pieces which are now part of the Royal collection of jewels at Sandringham House. Today, opal is usually en cabochon, a domed shape, in order to maximise its fantastic play of colour, although the fire oval is often faceted to showcase its radiant transparency. Take a look at our collection of October birthstone jewellery and choose the piece that captures your heart.
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November Birthstone – Topaz
The symbol of faithfulness, friendship and loyalty. As the symbol of true friendship, the ever-popular topaz is the ideal birthday gift.
Topaz is a mineral crystal. With its Mohs hardness of 8, desirable colours and availability, it is the perfect centrepiece for November birthstone jewellery. Topaz can be found in a range of colours including deep golden yellow, often known as sherry topaz, pale brown, white, red, pink, blue and green. Topaz occurs in igneous rocks such as volcanic lavas and may also be found in alluvial deposits as waterworn pebbles. Main sources include Australia, Sri Lanka, Mexico and Africa, while the rare pink topaz is found in Brazil, Russia and Pakistan.
Topaz is thought to be derived from the old Sanskrit word tapaz, meaning fire. The gem has been known for over 2000 years and is one of the apocalyptic stones which form the foundations of the twelve gates to the Holy City of Jerusalem. In ancient times, topaz was said to ward off asthma and epilepsy, and considered a cure for insomnia when steeped in water as a drink. Other healing properties of this glorious stone include that it dispels sadness, nocturnal fears and anger. It is also supposed to make men intelligent and handsome! In the Middle Ages, it was believed that a topaz placed in a bowl of boiling water would chill it immediately – the opposite effect to a ruby which was said to make cold water boil.
In the 17th century, the 1,640 carat Barganza diamond in the Portuguese crown was believed to be the largest diamond ever found. Today, however it is now believed to have been a colourless topaz.
The love affair with topaz jewellery began many centuries ago. Hadrian, the Roman Emperor, owned an ancient ring set with a topaz inscribed with a prophecy guaranteeing the wearer good luck. In the early 18th century, collar-style necklaces were adorned with pendants of topaz ribbons and flowers. Topaz was also extremely popular among Victorian women who combined the pink variety of the stone with other colourful gems in decorative settings of scallop shells, flowers and leaves. Today, topaz is one of the most fashionable stones, and blue topaz is particularly prevalent in jewellery. At Fraser Hart, you’ll find a stunning collection of November birthstone jewellery including blue topaz rings, pendants and earrings in classic and contemporary styles.
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December Birthstone – Turquoise
The symbol of prosperity, good fortune and happiness. An ancient gem, turquoise as been highly prized for its intense colour for centuries and is adored today in December birthstone jewellery.
Turquoise is a mineral substance commonly found in microcrystalline form which ranges from sky blue and china blue to blue green and yellowish green. The colour is affected by impurities within the stone; blue hues are created by copper, while green comes from iron and chrome. The black, brown and ochre veins you frequently see in turquoise jewellery come from the mother stone, termed the matrix, penetrating the turquoise. This gorgeous gem has a Mohs hardness of 5-6 and is found in Mexico, the USA, Iran, Chile, Australia and closer to home in Cornwall.
Turquoise is thought to be one of the earliest stones ever mined and was first found in the Sinai Peninsula. The ancients named it “turquies” because of its trading route from Persia to Europe via Turkey which is known in France as Turquie. Turquoise has been treasured for thousands of years and, indeed, grave furnishings inlaid with turquoise dating back to 3000BC have been discovered in Egypt. Believed to be a talisman, particularly for horsemen, it was thought that the turquoise prevented injury by absorbing the fall. Ancient Persians claimed the blue of the turquoise would ward off the ill-effects of the “evil eye” and, even today in Iran horses and mules sometimes have turquoise beads attached to their tails. Turquoise was once thought to warn its wearer of danger or illness by changing colour. Of course, we know now that turquoise can change colour as a result of chemicals on the skin or light! The Aztecs believed the stone to be holy, decorating their ceremonial masks with the gem, and creating highly ornate turquoise jewellery, while the Native Americans thought that this blue stone opened up a connection between the sea and sky. With its bright, happy colour, turquoise has been said to cure depression and instil confidence. Known as the lover’s stone, it was also considered to guarantee the fidelity of those in love.
Perhaps the oldest pieces of jewellery in existence are gold serpent bracelets set with turquoise. Found in 1900 in one of the tombs of the Pharoahs, they are thought to date back to 3,500 BC. The opening of the Suez Canal and the success of the film Cleopatra in the 19th century started a fashion for Egyptian-style jewellery featuring turquoise set in silver. Despite being used in jewellery for thousands of years, turquoise has a timeless quality and turquoise jewellery is as fashionable today as it was all those years ago. The stone is usually cut and polished into cabochons which optimise the opacity of the gem.
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