What is it that initially, that attracts people when they see something they like? Could there be more to it when you are drawn to a beautiful stone? Is it the gemstones amazing brilliance, the striking colour, maybe even the depth? Could there be something else that draws you magnetically toward the stone? Do gemstones have special powers? Do certain pieces have magical properties.
In ancient societies, cultures used gems in rituals for magic and healing. They believed that certain stones had an energy that transferred whatever they touched.
Do you think gems have magnetic and vibrational power? Can they encapsulate the emotions and power of those who have touched them?
If you think about the notorious Hope Diamond and its infamous curse. Think about the Queen of England’s crown, the curse of the black princess ruby which is a feature in the imperial state crown. The so-called ruby is actually a red spinel. Gems have carried enormous significance and a place of honour through the ages.
The tradition of presenting a precious gem, usually a diamond, as an engagement ring emphasizes the power and influence of gems. Interestingly, diamonds represent powerful healing energy and are said to remove negative emotions. Leaving them in a neutral state.
In ancient societies, cultures used gems in rituals for magic and healing
The ultimate gift is a bright sparkling gem. Besides their great beauty and material worth, gems have been associated with healing for thousands of years. Mystics and healers in accident tribes used crystals and gems as focusing tools during meditation. Some healers charge stones with energy that can be transmitted to whoever touches them.
Every birth month in the Roman calendar and star sign has special gems associated with it. Ancient folklore tradition also assigns special curative properties to specific gemstones.
Stones of the Zodiac
Lore and Legends of Gemstones
Superstition, myth, and romance have been attached to crystals since ancient times. In the early ancient times in Persia, the world is said to have stood on a giant sapphire, the reflection of which colours the blue sky.
Emeralds were once thought to blind snakes, rubies were thought to be symbols of power and romance. Ladies would often present gifts of jewels to their knight as tokens of love.
The concept of birthstones, in which a special stone is dedicated to each month of the year, was first suggested in the 1st Century A.D and was linked to the 12 stones in the high priest’s breastplate. The custom of wearing ones’ corresponding birthstone became popular in the 18th Century. This started in Poland and spread throughout Europe and eventually the rest of the world.
Many birthstones of different colours and cuts are found in Victorian jewellery. Gemstones have adorned prehistoric men since the dawn of time. The first known Gemstones were Amethyst, Amber, Lapis Lazuli, Pearl, Turquoise, Carnelian and Bloodstone. These stones were however reserved for the wealthy and served as symbols of status. Rulers sealed documents with jewel-encrusted seals. Some of the early stones like carnelian were believed to still the blood and soften anger. Hematite was used as an amulet against bleeding.
Malachite a green banded stone was popular with the ancient Egyptians and Greeks; it was powdered down and used as an eye shadow. During the Middle Ages, Malachite was believed to have been a cure for vomiting and protect against witches and other dangers to children.
Aquamarines were used as a talisman to sailors and were appropriately named “water of the sea”. This is referred to the stone’s sea like blue colour. Amethyst is said to have many supernatural powers: it is said to bring luck, ensures constancy, protects against magic and homesickness.
The Greeks thought that it protected against drunkenness and they wore it as amulets. Heliotrope also was known as Bloodstone, is prominent in antique seals, it is a dark green stone a chalcedony with Red flecks.
During the middle ages, it too was believed to have special powers. The red specks were thought to be drops of Christ’s blood captured in the stone, and as a consequence of this, the stone was thought to have protected its owner.
Agate is believed to have been used for over 300-years in the form of seals, to make boxes and bowls. As a talisman it was supposed to protect to wearer from storms and lightning, to quench his thirst and to bestow the power of oratory.
Jasper is a name derived from Greek and it means “spotted stones”. In antiquity, it was used in amulets and thought to stop against disturbances and drought. Jade was used in pre-historic times in all parts of the world for arms and instruments due to its hardness. For over 2000 years Jade was a part of the religious cult in China and mystic figures and other symbols were carved from it. In Central America, jade was more highly valued than gold.
Garnet - January
Garnet is January’s birthstone. It is also the zodiac stone for Aquarius – January 20th – February 18th.
It is used to celebrate the 2nd wedding anniversary. Garnet has a hardness of 7 – 7.5 toughness which is fair to good. Major sources of the stone include Sri Lanka, Madagascar, India and Brazil.
It has a colour which can vary from dark green through to yellow, orange and red. There are six main colour groups of garnet.
- Pyrope: Red / Brown tint, this colour is the most popular
- Rhodolite: Purple-red colour with a violet tint
- Almandine: Red / Orange colour
- Spessartite: Orange/Brown colour
- Grossular: copper/ brown in colour
- Demantoid: Green apple in colour.
Stones of this colour are most valuable. Most people are unaware that Garnets come in colours other than red. Garnets which are red are used more than other colours for jewellery. The Garnet is believed to empower the wearer with truth, constancy and faith.
Amethyst - February
The Amethyst is February’s birthstone. It represents the Pisces zodiac sign. February 19th – March 20th.
It is used to celebrate the 6th wedding anniversary. Amethysts have a hardness of 7. Major sources of the stone include Brazil, Uruguay, Namibia, Iran, Japan, Madagascar and Mexico.
The colour of amethysts ranges from a bluish-purple to purple to a reddish-purple. Amethyst crystals are found in the lining of hollow cavities. Although amethyst is always violet in the hue the range of colours is very wide and may vary from nearly colourless with a faint mauve tint to a beautiful deep purple.
Amethyst colour is often imitated in glass or pale amethyst is mounted in a closed setting with paint or foils placed behind the stone to enhance its colour. Amethyst is the most highly valued stone in the quartz group.
It can bring luck, ensure wellbeing, protect against evil and an excess of alcohol and help in battles. Best coloured stones are faceted and used in jewellery whereas medium coloured stones are best used in ornaments and beads.
Amethyst jewellery was considered acceptable to wear in the later stages of mourning. Not being a rare stone Amethysts were affordable for everyone.
Aquamarine - March
Aquamarine is March’s birthstone. It is the zodiac stone for Pisces. February 19th – March 20th.
Aquamarine stones have a hardness of 7.5- 8. Aquamarines come from the beryl family which also includes Morganite and emeralds. Major sources of the stone include Siberia, Brazil, Burma and the United States of America.
Colour variations in which aquamarines are available include light blue, blue and blue-green. The name in Latin means ‘water of the sea’. The largest Aquamarine of gem quality was found in 1910 and weight 110 kgs.
Diamonds - April
The name diamond is derived from the Greek term ‘ADAMUS’ which means unconquerable, consequently, it was often worn into battle. Diamonds have a hardness of 10 which means they are the hardest of all gemstones.
Diamonds come in a variety of colours some of the fancier colours such as pink and blue are the most valuable. The largest diamond ever found in the Cullinan 1 diamond which weighs 530.20ct. Diamonds were discovered in South Africa in 1867.
A peasant boy playing near a river found a pretty stone of which he started to play with, a passing traveller viewed the rock and discovered it to be a diamond. This began the diamond rush in South Africa. The demand for diamonds today is an ever-growing market so much so they are now graded on cut, clarity, colour and carat.
De Beers invented the famous slogan “A diamond is forever” this translates to the wearer as our love will last forever. Traditionally a diamond is worn as an engagement ring. History suggests that in 1477 emperor Maximilian the 1st of Austria was one of the first to give his fiancé a diamond engagement ring, this choice of a diamond was based on the long-held belief that invisible forces constantly tried to destroy human happiness.
This superstition was thought to be broken by the sparkle and reflection of light in the diamond, warning of evil forces and safeguarding the owner of the stone. Diamond was also chosen because it was one of the world’s hardest substances nothing could cut or scratch into it, thus giving it consistency and symbolizing a long-lasting marriage.
Emerald - May
Emerald is the birthstone for May. The cancer star sign is from June 22nd – July 22nd.
It is also used to celebrate the 20th, 35th and 55th wedding anniversaries. The name emerald derives from the Greek ‘smaragdos’ meaning “green stone” and was probably used to describe a variety of different green coloured stones. The stone’s hardness is 7.5 -8.
The depth of colour ranges from dark green through to yellow-green. The most significant deposit of emeralds is found in Columbia, in a region known as Bogota. Other deposits are found in East Africa, India, Pakistan and Siberia.
Emeralds are steeped in superstition and lore; they are believed to be a symbol of immortality and faith. The earliest known emerald mines are known as Cleopatra’s emerald mines, they are located by the red sea in Egypt. These mines were believed to have been worked as early as 2000 B.C. It is believed these ancient people dedicated the emerald stone to their goddess Venus.
Pearl - June
Pearls are the birthstone for June. They are also the 30th wedding anniversary.
Their hardness varies from 2.5 to 4. They were a favourite of Queen Alexandra. The derivation of the name is uncertain. Pearls are produced by molluscs. They are made up of calcium carbonate.
The lustre is called the orient and is made up of overlapping platelets on the surface of the pearl causing the spectrum of colours on the surface of the pearls. The colour of the pearl varies depending on the type of mollusc, the water, and the shell colour.
The average estimate life span of a pearl is 100-150 years. Pearls are sensitive to acids like that of hairsprays, perspiration, and perfumes. Also, avoid rough wear as they can scratch easily and cannot be polished.
Ruby - July
Rubies name is thought to come from the Latin word (Rubeus). Its birthstone of July and the zodiac sign of Capricorn 22nd December to 19th January.
It is also the 15th and 40th wedding anniversary. The colour ranges from pinkish red to a brownish-red. Its dramatic effect was in great demand in Victorian times. Biblical reference can be found thus proving the high value placed on ruby through the ages.
Wisdom, wealth, and health are the many blessings believed to belong to the wearer. Ruby is part of the family called Corundum, which also includes sapphires. Rubies occur in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Africa as their major source, the better stones have fewer inclusions.
It is the hardest mineral after diamond. Ranking 9 on the hardness scale. Ruby a stone of lordly fieriness was worn by princes. So named the black princess Ruby was found in Queen Elizabeth’s crown; however, this stone turned out on further inspection to be red spinel.
Peridot - August
Peridot is the birthstone for August and the zodiac sign of Leo July 23rd-August 22nd.
It is also used to celebrate the 16th wedding anniversary. The hardness of Peridot 6.5-7. Its colour is a yellowish-green to a brownish-green. The stone was favoured by King Edward VII, who considered Peridot to be his good luck stone.
His preference for this stone made it very popular throughout society during his reign. It is mined in Burma, Norway, Brazil, Australia, South Africa, Arizona and Hawaii. Other magical properties attributed to Peridot include powers to overcome tiredness.
Peridot was brought to Europe in the middle ages by the crusaders; it was often used for ecclesiastical purposes. The largest Peridot ever found was 310ct and was found on the Island of St John, which is located in the Red Sea on a volcanic island and is now in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C
Sapphire - September
Sapphire is the birthstone of September and the zodiac of Taurus May 20th- April 20th.
It is also used to celebrate the 45th wedding anniversary. Sapphire is the Greek word for blue. The hardness of the stone is 9 and is, with Rubies, the second hardest stone after diamonds. It is a popular belief that sapphires are also blue; however, this is not always the case.
Sapphires come in a wide variety of colours and hues from deep blue to yellow, green, brown, pink, purple, orange and black. If there is no colour present in the stone, it is known as “white” or “colourless”.
Sapphires are mined in Australia, Burma, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The Gemstones were not closed in the back so magical properties in them were passed directly to the wearer. A deep blue sapphire could erase men’s souls to the heavenly kingdom. Clerics and nuns wore sapphires as it was believed to encourage chastity and chill lust.
Opal - October
Opal is the birthstone of October. It is also used to celebrate the 14th wedding anniversary.
The hardness of the stone ranks at 5.5-6.5. In the 1870s a huge Opal field was discovered in Australia. This promoted Queen Victoria to try to lift the veil of superstition that the befallen the stone.
A novel, written in 1829, called ‘Anne of Gerstein’ was responsible for opals being thought of as unlucky. The protagonist Lady Hermione wore an opal in her hair, and it reflected her every mood. The last chapter in the book describes the tragic end of Lady Hermione, an end in which the opal and its mysterious powers were thought to be the cause.
Napoleon once presented them to Empress Eugenie however she refused to wear them. Opals consist of 30% water, so it is advisable to keep them moist. A special feature of the stone is their opalescence; this is the rainbow-like effect due to tiny spheres layered in the jelly-like substance.
The two most common types of opals are white and black. There are various ways in which opals are presented in jewellery; there can be solid opals, doublets, or triplet opals. Doublet opals consist of a thin backing material on which a slice of opal is glued. Triplet opals, as the name suggest has three different layers. Triplets consist of a backing material a thin slice of opal then a top layer of glass or clear quartz.
Major sources of opal include Australia, Czechoslovakia, Brazil and Mexico.
Citrine - November
Citrine is the birthstone of November and is the zodiac sign for Gemini May 21st -June 20th.
It is also used to celebrate the 13th wedding anniversary. The citrine is a member of the quartz crystal family. Citrine was very popular in World War II as it was difficult to obtain gems from the Far East.
Cartier produced an interesting range of multi-coloured citrine jewellery. Large set Citrine rings were also very popular. Citrines were often confused with topaz. Citrine is available in several hues ranging from yellow and orange to a golden brown.
Queen Victoria set the trend of the day by having a love of Scottish pebble jewellery which was set Agate, Jasper, Freshwater Pearls and Citrine.
Turquoise - December
Turquoise is the birthstone of December and is the zodiac sign for Aquarius January 21st- February 18th. It is also used to celebrate the 11th wedding anniversary.
The stones harness ranges from 5-6. Turquoise is famous for its bright sky-blue colour but comes in other hues blue-white, and a light greenish-blue.
The stone is generally opaque. Copper makes the stone blue in colour and iron makes it green in colour. While the best pieces are flawless and uniform in colour, many stones are speckled with a dark marking which is known as the turquoise matrix.
Turquoise was used in traditional Indian jewellery, for thousands of years in the southwestern United States where most turquoise is still produced today.
The name turquoise means ‘Turkish stone’ as the trade route that bought the stone into Europe came via Turkey. Turquoise was often set as forget- me-knots as they were a symbol of love.
Gemstones have fascinated people for thousands of years. At Chilton’s Antiques, we have an array of unusual gemstones and collectors’ items which make wonderful gifts.
We strive to be knowledgeable and have the most up-to-date information on gemstones. We have an in-store gemmologist and diamond grader that will be able to assist you in your stone choice and help to identify any gemstones that you are unsure of.
We source the most unusual and unique gemstones; this is achievable through our extensive buying network which spans the globe. We have the potential to source stones from over 40 different countries, ranging from Africa, Asia and Europe.
Custom creating any design is also a skill and passion of ours. Helping you each step of the way, from stone selection to tailoring your design needs. Our jewellers excel in quality craftsmanship and design. Along with our selection of antique jewellery, we also stock a wonderful contemporary range.
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Miranda NSW, 2228