Gemstones

THERE’S A COLOUR FOR EVERYONE

Make your month with a personal keep sake.

There are over 130 types of minerals that have been classed as gemstones, ranging from diamonds on down, but if we were to delve into all of them here, your clicking hand may soon tire. So we’ll focus on what many view as the most special of the gemstones – the birthstones.

Each of our calendar’s 12 months has its own birthstone. The idea of birthstones has been around for millennia. Today, some people still believe that a birthstone imbues its owner with magical powers or wards off evil (you’ll find a lot of them at folk festivals in the desert). For other people, birthstones are simply fanciful fun. Pick yours out from the guide below, wear it around town and let us know if you develop special powers - or just get lots of new admirers.

All gemstones have a hardness rating on the Mohs scale, which was developed in 1812 by German mineralogist Friedrich Mohs. The higher the rating, the tougher the gemstone; a diamond is a 10, while talc sits at a lowly 1. More fragile gems should be worn less often and handled with extra care against scratching.

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JANUARY: GARNET
The most popular and inexpensive gemstone is January's African garnet (a good thing since many of us spend a lot over December.) It's a rich brick or dark red stone with a good lustre and even colour. Garnets are available in many different shapes and are mainly mined in South Africa, Mozambique, Brazil, the United States and Mexico.

 

 

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FEBRUARY - AMETHYST
An amethyst is a purple to almost-pink variety of quartz, and is the most prized variety of the quartz family.  It is important when choosing an amethyst to ensure the stone is even in colour and not patchy. Amethysts are mainly mined in Brazil, Spain, North Carolina and Russia.

 

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MARCH: AQUAMARINE
This beautiful gemstone belongs to the Beryl family (nothing to do with Aunt Beryl) and is normally found in Brazil, Madagascar and Nigeria. Its magical green-blue colour is due to the presence of iron traces. Aquamarines are thought to have therapeutic effects on the wearer and defend the body from negative energy. The deep rich blue aquamarines are rarer and therefore more valuable.

 

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APRIL: DIAMOND
Lucky for all the girls born in this month, if not their hubby's wallet. Diamonds are made from carbon crystallised under great heat and pressure. Diamonds have a hardness of 10 on the Mohs scale and are recognised for their exceptional durability, which makes them resistant to any form of abrasion from other minerals.

 

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MAY: EMERALD
In previous centuries, emerald was believed to promote honesty and frugality and to hold within it the promise of new life in springtime. Emeralds are precious stones of great value and intrigue. Their colours vary from brilliant green to soft blue or pale leaf greens. Emeralds are mined in Colombia, Brazil, South America, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Zambia.

 

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JUNE: PEARL
A pearl is rather different from the rest because it's not found in the earth. Cultured pearls are formed inside oysters, with the assistance of man. Pearl cultivators insert a small shell nucleus into the fleshy interior of a pearl oyster. The rest of the grunt labour is done by the oyster, which coats the nucleus with a nacreous material that hardens to form the pearl. Then, shame, people take it away from the oyster.
Cultured pearls are amongst the most adaptable items in jewellery. Their simple elegance makes them an ideal choice in a wide range of pieces including necklaces, earrings and rings. There are a variety of shapes including baroque, pearl, barrel, round and 'mabe' (half sphere). Because cultured pearls are formed by a natural process, the shapes cannot be predetermined.

 

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JULY: RUBY
Rubies are regarded as symbols of freedom, charity, dignity and divine power. Like sapphires, they vary in strength of colour and their value is dependent on two factors - colour and the number of inclusions. Depending on the size, cut and quality of a ruby they are usually more expensive than sapphires. A hardness of '9' means that these stones are very durable. The finest rubies are found in Burma, although Thailand is the main source.

 

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AUGUST: PERIDOT
Peridot is the name applied by jewellers to the mineral know to mineralogists as "olivine'. Peridot has a highly characteristic green colour and vitreous lustre that makes it a popular gemstone for jewellery. It is usually transparent and has very few inclusions. It has a hardness of '6.5' to '7', so it is reasonably resistant to daily wear. Gem cutters are able to cut the Peridot into many inventive and mixed cuts. The main sources are the island of Zebiget, Arizona (USA), the Hawaiian Islands, Burma and Brazil.

 

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SEPTEMBER: SAPPHIRE
Sapphire is regarded as a symbol of truth, sincerity and constancy. A durable and versatile gemstone, it has a hardness of '9' on the Mohs scale - the hardest being a diamond at '10'. Sapphire is aluminium oxides know as corundum (not nearly as romantic a name as sapphire). This stone is valued according to the evenness and depth of colour, as well as the lack of visible inclusions. While most people think of sapphires as a deep blue, they actually come in a variety of colours including yellow, green, pink, different shades of blue and colourless.

 

Opal Stone
OCTOBER: OPAL
Opals are popular for their iridescent flashes of colours. They are mainly shaped into cabochon (smooth not faceted) as they are brittle. They can also be damaged easily by chemicals, perfume, hand cream and daily wear. Solid opal has a hardness of only '5' to '6.5' on the Mohs scale and since it is easily damaged it's not suitable for daily wear –best worn as occasional dress rings, earrings and pendants. The fiery opal or triplet is a harder-wearing opal and comes in a variety of lively colours - the blues, greens and reds being our most popular. Opals are mainly mined in Australia, but the bright orange fire opal comes from Mexico. It is said that those who fall under this birthstone have great foresight – or did you know that already?

 

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NOVEMBER: TOPAZ
A very popular stone, the Topaz - which is mined all over the world - occurs in a variety of shades ranging from transparent to yellows and greens or blues. It can be worn daily without significant damage or scratching, and can be cut into any shape desired. Our most popular cuts are marquise, round, oval, pear and octagonal. Hint: topaz sets up beautifully in white or yellow gold.

 

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DECEMBER: TANZANITE
Tanzanite is a very rare and precious gemstone, because it is only found in one location in the world - the Merelani hills of east Africa, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Discovered only in 1967, it is said to be 1 000 times rarer than diamond. This rarity has seen it grow and grow in popularity in the 21st century. Due to its newfound fame, it was only declared in 2003 as the new birthstone for December. Tanzanite is blue in colour and shimmers in a slightly purplish hue. As with many coloured gemstones, Tanzanite is not ideally suited for everyday rings. To minimise the risk of harm, Tanzanite jewellery is suited for more selective wear.
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