In Sanskirt, ruby translates to “Ratnaraj”, meaning “King of gems”. Fine quality rubies are the most valuable of the coloured precious gemstones. Some of the finest quality rubies come from the Moguk mine in Myanmar (Burma). Rubies are famous for their deep red colour tones and superior hardness. Rubies are the birthstone for July and the gemstone for the 15th and 40th wedding anniversaries. Fine quality rubies are found in Burma and Mozambique. It is common for natural rubies to be treated by heat to improve their colour.
The first known emerald mines were located in Ancient Egypt around 3500BC. Pharaoh Cleopatra was known for her passion of emeralds. Naturally mined emeralds that are cut and polished have a rich green to blueish-green colour. The finest quality emeralds are found in mines across South America and Africa (namely Colombia and Zambia). Emerald is the birthstone for May and the gemstone for the 20th and 35th wedding anniversaries. Natural emeralds can be very heavily included, and as a result, they are often treated with heat, oils and polymers in order to improve the colour, clarity and durability.
Sapphires are found in many locations around the world, but the finest quality sapphires come from Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Kashmir (Pakistan) and Madagascar. Sapphires are famous for their wide range of colours and superior hardness, making them great gemstones for frequently worn jewellery. Sapphire is the birthstone for September and the gemstone for the 5th and 45th wedding anniversaries. Natural sapphires are often treated by heat to improve their colour.
This precious gemstone has only one source in the world, Merelani in northern Tanzania and was first discovered in 1967. Tanzanite is famous for its rich blue and violetish-blue colour tones. Tanzanite is the birthstone for December and the gemstone for the 24th wedding anniversary. Natural Tanzanite is often heat-treated in order to improve its colour and durability.
Alexandrite is natures magic gemstone, known for its colour-change under different light sources. It was first discovered in 1830 in Russia’s Ural mountains and named after Tzar Alexander II. Alexandrite is also found throughout Sri Lanka, Eastern Africa and Brazil. Alexandrite is the birthstone for June and the gemstone for the 55th wedding anniversary. Natural Alexandrite is often treated to improve its colour, clarity and durability.
Opal is known for its unique display of flashing rainbow colours called play-of-colour. Play-of-colour occurs in precious opal because it’s made up of sub-microscopic spheres stacked in a grid-like pattern. Because of this, the Romans thought it was the most treasurable and powerful gemstone of all. When Australia’s mines began to produce opals commercially in the 1890s, it quickly became the world’s primary source for this October birthstone.
The ancient Egyptians mined peridot on the Red Sea island of Zabargad, the source for many large fine peridots in the world’s museums. The Egyptians called it the “gem of the sun.” Today this gem is still prized for its calming yellowish green hues and long history. Gem miners now find peridot as irregular nodules in some lava flows in the United States, China, and Vietnam. Peridot is the birthstone for August and the 15th anniversary gemstone.
Although often confused with ruby, spinel stands on its own merits. Available in an outstanding array of colours, its long history includes many famous large spinels still in existence in Europe’s crown jewels. In ancient times, Southeast Asia’s mines yielded exceptional large spinel crystals, which became the treasured property of kings and emperors. Spinel, like garnet and diamond, is singly refractive, with the same physical properties in all crystal directions. Well-formed spinel crystals are fairly common in nature. Spinel was recently added as an August birthstone, sharing this month with peridot and sardonyx.
Topaz actually has an exceptionally vast colour range that, besides brown, includes various tones of blue, green, yellow, orange, red, pink, and purple. Colourless topaz is plentiful, and is commonly treated to give it a blue colour. Topaz is also pleochroic, meaning that the gem can show different colours in different crystal directions. Precious topaz is a birthstone for November and blue topaz is a birthstone for December and the 4th anniversary.
Amber is an organic gem. Organic gems are the products of living or once-living organisms and biological processes. Amber formed tens of millions of years ago, when sap from prehistoric trees hardened and fossilized. This golden brown gem might trap and preserve ancient life, including insects, leaves, even scorpions and lizards. While amber isn’t a birthstone, it is often associated with the astrological sign of Taurus.
Amethyst is the purple variety of the quartz mineral species and was as expensive as ruby and emerald until the 19th Century, when Brazil’s large deposits were discovered. Today, as the most valued quartz selection, amethyst is in demand for designer pieces and mass-market jewellery alike, and its purple to pastel hues maintain wide consumer appeal. Amethyst is the birthstone for February and the gem for the 6th and 17th wedding anniversaries.
Named after seawater, aquamarine’s fresh watery tone is a cool plunge into a revitalizing pool. Aquamarine is mined at high elevations in Pakistan’s Karakoram Mountains, with the best gems combining high clarity with sheer transparency and blue to slightly greenish hues. Like many beryls, aquamarine forms large crystals suitable for sizable fashioned gems and carvings. Aquamarine is the birthstone for March and the gem of the 19th wedding anniversary.
Citrine, the translucent, pale yellow to brownish orange variety of quartz, is quite rare in nature. In the days before modern gemology, it was often confused with topaz. Citrine’s striking colour, plus the durability and affordability it shares with most other quartzes, makes it the top-selling yellow-to-orange gem. It’s an attractive alternative not only for topaz, but also for yellow sapphire. The finest citrine colour is a saturated yellow to reddish orange, free of brown tints. Along with topaz, citrine is the birthstone for November and is also recognized as the gem that commemorates the 13th anniversary.
Tourmalines have a variety of exciting colours with one of the widest colour ranges of any gem, including the outstanding intense violet-to-blue gems specific to Paraíba, Brazil. A tourmaline’s chemical composition directly effects its physical properties and is responsible for its colour. Tourmalines make up a group of closely related mineral species that share the same crystal structure but have different chemical and physical properties. Tourmaline is a birthstone for October, along with opal and is also the gem of the 8th anniversary.
Ancient peoples from Egypt to Mesoamerica and China treasured this vibrant blue gem. It’s a rare phosphate of copper that only forms in the earth’s most dry and infertile regions. Turquoise is a prime example of an opaque coloured stone that can be advertised both as a gem for jewellery and as an ornamental material. It is the traditional birthstone for the month of December and the gem of the 11th anniversary.
Colourless zircon is known for its brilliance and flickers of multi-coloured light, called fire. These zircon characteristics are close enough to the properties of diamond to account for centuries of confusion between the two gems. Zircon occurs in a vast range of colours including yellow, green, red, brown, and blue hues, making it a favourite among collectors. It is a birthstone for the month of December, along with turquoise and tanzanite.
Produced in the bodies of marine and freshwater mollusks naturally or cultured by people with great care. Lustrous, smooth, subtly-coloured pearls are jewellery staples, especially as strands. There are four major types of cultured pearls: Akoya, South Sea, Tahitian and Freshwater, and occur in a wide variety of colours. The most familiar colours are white, cream, black and grey, but the palette of pearl colours extends to every hue. Pearl is the birthstone for June and the gem of the 3rd and 30th anniversaries.
Garnets are a set of closely related minerals that form a group, resulting in gemstones in almost every colour. Red garnets have a long history, but modern gem buyers can pick from an opulent palette of garnet colours: greens, oranges, pinkish oranges, intensely saturated purplish reds, and even some blues. All garnets have essentially the same crystal structure, but they vary in chemical composition. There are more than twenty garnet categories, called species, but only five are commercially important as gems. Garnet is the birthstone for January and the gem for the 2nd anniversary.