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BIRTHSTONES TODAY

BIRTHSTONES TODAY

 With the AGTA Gem Show in full swing this week, I thought I would highlight gemstones in reference to birthstone. Occasionally, I run across a potential client asking me about what the correct birthstone for their birth month is. “Why are their two or three different stones for my month? I was told there is a certain stone is designated for each month. Is it not my stone and the one I should use to celebrate my birth into this world?”

 The concept of 12 birthstones seems to date back to Aaron, the high priest of the Israelites and brother to Moses. On his ceremonial breastplate were 12 gemstones, each one representing a tribe of Israel. Josephus, a Jewish historian, is responsible for connecting those stones to the 12 months of the year and the zodiac signs, thus the concept of birthstones.

 It is interesting to note that many cultures have kept different lists of traditional birthstones, giving rise to a vast range of birthstone options. Some months, such as October and December list two different stones for their particular month.

 With the many gemstone options available today, I suggest you look at a recommended “birthstone” for your birth month, keeping in mind the history behind the list of “appropriate” stones. If you feel a relationship to a gemstone, regardless of the recommended stone, then I say go for it. Your choice is personal, or should be regardless of a given list. 

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Romancing the Stone

Romancing the Stone

Aquamarine, named for the Latin phrase "water of the sea", is a blue to blue-green beryl. A close cousin to Emerald and Morganite, Aquamarine is the second most popular gem beryl. Its identity is defined by its color. The deeply saturated blue gem is the most desirable color of Aquamarine. 

I personally love the variety of color, like the sea, that can be found with Aquamarine gemstones. I recently acquired a deep blue 8mm round gem at the Tucson Gem Show this year and I am please it will become the centerpiece of an engagement ring. The trend towards colored gemstones is stronger this year with younger buyers often choosing Aquamarine for their engagement ring—breaking the "diamond only" rule. Aqua's durability makes it ever-lasting, something to consider when shopping for a ring that comes with lifetime promise. Whether you are in the market for an engagement ring or a stone that will recall the romance of the sea, this gemstone is for you. I created the 18kt yellow gold cocktail ring seen above using a fine Aquamarine I located in New York City. 

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A Guiding Light

A Guiding Light

It is said that iolite dates back to the time of the Vikings, who would use the stone to guide them on their journeys. Using thin slices of iolite could help them determine the exact location of the sun when they were out exploring, helping them travel safely to the new world and back again.

Despite its long history, the gem, valued for its vivid, saturated hues ranging from violet to blue, is still less well-known than stones like tanzanite and sapphires. Difference in popularity from tanzanite “really comes down to quality of color according to Stuart Robertson, research director for Gemworld International, Inc.

Gem cutter at Spectral Gems suggest quality is often an issue when he is looking for Iolite. The gemstone has strong pleochroism--which means different colors can be seen depending on the direction that the gem is turned--making it a tricky stone to cut for the best color. 

Interestingly, the deep blue hues of some iolite stones are thought to be caused by the same factors that create the blues in sapphires. Unlike its blue companion, however, iolite can’t be heat treated to help intensify the blue color. Iolites’ low melting point won’t allow for the high temperature needed for the heat treating process according to the GIA.

Prices for Iolite are expected to rise another 10% in the near future. The iolite mines in Africa are small and worked by very small groups of 2 to 12 men. Once the mines reach a certian depth, they can no longer be worked by hand, causing prices to escalate in time.

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