The precious stone known as ruby, from the Latin ruber (meaning red), varies in color from a soft pink to a deep blood red. It is a variety of the mineral corundum, also known as aluminium oxide. The presence of chromium in rubies leads to the beautiful red shades that have made the stone so famous, while other corundum varieties in different colors are known as sapphires. The very brightest, most vibrant rubies are called blood-red or pigeon’s blood and are the most valuable.
The main ruby sources are in south-east Asia, particularly Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and India. Rubies are also found in Afghanistan, Australia, Namibia and Colombia.
Ruby is the July birthstone and considered to be a symbol of love and passion. It is also thought to strengthen leadership qualities, and so has been considered a symbol of power and used in a number of crowns. Rubies are held in particularly high esteem in Asian countries, particularly India and China, where they were once popular for the armour and scabbards of noblemen.
The mineral corundum (an aluminium oxide) comes in a variety of colors, including, blue, yellow, purple, orange and green. Red-colored corundum is known as ruby, but all other versions are called sapphires. Single colored sapphires are given the name fancy sapphires, while stones with two or more colors are called parti-sapphires.
Sapphires are generally found in the same areas as rubies, although one or the other tends to be more abundant. Significant sapphire deposits are found in a variety of locations, including Eastern Australia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China, Madagascar, East Africa and North America.
Sapphire is the September birthstone and also the gift for both 5th and 45th anniversaries. It is thought to represent power and justice, as well as acting as a source of energy. Sapphires are traditionally held to increase a woman’s charm and appeal and improve a man’s determination and wisdom.
The second most abundant material in the Earth’s continental crust, pure quartz is as colorless and clear as water. Thanks to a variety of impurities, it can be found in a rainbow of colors, including white, grey, yellow, pink, red, blue, green, purple, brown, purple and black. The word quartz itself is German in origin, coming from the Middle High German ‘twarc’.
There are dozens of varieties of quartz, many of which are valued in their own right. Examples include amethyst, aventurine, agate, onyx, jasper, rose quartz, and citrine. Quartz varieties have been one of the most important minerals for makeup production since antiquity, especially in Europe and the Middle East.
Amethyst is one of the most popular varieties of quartz. It ranges from bright purple to a duller purple color. The name comes from the ancient Greek for ‘not intoxicated’, because the Greeks believed that the stone could protect against drunkenness. Some Greek drinking vessels were even decorated with amethysts because of this belief. The stone was also known to ancient Egyptians and Romans, who called it ‘the blessed stone’. Amethyst is the February birthstone.
The world’s main amethyst deposits are found in Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay, Russia, France, Namibia and Morocco.
The color of natural amethyst changes slightly depending on lighting, temperature, and the angle of the stone. It may gradually lose its color if exposed to too much bright sunlight, becoming greyish-yellow, but this can be reversed with irradiation treatment.
Agate is a specific crystalline version of silica, with an exceptionally fine grain and bright color. Agate is found in various types of rock, although it is usually associated with volcanic rocks. The stone was named by the Greek philosopher Theophrastus, who discovered it along the shores of the River Achates in Sicily, between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.
Green agate is not found naturally, but is instead dyed to its vibrant color in a dying process that has been taking place since the Roman period. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that agate was a stone of strength and used it on their helmets and breastplates to ensure victory in battle. Agate is also thought to enhance creativity and intellect, associating it with both students and artists. It is considered to be a good luck stone.
Green quartz is made from clear quartz, artificially colored through a heating process. It has a bright green color, like tourmaline, but is also transparent and crystal clear. Green quartz is thought to attract and fascinate, as well as promoting an active thinking process.
Swiss Blue Quartz
This quartz variety has an incredible, vivid sky-blue color. It is one of the best conductors of positive thoughts and intentions, as well as adding a fresh touch of color.
London Blue Quartz
This is an extremely popular modern gemstone, thanks to its deep blue color which goes perfectly with almost anything. It is an incredibly rich and refined shade of blue.
While pure topaz is pure and colorless, it is usually tinted by various impurities.Typical colors are wine red, yellow, pale grey, reddish orange, and brown. It can also be white, pale green, blue gold, reddish-yellow, or even pink. Colors can also vary from opaque to nearly transparent.
Topaz is found all over the world, including North, Central and South America, Russia, Afghanistan, the Czech Republic and Sri Lanka. The blue topaz is the official emblem of the State of Texas.
The name Topaz is usually thought to derive from the ancient Greek for St John’s Island in the Red Sea, where a yellow stone was mined. Alternatively, it may be from the Sanskrit word ‘tapas’, meaning heat or fire.
Topaz is considered to be one of the finest and most delicate stones, symbolizing purity and innocence.
This variety of topaz is created by artificially coating colorless topaz to create a rainbow effect.
Blue topaz does occur naturally, but it is extremely rare. More commonly, colorless, grey or pale yellow stones are heated and irradiated to produce a dark blue. There are three main types of blue topaz:
This light blue topaz is the color of the mid-afternoon sky on a clear day.
This topaz variety is an amazingly beautiful shade of blue, with a medium intensity. Naturally occurring Swiss blue topaz is very rare and very valuable. Almost all commercially available stones are enhanced by irradiation.
This is the most intensely colored and darkest of the three topaz types. It is very slightly greenish-blue. These stones are almost never found naturally, so the majority of London blue topaz for sale is enhanced by irradiation.
This is a synthetic substitute for diamonds, and the most popular stone for use in gold and silver jewellery. It is usually colorless, but various impurities can be added to create colors like red, green, yellow, black, and blue.
Small, faceted cubic zirconia stones are so beautiful that they are virtually indistinguishable from diamonds. Bigger stones, however, are easier to identify because of their lower hardness, and the differences in light refraction compared to diamonds.
Amazingly, pearls are stones created in natural conditions within a living organism. A grain of sand is gradually turned into a precious stone within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusc, such as an oyster or clam. Calcium carbonate, in minute crystalline form, is deposited in circular layers around the grain of sand.
An ideal pearl is round and smooth. Other shapes do occur, such as baroque pearls. High quality natural pearls are as valuable as gemstones, and the pearl has often been used as a metaphor for something rare, fine, admirable or valuable.
The most valuable pearls are those which occur entirely naturally in the wild, but they are extremely rare. More common are cultured or farmed pearls from pearl oysters and freshwater mussels. Imitation pearls are also commonly sold, although they are generally easy to distinguish from genuine pearls.
Pearls will always be on trend, and deserve a place in every woman’s jewellery box. They are as much of a classic as Coco Chanel’s little black dress.