January’s Birthstone -Garnet

January’s Birthstone: Garnet
Zodiac stone
Capricorn December 22-January 20: Garnet
Aquarius January 21- February 19: Amethyst
The 2nd Anniversary Stone

Almadine garnet beads

Almadine garnet beads

January is the only month with no alternate birthstone, but Garnet more than makes up for this with a wide color spectrum of stones. There are 7 main types of Garnet, almandine (deep red to purple), andradite (red, yellow, brown, green or black), demantoid (green to yellowish green or blue green), grossularite (green, brown, red, yellow), pyrope (deep red to black), spessarite (orange yellow), uvarovite (bright green). Garnets posses nearly identical physical properties despite all the differences in color, garnets are neosilicates, with a differing mineral producing each color. Relatively high on the Mohs scale, 6.5-7.5 garnets are well suited to faceting and setting in jewelry. The harder stones are also used as commercial abrasives, from sandpaper to use in highly compressed air that cuts steel. Widely mined around the world many locations are known for particular colors or types. Australia, India, Madagascar, Namibia, Italy, Iran, United States, are all current commercial producers. Russia, once a strong producer of demantoid garnets, a favorite of the designer Faberge now only produces a very small amount. Eastern Europe was an early source, with much of the cutting and shaping done in Bohemia. Garnets cut for gemstones are not usually treated, although it is common to see dyed garnet material used for beads.

Green grossularite garnets

Green grossularite garnets

Garnet gets its name from ‘granataum’ meaning seed, refers to the similarity to a pomegrante seed. Ancient Romans used garnet in inlay work. Garnets are reputed to be the stones of truth, friendship, faithfulness, commitment, and insight. Given as a friendship gift and worn into battle by soldiers, garnets are especially good for problems with the blood, lungs, preventing and curing infection. The red color garnet is a symbol of love and enhances sensuality.

Spessarite or Hessanite garnets in an orange yellow color.

Spessarite or Hessonite garnets in an orange yellow color.

Use these garnets in your designs-
Depending on the color chosen, garnets can be used in many different designs. Red garnets mixed with gold are an especially rich mixture, adding black garnets, spinel or onyx would increase the dramatic flare. Green garnets are also attractive mixed with gold or add a sparkly quality to other earthy green stones. Rich orange or yellow garnets would be accented with silver, or mixed with warm tones of pearls, amber or natural mother of pearl.

December’s Birthstone -Turquoise

December’s Birthstone: Turquoise
Alternate Stones: Tanzanite & Zircon
Zodiac stones
Sagittarius November 23- December 2: Turquoise
Capricorn December 22-January 20: Garnet
The 11th Anniversary stone


Turquoise Beads

Like many gemstones, turquoise comes in a variety of colors, from nearly white, through light blues, to deep sky or robin’s egg blue to earthy greens and yellow. Native Americans described it as ‘fallen sky stone’ and many domed roofs in Iran are sheathed in turquoise symbolizing ‘heaven on earth’. Bright sky blue with no inclusions, and consistent color is highly prized. Turquoise gets its name from a French translation of Pierre tourques meaning stone from Turkey.  Turquoise is a cryptocrystalline mineral that very rarely forms in a crystal shape. It is formed over time by the percolating of acidic solutions of weathered minerals and metals like copper, aluminum, and phosphorus. It measures a 6 on the Mohs’ scale, therefore turquoise is a softer stone so is often shaped into cabochons, beads and extensively used in inlay.

Turquoise was one of the first stones to be mined, Turkey and Persia (now Iran) were traditional sources of European turquoise. These sources are now depleted and only mined seasonally by small family ventures. The larger deposits of commercial turquoise are found in the southwest of the US, primarily, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. Different colors and qualities are produced in each area, leading to distinct types of turquoise names, Kingman, Sleeping Beauty, or Bisbee. Arid regions are associated with turquoise deposits; mines exist in China, Afghanistan, Australia, Chile, and northern India.

Turquoise beads.

Turquoise beads.

Turquoise has long been associated with treatments applied to enhance the color and durability of the stone. In Egypt the desire for a more durable blue colored material lead to the development of faience, a glaze for pottery and a precursor to glass. Turquoise may be stabilized to enhance lower grade more fractured material and dyed to improve the color.  Simple oiled or waxed treatments are considered acceptable since it has a very low impact on the stone. Reconstituted material, ground fine then added to resin and re-cut after hardening is the lowest grade. Synthetic Gilson turquoise from the 1970’s is even collectible!

Reputed to take on the persona of the person who wears it, turquoise is often associated with truth and wisdom, in many cultures it is also a stone of success.Turquoise may help with symptoms of rheumatism gout, stomach issues, and viruses. Increases growth, anti-inflammatory and a detoxifier. Especially noted as a protection against falls.  It is a stone of protection, worn by warriors, kings and shamans.

Using Turquoise in your jewelry designs-

Depending on the color of turquoise chosen there are many stones that work well with the blue-green color stones. Native Americans mix turquoise with other opaque stones, like coral, malachite, onyx, sugilite, and lapis. The most common metal for mixing with turquoise is silver, both bright and oxidized. Bright blue stones would be striking wire wrapped on gold wire, or mixed with pyrite, golden pearls or amber. Olive green or heavily veined beads would lovely added to a darker brown stone like tiger’s eye.

October Birthstone: Opal and Tourmaline

October Birthstone: Tourmaline and Opal
Zodiac Stones
Libra September 23rd-October 23rd: Chrysolite
Scorpio October 24th-November 21st: Beryl

Opal Specimens

Opal Specimens

Opals are famous for their colors, which cover the entire rainbow spectrum in brilliant flashes. Opals have a unique non-crystalline structure of submicroscopic silica spheres that are held together with silica and water. The ‘play of colors’ develops in volcanic cavities and openings as the silica hardens into an opal. Colors are added with the presence of different materials, yellow and red opals have inclusions of iron oxides, black, green, blue and red opals contain carbon and magnesium. Opals measure low to medium on the Moh’s hardness scale, coming in between 5-6, and are best cut into cabochons or carved into beads. Opals have a reputation for drying out, or becoming dehydrated, but only some of the lower gem quality has this problem. To make the most of opal materials, thin slices are cut and mounted onto a black onyx backing making a doublet. Additionally, a magnifying glass layer can be added to the top making a triplet. These layers help stabilize and improve the look of the stone as well as extending the raw material. Other types of opal are Mexican fire opal and Peruvian blue and pink opal, these rarely display the ‘play of color’, instead they have a milky soft color play with inclusions of clear watery opal.

Opal rough, ready to be made into cabochons.

Rough opals, ready to be made into cabochons.

The brightest and largest amounts of gem quality opals are primarily mined in Australia.  Other sources of opal include Nevada and Idaho, the Czech Republic, South America, and Ethiopia.  In late 2008, NASA announced that it had discovered opal deposits on Mars. In 1974, Pierre Gilson created the first synthetic opals that rivaled the natural, with a very regular ‘play of color’. These synthetic opals are not opal imitations but material containing some of the silica as an opal would with the addition of resins to harden.

Mexican Fire Opal beads

Mexican Fire Opal beads

Opals have a long history of being in and out of fashion; sometimes they are associated with good fortune and considered lucky. Other eras see opals much in disfavor, discoloring if the wearer is in bad health, opals worn by sufferers of the Black Death would discolor as the wearer had extremely high fevers, and dull as they passed away. The origin of the name ‘opal’ is even up for debate, some point to a Roman connection to the word ‘opalus’ while others choose the link to the Sanskrit ‘upala’ or the Latin ‘opalis’ meaning lucky stone. Opals are the talisman of thieves and spies as opals may confirm invisibly on the wearer. Opals are regarded as the stone that symbolizes hope.


Pink Peruvian Opal beads.

Tourmaline is also a stone of many colors: pink, green, yellow, brown, and black are all within the color spectrum of tourmaline. Its makeup is a complex aluminous borosilicate material with other metals mixed in to create colors. Tourmaline is trigonal, meaning its crystals form in a triangle, unique among common minerals. High on the Moh’s hardness scale, 7-7.5, it is a stone well suited to faceting as well as carving into beads. Tourmaline is a name thought to come from Sri Lanka, ‘”tourmali” meaning something out of the earth, and is used to describe yellow, green or brown tourmaline. Bi-color or watermelon tourmaline is highly prized, green with a transition to pink, resembling the cross-section of a watermelon. Tourmaline is piezoelectric, meaning will build and hold static charge if rubbed firmly against fabric or heated. Irradiation is often applied to enhance pink and red stones.


Tourmaline bead strands.

Tourmalines are mined around the world, Africa, South America and the US, in Maine and southern California.

Tourmalines are separated into their color groups when used to promote metaphysical qualities. Green and watermelon are used to promote peace and harmony, green is especially helpful for restful sleep. Pink is associated with grieving or loss of love, eases pain and promotes compassion. Yellow is for the academic, and helpful in business. Blue tourmaline is used for inner peace and self-expression.

Using Opal and Tourmaline in your designs

Opal beads of true gem quality can be very pricy.  Fire opal, pink, blue opals are much less expensive and widely available. The rich red-orange-brown of fire opal is a natural mix with gold.  As opals are quite lightweight (compared to some gemstones) make multiple strands to really push the color and texture forward.

Tourmalines offer so many colors! Many strands come with the colors graduated from one color to the next, try to keep them in order for the most sleek use of all the colors. Or break up the colors into separate piles so each group is more monochromatic. Tourmaline looks especially good with oxidized silver.

August’s Birthstone -Peridot

Alternate birthstone: Sardonyx
Ancient birthstone: Sardonyx, carnelian, moonstone and topaz
Zodiac stones for Leo July 23-August 22: Onyx
Virgo August 23-September 22: Carnelian

Strands of peridot beads

Strands of peridot beads

Lucky are those born in the heat of the summer month of August! Their birthstone, Peridot, is a vivid green with hints of gold to match the saturated summer colors. The gem form of olivine, peridot’s chemical composition, iron magnesium silicate produces the intense green-gold color of peridot. Shades of peridot can spread over the green-yellow-brown spectrum, depending on the area the stone is mined and the amount of iron in the material. Peridot is never manmade, or treated to change its color, common mistaken identities could be green garnet, emerald, tourmaline and glass.

With a hardness on 6.5-7 on the Moh’s scale it is a fairly sturdy stone, it should be protected from acids, abrasive rubbing on harder materials and not steam or ultrasonically cleaned. The island of Zabargad, which means ‘Olivine’ in Arabic) east of Egypt in the Red Sea was the primary source of peridot for the Egyptians and the ancient world. Peridot was made into beads and cabochons set into religious artifacts as well as royal jewels. Currently mined in several locations around the world including Hawaii, Arizona, Burma, Afghanistan, China and a particularly fine deposit in Kashmir, Pakistan. It is also a stone mined in antiquity. Peridot is a generous metaphysical stone; it helps with overall wellness, especially to the internal digestive system, is good for producing restful sleep and even assists in financial matters.

Sardonyx is the alternate birthstone for August, a stone with alternating reddish-brown (sard) and white (agate) in parallel bands. Its name and appearance can be confusing as well as common variations on its name. Sard is a deep brownish red stone (in the microcrystalline quartz family) onyx is the name applied to the black and white banded or wholly black stone. Sardonyx is a member of the onyx family with red instead of black layers. Separating sard and carnelian is more difficult; stones called carnelian (reddish-brown chalcedony) looks very similar to sard. Sard is usually the term describing the darker and more brownish material with out layers.  Its most popular use of Sardonyx  is for carving cameos, intaglio cabochons, cabochons and beads. The layers of white are carved in different depths with the colored material forming the background. Sardonyx is a 7 on the Moh’s scale, very durable, but soft enough for carving. Mined widely around the world. Brazil, Madagascar, India and Uruguay are large producers.  Sardonyx is the stone for students as it helps to assist in the processing and retention of new information. It is known to increase stamina, self-control, as an aid to happy relationships, and encourage an optimistic outlook.

Sardonyx cameo ring.

Sardonyx cameo ring.

Suggestions for using peridot or sardonyx in your designs

Mix the lush green-gold of peridot with gold beads for a classic look that Cleopatra could have envied! A lighter touch of peridot could be to mix peridot with either crystal quartz, green aquamarine, or green kyanite. The reddish-brown and white of Sardonyx has an ageless quality, mix it with oxidized silver for a traditional piece or look to white agate, gray moonstone or dark carnelian for good color matches.

Read more about peridot at the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) website.

July’s Birthstone -Ruby

July Birthstone: Ruby
Ancient birthstones: Turquoise, Onyx
Zodiac Sign: Cancer June 21 – July 22
Zodiac Stone: Emerald
15th and 40th Anniversary stone

Smooth and faceted ruby beads.

Smooth and faceted ruby beads.

Rubies are a variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminum oxide mineral, with chromium responsible for its rich, red color. Rubies are harder than all other stones except diamond; registering a 9.0 on the Mohs hardness scale. As a durable stone it is suitable for everyday wear and set in a variety of jewelry, such as rings, pendants and earrings. Ruby beads are usually made from stones that have lower transparency but still show the medium red to slightly purplish red that is most desired. Large size rubies are especially rare. They are highly sought after and come from the mining areas of Burma and Thailand.

Rubies are a stone of passion; as the red color signifies the rule of the heart, wear rubies as a guard against psychic attacks and overly amorous desires. Rubies are said to cure bleeding and make warriors brave and invincible.

Turquoise beads.

Turquoise beads.

For those looking for a different take on the traditional, the ancient birthstones for July, turquoise and onyx, offer radically different colors. Sky blue turquoise has been sought after from ancient times, in the Middle East to the Americas. The blue color can range from a bright shade of blue to green depending on the copper content. Turquoise is a softer stone and usually cut for cabochons or beads. Onyx is a black version of chalcedony, sometimes variegated with stripes, it is prized for cutting both faceted and carved stones for jewelry. Usually dyed to enhance the dark color, black onyx takes a fine polish for a highly reflective surface.

Onyx beads.

Onyx beads.

Using rubies, turquoise and onyx in your jewelry adds so many options! The red of rubies works well with the warmth of gold, so mixing with gold beads is a sure bet. As rubies can be colored into the reddish purple color range adding a cool color like gray pearls may be a good match. Turquoise blends well across the color wheel, looking wonderful with the orange-red of coral or carnelian, and also with its closer neighbors like the cool-green amazonite. Traditional Native American’s use turquoise with silver, but mix in gold for a striking contrast. Onyx beads have a marvelous rich black color, a modern mix of color might be to mix them with opaque white agate, or with striped onyx beads. Black pearls and onyx would present a subtle mix, with the nacre of the pearls in contrast with the gloss of onyx.

June’s Birthstone – Pearl

June Birthstone: Pearl
Alternate Birthstone: Alexandrite, Moonstone
Ancient Birthstone: Agate
Mystical Birthstone:  Moonstone
Zodiac sign: Gemini May 20-June 21 Quartz Crystal

View Baubles & Beads collection of Fresh Water Pearls

View Baubles & Beads collection of Fresh Water Pearls

Those born in June have the lovely pearl as their birthstone. Pearls are available in a vast array of colors and shapes and have been used as adornments since ancient times. In the Ancient Middle East and Persia, pearls were worth their weight in gold. This trend continued through the Roman Empire and spread throughout Africa and into France. The Renaissance period in Europe through the 1600’s saw the popularity of pearls expand with opening of trade routes to India, the Persian Gulf and the new world. Pearls soon moved into the crown jewels the royal families of Europe, as well as being used for religious ornamentation. All shapes and sizes of pearls were used including: baroque, (irregular) round, drops, and seed pearls. Today pearls are still highly treasured as gems in their own right.

Pearls are an unusual ‘stone’ as they are the only non-stone in the birthstone list. Pearls can be set in rings, brooches, pendants and earrings. Pearls occur naturally in both freshwater and saltwater environments. Pearls are relatively soft measuring 2.5-4.5 on the Mohs scale, making them an ideal material to be drilled for beads. Pearls are made of nacreous layers formed over an irritant, foreign substance, or even bacteria, by the mollusk. Pearls are made of carbonate mineral, the same material that makes up the shell of oysters, mussels, and clams. All bivalve (two shelled) mollusks can produce a nacreous (gem) pearl, the type used in jewelry. Gastropods like abalone and conch also produce ‘pearls’ although of a different chemical make up. Wild pearls (naturally occurring) are rare, in the early 1900’s an enterprising Kokochi Mikimoto pioneered the technique of culturing pearls by implanting a base or irritant to be layered in nacreous material by the mollusk. Pearls are grown in farms for several years. After harvest the mollusk may be implanted to grow more pearls or the shell can be used for mother of pearl jewelry, buttons or beads. Some colored pearls are dyed, irradiated, or bleached to obtain a consistent color. Other naturally colored pearls get their colors from the species of mollusk and pollutants in the water.

Pearl farms are in many countries. China and Japan have large freshwater pearl farming operations, saltwater pearls come from the South Pacific Islands, northern Australia, Indonesia and Fiji. There was a small US pearl fishery, in the Mississippi, which now is mostly defunct, it’s primary product was shell used for mother of pearl beads and buttons.

South Sea Ring Pearls

South Sea Ring Pearls

How to evaluate the quality of a pearl

There are several factors that must be taken into account when judging pearls as all intersect in the final evaluation of a pearl.

Nacre- The thickness of the pearls surface layers is an important factor in the durability and longevity as well as the size of a pearl.

Luster- Luster is related to the layers of nacre, laid on the pearl, it should be unbroken by blemishes, iridescent and show a crisp reflection of light sources. Blurry reflections are less desirable and show a lower quality and thickness of nacre.

Size- Larger sizes are created over longer periods of time, with older mollusks. There is more risk involved to the grower, but a larger, older pearl is more rare.

Shape- Round pearls are seen as the ideal and anything less than perfectly round are downgraded. Unique shapes, rings, and irregularities make pearls interesting but less valuable.

Color- Pearls have a set range of colors, white, cream, pink, silver, black and gold. Most desirable is an even color with no blemishes. Undertones may be visible in rose, green or blue when the pearl is rotated. Pearls should glow from within.

The value of a pearl takes into account all of the above factors but also how it is matched with other similar pearls to form a matching strand influences the value greatly.

Vintage Pearl and Diamond Ring

Vintage Pearl and Diamond Ring


Alternate birthstones for June are Alexandrite and Moonstone both have lovely colors and many options if pearls are not for you.

Alexandrite is named after Czar Alexander II in 1855.  Alexandrite is a color changing stone, depending on the color of the light it may shift from a beautiful green to blueish-brownish shades and under artificial light is can be reddish violet. Alexandrite is a mineral made up of beryllium, aluminum, and oxygen and is part of the chrysoberyl family. Relatively rare, Alexandrite can be expensive, it is found in Sri Lanka, Brazil and Africa.

Moonstone is an alternate birthstone for June with lovely, white with bluish tones and flashes of color.  Turn a moonstone in the light and the color ‘beams’ across the stone like moonlight on water. Moonstone is in the feldspar family, a silicate mineral that commonly forms in rocks. The feldspar family also includes labradorite, amazonite and sunstone. With a hardness of 6-7.5 on the Mohs scale, moonstone is cut into beads and  cabochons for jewelry.  Clear moonstones are of the highest quality, and are mined in Sri Lanka, Brazil, India and the US.

May’s Birthstone -Emerald

May Birthstone: Emerald
Alternate birthstones for May: Agate and Chrysoprase
Ancient birthstone for May: Agate
Zodiac signs for May:
Taurus April 21-May 2 Emerald
Gemini May 22-June 21 Agate
Traditional stone for 55th wedding anniversary

An exquisite emerald cut in the traditional "Emerald Cut".

An exquisite emerald cut in the traditional “Emerald Cut”.

Those with a May birthday have one of the most costly, valuable, and rare birthstones, Emerald. A member of the beryl family, Emerald is colored green with chromium, vanadiam and iron, small inclusions are acceptable and do not weigh against the quality of the stone. The green color of the best quality stones is described as ‘new wet grass after a rain’. Emeralds are a difficult stone to cut, while hard 7.5-8 on the Mohs scale, they can be brittle and any inclusions can cause the stone to chip while being cut and polished.  Emeralds also lend their name to a particular cut of gemstones, the rectangular stepped cut called the ‘emerald cut’, which focuses on increasing the depth of color rather than the brilliance of a stone. Emeralds a commonly ‘oiled’ which is a process of submerging the stone in mineral or other oils to deepen the color and help minimize the appearance of inclusions. Emerald beads are available, but mostly are made of less desirable material.

Emeralds are found in several places around the world, often in mica schists within granite deposits. Formed under pressure, emeralds often pick up bits of stone or bubbles that give each stone a unique ‘fingerprint’ of inclusions. They can be found in streams and riverbeds, carried to the surface from deeper deposits. In antiquity emeralds were mined in Egypt, the Cleopatra mines are the best known in that area. Modern mines are focused in Columbia, Brazil and South Africa, with smaller mines in India, Pakistan, Russia, and even North Carolina in the US. Emeralds have long been purported to have mystical qualities, ancient beliefs included protection from poison, a restorative to eyesight, to bring luck, success and youthfulness. 


Apple green chrysoprase beads.

Not an emerald fan, but born in May? Two alternate birthstones may satisfy the Taurus or Gemini. Chrysoprase and agate are less precious than emerald, but no less beautiful! Chrysoprase is an apple green variation of chalcedony, colored by a small amount of nickel. Fairly rare, Chrysoprase is used primarily in jewelry, cut in cabochons or beads. Chrysoprase is used to balance the yin and yang and in India to help mend a broken heart. Chrysoprase and agate share a connection of structure, both being made of crystals so tiny, they are classified as micro-crystalline. Agate, a chalcedony quartz that forms in layers, is well-known for its beautiful stripes and bands that take on the appearance of tree rings, eyes, loops and scallops. Agate is used for many decorative objects, bowls, cameos, carvings as well as beads and jewelry. Used since ancient times for carved talismans, agate is a protective stone, especially helpful to promote rich and varied dreams.


Banded and striped agate beads.

 Working with emeralds, chrysoprase and agate in your jewelry adds so much color and dimension! Mix emeralds with gold as the richness of gold sets off the true green of emeralds. Want the color without the high price tag? Use Swarovski emerald-green crystal beads, all of the color, made affordable! Chrysoprase’s apple green also cries out for luscious gold, but also try oxidized silver and gunmetal to deepen the contrast without adding much color. Agates with swirls and stripes of black, gray and white mix well with other beads in similar color ranges, gray moonstone, onyx, and light gray or ivory pearls.

April’s Birthstone-Diamond

April’s Birthstone: Diamond
Alternate birthstones: White Topaz or Quartz Crystal
Ancient birthstone: Sapphire
Mystical birthstone: Opal
Diamond is the zodiac stone for Aries March 21-April 20
Diamond is the 75th anniversary stone

A vintage diamond and platinum ring from the 1920′s

A vintage diamond and platinum ring from the 1920′s

Birthstones have long been associated with particular months of the year, as well as zodiac signs. In antiquity each gemstone was to be worn on a particular month, harking back to the connection between apostles and their virtues, as well as the twelve stones in Aaron’s breastplate mentioned in a passage in Exodus. In 1912 the American National Association of Jewelers set the birthstone list most referred to today, with a few changes made as recently as 2012. British Goldsmiths set their own list in 1932 adding a few specific colors and alternates that can be used each month. Tiffany’s published a poem from an unknown source in the late 1800’s with a gemstone proclaimed in each stanza by month,

She who from April dates her years,
Diamonds shall wear, lest bitter tears
For vain repentance flow; this stone,
Emblem of innocence is known.

Diamonds are said to strengthen and promote the healing ability of the body, guard the wearer from negative influences, and protect against the evil eye.  A stone representing innocence, purity and coolness.

Diamonds, named from the Greek word adamas meaning unbreakable, are at the top of the Mohs scale for hardness with a measurement of 10. Clear, flawless, colorless diamonds are the ideal for most jewelry, but diamonds are available in a range of colors: blue, yellow, brown, pink, and even black. Diamonds are durable, scratched only by other diamonds, making them suitable for everyday wear and tear. Diamonds are made of carbon, arranged in a diamond lattice, formed deep in the Earth’s mantle under enormous pressure and high temperatures. Moved to the surface in magma flows, diamonds are found in deposits of kimberlites and lamproites. Diamonds are mined in only a few locations, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Australia, India, Brazil, Russia and Canada. Small quantities of diamonds have been found in the United States, in Colorado, Arkansas, and Wyoming.  Much of the material mined is low quality, not suitable for gem cutting and is used in industrial applications, cutting wheels, grinding tools and diamond tipped drills, and abrasive powder.

Diamond beads are available but are often cost prohibitive and difficult to work with as the bead holes are extremely small. Good alternatives with the same crystal clear quality as diamond are white topaz and quartz crystal. Both have the shimmering brilliance and the durability to be worn daily. Use quartz and white topaz to add sparkle to your jewelry, brightening subtle designs with highly reflective faceted beads. Herkimer diamonds are double terminated quartz crystals, discovered in Herkimer County, New York  and are interesting stones as they emulate rough, uncut diamonds.

Unpolished quartz crystal beads.

Unpolished quartz crystal beads.

A polished quartz crystal pendant.

A polished quartz crystal pendant.

Quartz beads are available in many shapes.

Quartz beads are available in many shapes.

March’s Birthstone -Aquamarine


Aquamarine beads are so pretty!

Aquamarine gets its name from the Latin aqua marina, meaning water of the sea. Its watery, transparent blue-green color distinguishes it from the other colors of the gemstone beryl: emerald, golden beryl, heliodor, Morganite (named after financier JP Morgan), and the most rare red beryl. Aquamarine is mined in many locations around the world, including Russia, Pakistan, Brazil, Colombia, in the US, central Colorado, and several sites in Wyoming. The largest cut aquamarine gem is the Dom Pedro aquamarine. It is housed in the Smithsonian Institute of Natural History and is 14 inches tall by 4 inches wide. It was mined in Brazil in the1980’s. Master gem cutter, Bernd Munsteiner, spent nearly one year to study, cut, and polish the stone into an obelisk shape.

The Dom Pedro Aquamarine.

The Dom Pedro Aquamarine

Aquamarine is relatively high on the Mohs scale (7.5). It takes a fine polish and is a durable stone not prone to breaking. Beads made of aquamarine can be smooth, faceted, or tumbled for a pebble shape; matte surfaces are uncommon, but lovely. Inclusions in aquamarine cloud the clarity of the stone, but produce moss aquamarine, a greenish blue gray color.

Aquamarines are sacred to the god Neptune, Roman god of the sea; it was the protective stone for sailors, promising smooth sailing and profitable voyages. The Greeks wore amulets carved with Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, riding a chariot. Many years later aquamarine was also used for making glasses to correct shortsightedness.

Aquamarine can also be found in many of the royal jewels of Great Britain. We found a great sampling of the collection and an excellent blog posting from The Royal Universe about all things royal, including the jewels!

Crown Jewels

Crown Jewels from The Royal Collection

Aquamarine is said to cool the temper, soothing and promoting calm decision-making. It is reputed to calm the stomach, cure illnesses of the liver, jaw, and throat.

Using aquamarine in your jewelry-

Aquamarine’s cool blue works well with silver, for a dash of contrast try using oxidized silver or gunmetal findings.

Aquamarine mixes well with other ‘ocean’ gems, pearls, shell, and abalone; keeping the theme of water in the design.

Looking for good color matches with Aquamarine? Try other cool watery colors, aventurine, kyanite, green amethyst, quartz crystal even other beryls like Morganite and light colored emerald.

February’s Birthstone -Amethyst

amethystZodiac stone for Pisces
6th Wedding Anniversary stone

Best described as the Stone of Royalty, amethyst is the purple variation of quartz. The best quality beads are colored a deep purple with flashes of red. Mined around the world, amethyst specimens can be traced to a specific region and even the specific mine using its unique colors and inclusions. Mine locations include the USA, Russia, and Australia; while some of the finest examples come from Brazil and Zambia. Since it is so widespread, the cost of even a fine amethyst can be quite reasonable. Some heat treated amethyst stones turn golden or brown and are referred to as citrine, more intensely colored than natural citrine. A few specific mines produce rough material that when heated turns a leafy light green, the source of ‘green’ amethyst.

Since the color purple was rare and associated with royal garments, British monarchs claimed deeply colored amethyst for many crown jewels.  Ancient Greeks considered amethyst to have sobering powers, those drinking wine from an amethyst cup or wearing amethyst would not become intoxicated.  The Greek word ‘amethystos’ means sober, and is the origin of the name amethyst. In antiquity amethyst was often used in religious jewelry, amethyst was a symbol of spirituality and devotion.

Metaphysically speaking, amethyst is considered a calming stone, with a tranquil influence that brings peace to the wearer. It may help in overcoming addictive behavior, and act as a stabilizing influence.

Tips for using amethyst in your jewelry

Amethyst goes well with gold, the cool of purple with the warmth of gold is a good use of contrasting tones.

The purple of amethyst also works well with citrine, as they are similar in material and can be similar in density. Ametrine is a  blend of amethyst and citrine in one stone.

To increase the color richness of amethyst, use purple thread and knot between each bead.

Looking for beads to accent amethyst? Dark purple pearls, grey pearls, amber, yellow opal, quartz crystal, green garnet, and adventurine all are good candidates.

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