Amethyst, the purple variety of quartz, derives its name from the Greek word Amethystos, meaning sober. The ancient Greeks and Romans associated amethyst with Bacchus, the god of wine and some even suggested amethyst prevented drunkenness.
The stone has been a favorite of Royalty throughout history; it was once even considered of equal value to emeralds and sapphires. Amethyst was used to adorn Britain’s crown jewels, and was cherished by famous figures including Cleopatra. Legends say that amethyst keeps its “wearer clear-headed and quick-witted in battle and in business affairs.”
Aquamarine, a stone whose name is rooted in the Latin word for seawater, was beloved by the Egyptians, the Sumerians, the Hebrews and countless societies of the present.
The Greeks and Romans were enamored with aquamarine, calling it a “sailor’s gem” thought to ensure safe passage of the seas. The stone was said to increase the wearer’s ability to think clearly, make quick decisions and be courageous.
Red coral is the most valuable form of coral, and has been used in jewelry for 30,000 years. Ancient civilizations treasured the organic gem, which is actually the external skeleton formed by coral polyps.
The Ancient Greeks carried coral amulets to deter ghosts, deflect lighting and avert shipwrecks while the Ancient Romans believed the gem could treat snakebites, and draped coral around children’s neck as protective amulets.
Diamonds have been treasured by civilizations for centuries and are the hardest gems in existence, formed deep within the earth under extreme heat and pressure.
Diamonds were thought by the Ancient Greeks and Romans to be the tears of gods or splinters of falling stars. It was common practice to wear diamond rings among the ancient Romans. Wearing a diamond was supposed to function as a protective amulet due to diamond’s immense strength. Uncut diamonds were used for these amulets, and cutting a diamond was thought to destroy its protective properties.
Emerald’s rich history and unique glowing green make it one of the most coveted members of the beryl family. The world’s first known emerald mines were in Egypt, where Cleopatra was known for her love of emeralds. Mummies in Ancient Egypt were often buried with carved emeralds that symbolized eternal youth.
Ancient Romans associated emeralds with Venus, the Roman goddess of love, while the Greeks wore emeralds in association with Aphrodite, their own love goddess. These empires identified emeralds as symbols of fertility, love and beauty. Legends say they have the power to “make the wearer more intelligent and quick witted.”
Iolite is a violet blue gemstone with a name derived from the Greek word “ios,” meaning violet. Legends say iolite was once called the Viking Compass Stone. Thin slices of iolite were used to shield eyes from the rays of the sun, and it was also used as an aid in navigating the seas.
Talismans of iolite have been used for centuries with the hope that the stone could help you find your way home, promote clear vision, aid sleep and unlock creativity.
Lapis lazuli, the royal blue gemstone often sprinkled with calcite and pyrite, is believed to have a history of use in jewelry over 6,000 years old, and was prized by many ancient civilizations.
Lapis was used by the Egyptians and Babylonians for amulets to protect against the evil eye. Egyptians were known to use lapis pigment to create cosmetics, and Renaissance painters used ground lapis as pigment in ultamarine, a striking blue paint color utilized to adorn cathedral paintings because of its unrivaled brightness.
Moonstone, a variety of feldspar with a phenomenon that looks like a billowy blue cloud, has been treasured since ancient times. Its internal structure scatters light that enters it, creating a phenomenon called adularescence.
The Ancient Romans believed moonstone was formed from frozen moonlight, and thought the stone could serve as an aphrodisiac; when worn by a couple, the two would fall passionately in love when the moon was high. Ancient Asian cultures used moonstones as good luck charms and believed they were a cure for insomnia. The stone is also known to promote calmness and stabilize the emotions.
Paraíba tourmaline’s striking neon blues and greens are extremely rare, and hail from Paraíba, Brazil and parts of Africa. In the 1980s, after specs of electric blue tourmaline were found in rock samples, a Brazilian prospector went on a 7-year mining quest to find the stone, and eventually released it to the market in the 1990s.
Paraíba tourmalines are said to bring wisdom and healing to the wearer.
Pearls have been treasured as symbols of wealth and status for thousands of years, beloved by both Royals and the wealthy classes of Asia and Europe.
Natural pearls form as the result of an irritant within the body of a mollusk, while cultured pearls are formed by the insertion of a bead or piece of tissue; the mollusk then coats the irritant with layers of nacre, an iridescent material, eventually forming a pearl.
The ancient Chinese believed pearls were the result of the tears of mythical creatures like mermaids, and Polynesian lore has it that a god traveled to earth on a rainbow where he presented gifts of black pearls infused with the colors of the rainbow to their princess. Pearls are thought to bring wisdom, luck, and prosperity to the wearer.
Rock Crystal Quartz
Rock crystal, the transparent colorless variety of quartz, derives its name from the Greek word krystallos, meaning ice. The Romans believed quartz was ice that was permanently frozen, and would carve spheres or rings out of the stones in order to emit a cooling effect during warmer months.
Rock crystal has been a popular carving material since ancient times in parts of Egypt and the Middle East. It was also extremely popular for carvings during the Victorian and Art Deco periods.
Rubellite is a variety of tourmaline with dark, saturated pink and red colors, and is the most prized of all tourmaline colors. Rubellite was historically confused with other gemstones; before gemology and mineralogy, all red gemstones were considered rubies, leading to a number of historical errors.
Stones in Russian crown jewels thought to be rubies were eventually revealed as rubellites, and even a stone gifted to Cleopatra was eventually revealed to be a Burmese rubellite.
Tourmalines are believed to inspire artistic inspiration and intuition, and were used as trusted talismans by artists and writers throughout history.
Sapphire, the variety of corundum that consists of any color besides ruby’s red, is most notably known for its royal blue color against which all other blue gems are measured.
Historically, sapphires have been associated with romance and royalty, as solidified when Lady Diana Spencer received her sapphire engagement ring from Prince Charles in 1981. Ancient Persians believed the sky was painted blue by the reflections of Sapphires, while the kings and queens of ancient Rome and Greece believed blue Sapphires protected the wearer from harm.
Spessartine garnet, the fiery orange member of the garnet family also known as the Mandarin garnet, derives its name from the area of its discovery in the Spessart district of Bavaria, Germany.
Spessartine garnet was long known exclusively as a collector’s stone due to its rarity, but became more widely available in the 1990s (it’s still uncommon in comparison to its red garnet relatives). The use of garnets in jewelry can be traced back to ancient times; garnets were widely traded in Ancient Rome where carved garnets were set into rings and used as a wax seal, and were worn by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Celtic kings believed garnets could protect the wearer from harm, while Native Americans believed that garnets had the power to shield the wearer from injury or poison.
A recent discovery in the world of gemstones, the rich blue- to violet-colored Tanzanite was first found in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro by a Masai tribesman in Merlani, Tanzania in 1967.
It was assumed a new sapphire deposit had been discovered, but instead the deposit was home to a new gem. Tiffany & Co. became the gem’s main distributor and named the gem variety Tanzanite after its origin. Tiffany & Co.’s heavy use of Tanzanites in their jewelry and aggressive promotion of the stone created a gem which over the years has rivaled sapphires, rubies and emeralds in popularity.
Tanzanite is said to bring profound wisdom and promote introspection.
Turquoise, the electric-blue stone that has been prized for centuries, derives its name from the French expression pierre tourques, or “Turkish Stone.” The use of turquoise in jewelry can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians over 5,500 years ago, while Chinese craftsmen were carving it over 3,000 years ago.
Native American tribes in the southwestern US used turquoise in jewelry as amulets. The Apaches even believed a piece of turquoise attached to a bow increased a warrior’s accuracy. Turquoise has long been considered an amulet to protect from evil and provide good fortune.