Birthstones Part 2

Birthstones Part 2

Written by Alice Rochester on 18 July 2013

As I wrote in my previous article, I'm over half way through my own pregnancy, and have been thinking about eternity rings. This is part two in a series of three exploring birthstones- what they are, their meanings, and how they can be used in jewellery...

May- emerald or sapphire
Emerald is a beautiful, almost traffic light green gem, but it is so fragile it is one I generally suggest people avoid using in a ring which is likely to take a bit of a battering. It is much safer in a pendant or a pair of earrings!! That said, it is still popular...

Emeralds are in the beryl family, along with aquamarine and the lesser-known morganite. They tend to be a naturally rather misty stone, and this combined with their fragility means that if you are looking for a very clear emerald in a large size you can expect to pay more than you would for a diamond! Smaller sizes are slightly less scary, but they can still be relatively pricy. If you really want to use them in small sizes in an eternity ring, do think about keeping them well protected at the front of the ring and using round stones rather than square as corners can be particularly fragile. (The emerald cut pattern was designed specifically for this stone, using fewer facets and trimming the corners to give the classic, elongated octagonal shape that works so well in Art Deco designs.) Emeralds are often put in yellow gold, where the vibrant green is incredibly striking, but people are increasingly using it with white metals for a more subtle and modern look.

Among other things, emeralds are supposed to bestow wisdom and patience on the wearer, as well as fidelity and honesty. They have been the favourite gemstones of the rich and famous since Cleopatra, and have been owned by all sorts of people like Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and our very own Queen Elizabeth.

For sapphire information, see September's entry in the next article!

June- pearl or alexandrite
Pearls are a gorgeous gem which grows in the shell of a mollusc- generally an oyster if it has grown in saltwater or a mussel in fresh water. It occurs when the mollusc creates a layer of pearl around an irritant in the shell. Layers are built up over time, and as such large, natural pearls are rare, particularly if they are perfectly spherical. Pearls can be deliberately man made by introducing an irritant to the mollusc for the layers to form around, which means good, round shapes are possible, as well as more complex ones- pearls have even been grown in the shape of Buddha! The more numerous & finer the layers, the finer the warm glow (known as lustre) that pearls are so prized for.

Pearl is made of calcium carbonate, which is very soft, and therefore very susceptible to damage from knocks and scrapes. As such, I don't recommend them for use in rings- particularly because their rounded shape can mean they stick up further from the finger. It also is liable to dry out, so you should keep pearls away from heat sources (don't leave them on a sunny window sill or on a shelf above a radiator!) as well as alcohol, which of course is found in perfume & hairspray. Make sure you put your pearls on after everything has dried properly as otherwise you will loose the gorgeous iridescent lustre.

Pearls are considered lucky by some and unlucky by others... Probably because someone somewhere has had a piece of special pearl jewellery which has been damaged. It is reported to bring health, wealth and longevity, and is often seen as symbolic of the moon and therefore femininity.

Alexandrite is a beautiful pearl alternative if you would like to set birthstones flush into a ring. It's not terribly well know in the uk, which I think is because its beautiful colour-change properties don't work so well in the light here!! If it is viewed in natural sunlight or fluorescent light, a good crystal will be seen as a green or greeny blue, but when seen in the light of a normal indoor light bulb, then the crystal will appear red/pink through to purple. A good red/green colour change is incredibly rare and stones in smaller sizes are less likely to exhibit good colour change.

The stone is named for the Tsar Alexander II and since red and green were the colours of imperial Russia it has been collected by the Russian royal family ever since.

Alexandrite is said to sharpen intuition and creativity. It is said to bring luck and prosperity and to enhance feelings of love... In fact it has even been used in love potions!

July- ruby
Ruby is the deep pink/red variety of the corundum family; sapphire is also corundum and as such it's difficult to draw a line where the name of a gem crosses from ruby to pink sapphire. It is a nice, relatively hard-wearing gem, and measures 9 on Moh's scale of hardness, making it very popular in jewellery, such as Ruby engagement rings. They are naturally quite included, and as such have a long history of treatment to enhance colour and / or clarity. A big, naturally clear ruby can be exceptionally pricy but smaller pieces are much less scary!

Rubies have been associated with love, strength, courage and enthusiasm. The deep red gemstone has been used by royal families across the world, and combined with yellow gold (even in small sizes) it does have a very rich, regal quality. I love using ruby with rose gold as the pinky tones work so well together and give jewellery a warm feel which is a bit more subtle than the more extreme contrast with yellow gold. White metals also look beautiful with ruby, with the colder tones emphasising the deep reds and pinks, especially if used alongside diamonds.

August- peridot
Peridot is a stone which varies in tone from pale spring greens, through to limes and olive. They can be very subtle or incredibly vibrant, with the exact colour depending on the amount of iron present in the gem.

Peridot has been used in ancient Egyptian jewellery and by the Romans but its use was rekindled in the 1900s with new discoveries of deposits of particularly fine specimens of the gem. Nice gem material can be found in quite large sizes, so if you're looking for something with a bit of drama without breaking the bank this can be a great stone to go for. It only measures 6.5-7 on Moh's scale of hardness, however it wears better than other stones which rate more highly on the scale. Other than being kept clean with a bit of washing up liquid and warm water it doesn't need any special care... This alone will keep it twinkling gently.

Peridot looks great with yellow gold and the creamy tones of 9ct white gold as they echo the golden lights in the stone. If the stone is very pale, however, it can blend into the 9ct white gold and may appear to wash the colour out.

Peridot is reported to be a calming stone, and is supposed to bring success and luck to the wearer. Gems that were found in volcanic ash were thought to be the tears of Pele, the goddess of the volcano.

Next time… September to December