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Birthstones And Gemstones Guide
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Birthstones come in a myriad different colors, character and they also vary greatly in caliber and stature. Birthstones in human history are mostly linked to months of the calendar but also have strong links to astrology, luck and religion.
According to some, gemstones have Talisman like properties and help ward off evil spirits and the suchlike. Others believe in the healing and preventative medicine powers of such gemstones as well as and including spiritual properties.
Whatever school of thought that you subscribe to, just about everyone believes in the natural beauty of gemstones especially in the form of jewelry. After all it can take hundreds of thousands of years for gemstones to form so their beauty should be appreciated just out of respect for mother nature if nothing else.
Birthstones: The Official Birth Stones List
When choosing a birthstone the picture becomes somewhat blurred and ambiguous. The American official birthstone list is as follows January: Garnet, February: Amethyst, March: Bloodstone/ Aquamarine, April: Diamond, May: Emerald, June: Pearl or moonstone, July: Ruby, August: Sardonyx or Peridot, September: Sapphire, October: Opal or Tourmaline, November: Topaz or Citrine, December: Turquoise or Zircon.
This list was established at the beginning of the C20th more for economic reasons than for historical, astrological or religious accuracy, but the choice for the consumer is rather limited when using the official list.
If you were ever disappointed with the choice of birthstone for your month or if you’re new to the concept of birthstones then you’re in for a treat. Some searches were undertaken to explore the vast and different interpretations of gemstones and related chronology and a list was devised.
Birthstones: How About Color?
Color isn’t really an issue because some gemstones are available in more than one color as you can see below. One gemstone in particular – Tourmaline – can appear with 2 or 3 different colors in the same stone! Opal can feature ALL the colors in one stone.
Birthstones: How about Durability / Hardness?
All gemstones are compared to each other using the Friedrich Moh’s Scale.
- 1 – Talc: easily scratched by the fingernail
- 2 – Gypsum: just scratched by the fingernail
- 3 – Calcite: scratches and is scratched by a copper coin
- 4 – Fluorite: not scratched by a copper coin
and does not scratch glass
- 5 – Apatite: just scratches glass and is easily scratched by a knife
- 6 – Orthoclase: easily scratches glass and is just scratched by a file
- 7 – Quartz (Amethyst, Citrine, Tiger’s Eye and Aventurine):
not scratched by a file
- 8 – Topaz
- 9 – Corundum (Sapphires & Rubies)
- 10 – Diamond: cuts glass, is scratched only by another diamond
This doesn’t tell the whole story because some forms of diamond can be 100 times harder than some corundum! Even so, most gemstones are found in the level 7 and up range although it should be remembered that Quartz is considerably softer than diamond.
Quartz and others of the quartz family make up the majority of popular gemstones, see list below: Citrine, Amethyst, Aventurine, Rose Quartz, Rock Crystal (clear), Chalcedony, Tigers Eye, Agate, Jasper, Bloodstone, Onyx, Sardonyx, Chrysoprase, Carnelian, Peridot.
The softer gems are the very soft amber (fossilized tree resin) and medium to soft opals which are formed into a hardened “gel” from solidified liquid silica. Also natural organic pearls are one of the softer variety of precious gems.
Birthstones: How About Treated / Enhanced Gemstones?
Perfect gemstones are pretty rare and therefore command huge premiums which leads to more imperfect jewels to be offered for sale at much cheaper prices. Mother nature rarely produces uniform colors or stones that are crack free and perfectly transparent.
This leads to man made improvements to some gemstones most notably in the form of color enhancement. Perhaps it would be wise to point out that the usual cutting and polishing of gems should not be viewed as enhancements to stones.
Over many centuries traditional practices (carried out at the source) of heating stones to enhance color, improve clarity and help fill surface cracks have developed into a more acceptable form of enhancement which all jewelers assume as satisfactory.
Porous gems have often even been soaked in clear and colored oils to achieve a better appearance and this is also seen as acceptable in the jewelry trade.
More recently resins and glass like fillers are commonly used. Other newer techniques even include coating, bleaching, irradiation and laser drilling! Whilst modern filling and treating practices are frowned upon, the treatments can still be durable though special care should be taken when cleaning such gems.
The difficulty is knowing how to spot unfavorably treated gems, especially if a jeweler doesn’t disclose all the facts. Because of the high value of even smallish diamonds there is a system of grading and certification in place that protects retailers and consumers alike.
The thing you’ll always need to remember is that sapphires, rubies and emeralds have often been traditionally heat enhanced at source and should not pose a problem as it’s a permanent treatment that will last for the lifetime of the gem.
A perfect and expensive gem will always be pointed out by a jeweler whilst discount gems may not be discount but more likely enhanced for saleability – you always get what you pay for!
Birthstones: How About Fakes / Imitations?
Cubic Zirconia makes a good substitute for quartz, topaz and corrundum as it’s hardness properties are very similar. The problem is that cubic zirconia is “too perfect” and somewhat characterless but by contrast it’s very affordable. Cubic Zirconia doesn’t make a good diamond substitute as such, mainly because it’s no where near as hard.
Even so, it does have very similar optical properties provided that it has been cut as near like a brilliant diamond as is possible. Many Jewelers are unable to tell the difference between such stones without the aid of special equipment!
The biggest headache is avoiding buying an cubic zirconia that’s advertised as a natural gemstone! So always choose a reputable jeweler. Alternatively CZ jewelry might be a safer and affordable option.
Birthstones: How About Putting It All Into Perspective?
Birthstones have many interpretations and classifications.
The official birthstones list is only a general guide and you should not have to limit your choices.
Some birthstones have different color combination and variations.
Different variations of Quartz make up the majority of gemstones.
No gemstone is as hard or valuable as diamond although most are found in the 7 to 10 levels on the Moh’s scale.
Perfect gemstones are very rare and command very high prices.
Gemstones are often enhanced although be aware of more modern practices of filling, irradiation, laser drilling and bleaching.
Cubic Zirconia is comparable in hardness to many gemstones but can be a little “too perfect” as a replacement gemstone although affordability and safe buying are pretty much guaranteed.