Throughout human history precious stones have been linked with power and romance. From the great diamonds of India to modern day jewelry, saying it with flowers is all very well, but saying it with gemstones is often better received. Diamonds, in particular, have been linked with love and romance, having been popular stones for engagement rings since the 15th century in Europe. Prior to this they were often part of dowries, in many cultures across the world and were seen as the original and best form of lightweight, portable wealth. Traditionally men have given diamonds to their intended brides and those brides have, for millennia, well understood the sentiment behind Marilyn Monroe’s modern day song. Diamonds are certainly a girl’s best friend, but other gemstones won’t go amiss either! For those looking for a gift that says a little bit more, here are some of the most popular precious stones.
Emeralds; The Fragile Stone
These green gemstones are among the most fragile of the four ‘biggies’. The name itself simply means “green stone”; the green in question is unique in the world of gemstones. Diamonds come in a range of colors including green, but the unique chemical formation of emeralds offers the most vibrant version. The color of the stone is the main factor in determining the cost of an emerald and the darker green is generally considered the better. Often featuring small flaws, it is not uncommon for resin to be used to delicately fill tiny cracks. Unlike other gemstones, flaws or inclusions (to give them their professional name) are normally tolerated in emeralds as they are extremely common. The traditional cut is square or rectangular, although other shapes and designs are becoming common. For the romantic among us, the emerald is often given as a twentieth anniversary stone and is the birthstone for those born in May. Seen as a symbol of longevity, health and fertility, the emerald is the perfect stone for eternity rings.
Sapphire; Blue on Occasion
After the diamond, sapphires are the second hardest of precious stone. Formed from the same mineral as Rubies (corundum) the sapphire can be found in a range of colors. Only red corundum is known as the ruby, while other colors, including the famous blue, are known as sapphires. The most common variations in color include the ‘colorless’ although these all have some hint of color, yellow sapphires, purple sapphires and a blue green coloring. Purple sapphires are especially rare and have, so far, only been located in regions of Sri Lanka and Tanzania. One of the rarest colors is a faint pink/orange hue; again, these stones are found in Sri Lanka and are known as the Padparadscha, meaning “Lotus flower”. Naturally, the most popular sapphires are the rich, sparkling blues which everyone associates with the word! Values vary for sapphires and value is often determined by the quality of the color. Blue sapphire is prized in the clear mid-tone ranges, dark or light variations being less expensive. Often cut in ovals or rounded forms, the latter is often the more expensive cut. Although sapphires may include ‘inclusions’ or flaws, these are normally not visible to the naked eye. In many cultures sapphires have been believed to hold magical and curative powers and to be ‘calming’ stones. They are the birthstones of those born in September and are strongly associated with good health.
Rubies; the other Sapphire
The sister stone to Sapphire technically rubies are, in fact, sapphires. However, they are the only one of this family that attracts its own name, being the distinctive rich red. Like diamonds, rubies are an exceptionally hard gemstone; in terms of rarity the largest rubies are far rarer than large diamonds, making them out of the reach of most people. Historically, they have been found in the jewelry and insignia of royalty as a symbol of wealth. In modern jewelry they are often found cut in a square shape and inclusions or flaws are not uncommon. The clarity of a ruby (unlike sapphires of other colors) is not considered a major consideration in the value as they are common. The color, the rich blood red variety in particular, is where the value lies. Due to the nature of the stone, the color can change depending on which direction the stone is viewed from. When buying rubies the color is the first and most important consideration. The favored stone of kings in ancient Hindu cultures, the ruby remains a much sought after gemstone across the robe. A symbol of vitality and luck in many cultures, the ruby is the birthstone of those born in July.
Despite being largely associated with wealth and power, gemstones such as ruby, sapphire and emeralds are widely available. Often a matter of taste and choice, finding the right stone can be a very personal thing.