A Gemstone—also known as a precious stone or semi-precious stone—is a mineral or an organic material which is rare, valuable, durable and beautiful. Others—known as synthetics—are man-made but have very similar properties to natural gems.
Through the ages, various civilisations have set gemstones in jewellery and personal adornment; they have also been recognised by the ancients for their sacred, magical and healing properties. Found in Egyptian tombs and temples, the ancient Egyptians wore them as amulets and charms. Native Americans, Mayans and Aztecs all used gems in their ceremonies. In the Middle-Ages, gemstones were crushed into wine and administered as medicine.
Some cultures associate gemstones with zodiac signs, whilst others have been associated with different months of the year. This custom of wearing birthstones has spread throughout the world, but can be sourced back to Poland in the 18th Century.
This selection varies from country to country, and there may be more than one birthstone; however, below is a list of the most popular selection:
Guide of the Most Popular Gemstones:
Amber is fossilised resin of trees, and may contain insects, moss, lichen or pine needles trapped whilst the resin was still sticky, millions of years ago. Once referred to as ‘the gold of the north’, amber was one of the first used gemstones.
Colour: Most amber is golden-yellow to golden-orange, but can also be green, a reddish hue, violet, blue, and black.
Healing properties: Used to treat the kidneys and bladder, amber is also a stone of purification; it cleanses the body, mind and spirit, and is believed to draw disease out from body. It awakens the memories within us, and balances the right and left parts of the brain.
One of the most popular crystalline quartzes, Amethyst is found all over the world.
Colour: Ranges from light lavender to intense purple, and reddish-purple to a dark green. Some amethyst is heat-treated to change the colour to yellow.
Healing properties: Geek for ‘not drunken’, amethyst is well known as a guard against drunkenness. The stone symbolises tranquillity, peace and protection, and is believed to have many healing powers, such as balancing physical, emotional and mental aspects. It is also thought to give excellent relief against stress, anger and mood swings, and is also used as a cure for headaches and insomnia.
Latin for ‘seawater’, aquamarine is found in different parts of the world, although the best quality is found in Brazil.
Colour: Transparent, light blue or sea-green. Today, the most valued colours are sky-blue and dark blue, but in the past, sea-green stones were more valued. Heat-treatment is used to turn greenish stones bluer.
Healing properties: Aquamarine helps to calm the nerves and eases stress and tension. It is believed to be a good stone for strengthening the kidneys, liver, thyroid and throat, and is perceived as beneficial for boosting the immune system.
Named after the French word ‘citron’ (lemon), citrine is also known as yellow quartz. Natural citrine is rare, and many of the stones sold as citrine are actually heat-treated amethysts.
Colour: Citrine ranges from pale yellow to golden brown.
Healing properties: Known as stone of abundance and prosperity, citrine is also a superb brain and intellect stimulator promoting new ideas and creativity. An energy booster that benefits the kidneys, stomach and pancreas, citrine is also recognised as the stone of happiness, light, joy and enthusiasm, and makes the wearer feel good.
Coral is a create growing in colonies in the ocean—coral polyps—which form branching structures as they grow, building on the calcified skeletal remains of their dead. Nowadays, coral has become less popular owing to environmental laws controlling the harvesting of coral and protecting reefs from long-term damage.
Colour: Coral can be found in red, pink, white, blue, black and golden colours, although deep red coral is acknowledged as the most valuable.
Healing properties: Traditionally, coral used to be thought to protect children, so parents may still give coral as a gift to their young children. Coral is beneficial to the circulatory system, the lungs, digestion, tissue-regeneration, and is also known to be a guard against depression.
Mined all over the world on a massive scale, diamond is the hardest mineral on earth and the most highly prized of all gemstones.
Colour: Colourless diamond are the most popular, but they can be yellow, black, red, pink, orange, brown, blue, grey, purple and green. Of all the coloured diamonds, red diamonds are the rarest.
Healing properties: Known as the ‘king of crystals’, diamond is known to be the master healer. It is believed to clean negativity, purify the body and spirit, and clear the mind, and is also known to inspire innocence, perfection and purity.
Emeralds are very hard precious stones belonging to the beryl group of stones, and are very valuable. During the renaissance, emeralds were used as a test for friendship amongst the aristocracy; an emerald given to a friend would remain perfect as long as the friendship endured.
Colour: Bright green colour, but often oiled, irradiated and dyed to improve their look.
Healing properties: The ‘unconditional love’ stone is highly beneficial for eyesight and for healing all problems associated with the heart—whether physical or emotional. It is also highlighted as strengthening the liver, kidney and immune system, and vitalises the body and mind.
There are many types of garnet; it is a far more exiting and versatile stone than some may think.
Colour: Ranges in colour, but generally blue and deep red.
Healing properties: An excellent stone for blood disorders, it stimulates the circulation and strengthens the heart. The stone of love brings compassion, warmth, trust and honesty to a relationship.
Two different minerals are known as jade: jadeite and nephrite. Jadeite is the harder of the two; it is usually used in jewellery and for carvings, whilst nephrite is slightly softer and is usually used for carvings.
Colour: Jade occurs in a wide range of colours, including green, lilac, white, pink, brown, red, blue, black, orange and yellow. Translucent jade is more highly valued than opaque jade.
Healing properties: In China, jade has been mined for over 2,000 years for its medicinal properties; it was worn or ingested as a powder. Jade balances the nervous system, dispelling mood swings and calming anger and irritability. Jade is also said to be excellent for kidney problems, eye disorders, strengthening the heart and immune system, and is also recognised as increasing longevity and fertility.
One of the most popular stones on the market, Lapis lazuli was highly priced by the Ancients—the Egyptians used to refer to it as ‘the stone from heaven’. The best quality Lapis lazuli is sourced from Afghanistan, but can also be found in Argentina, Chile, USA, Canada, Russia and Burma. It often contains small gold or silver pyrite inclusions that run through the material or layers.
Colour: Lapis lazuli is an opaque rich blue stone, often dyed to deepen and improve its overall colour.
Healing properties: A night stone, it encourages visions and insights into our dreams. It is used to treat disorders of the throat, thyroid, neck, vocal cords, ears, chest and lungs, and also boosts the immune system and assists recovery.
Moonstone was very popular in Art Nouveau jewellery early on in the 20th Century. Stones of large size and good quality are rare.
Colour: Semi-translucent, transparent or milky, and often comprising a white or blue ‘schiller’. However, they can be colourless, yellow, orange, grey, or even reddish.
Healing properties: This is a Good Luck stone, but is also a feminine stone, which is recognised as easing period pains and assisting fertility and child-bearing. The stone is described as the ‘Mother of Earth’ stone, keeping emotions in balance.
Opal is found in many different locations worldwide. It is a hardened silica gel containing between 3% and 20% water. Notably, it can dry out and crack if it is not well cared for.
Colour: Opal ranges from clear through white, grey, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, magenta, rose, pink, slate, olive, brown, and black. Semi-translucent or milky opal often has a bluish white ‘schiller’, as moonstone. Some opals are treated with oil, wax or resin to enhance their finish.
Healing properties: Opal has therapeutic properties for diseases of the eye. The ‘Rainbow Stone’ is said to be the most useful in preventing bad health, strengthening the immune system and helping the body be form a resilience to infection. The stone also helps to stimulate originality, dynamic creativity, and encourages an interest in the arts.
Pearls are organic gems grown within shellfish—oysters and mussels especially—and are formed when a foreign object has made its way into the shell. Layers of nacre coats the intruding object to form a pearl, which is a process taking up to seven or eight years.
Colour: The colour varies from white, white with a hint of colour, such as pink or yellow, to brown or black.
Healing properties: Pearls are said to give the wearer a sense of calmness and centeredness, and to promote faith, loyalty, truth and purity. They can also enhance personal integrity.
A semi-precious stone, peridot has been mined for over 3,500 years. A good-quality peridot is very rare. Found on St. John’s Island (Egypt), China, Burma, Brazil, Hawaii, Arizona, Australia, South Africa and Norway.
Colour: Green shades, ranging from olive green to yellowish green or intense green.
Healing properties: Good overall tonic for the body and mind, cleans most organs and glands, and helps to release anger and guilt. It is an energising stone employed to banish exhaustion, laziness and stress.
Latin for ‘red’, ruby is considered one of the four precious stones together with the sapphire, the emerald and the diamond. Rubies are extremely hard stones; only diamonds are harder.
Colour: The colour ranges from pinkish–red to red. ‘Pigeon’s blood’ red, rubies is the most expensive.
Healing properties: Improves mental health, and is a superb tonic for the body and spirit that eliminates exhaustion. Excellent for the blood, it is also an emblem of affection, passion, power and majesty.
A precious stone, sapphires are highly valuable stones, found mainly in Asia.
Colour: Blue sapphires are the most highly prized, but it is also found in many other colours, such as white, pink, yellow, green, purple and orange. Sapphires are often heat-treated to improve their colour.
Healing properties: Depending on its colour, sapphire is considered to have different healing powers; however, generally, it is well known as the ‘loyalty stone’. Moreover, It helps the heart and the stomach. Blue sapphire is an excellent stone for the throat, thyroid and lungs.
Tanzanite was discovered southwest of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (hence the name) in 1967, but it can also be found in Kenya. It is a valuable, transparent stone, a type of zoisite-resembling sapphire.
Colour: Tanzanite is blue, purple or violet depending on the angle at which they are viewed. Green, yellowish brown, grey-green and bluish green Tanzanite have also been discovered, but the availability of this material is poor.
Healing properties: Tanzanite will bring back calm to a chaotic and busy life, and will restore balance. It has the power to transform negative energies into positive ones, and is also recognised as a great detoxifier for the body. It encourage recovery from severe illness, strengthens the immune system, regenerates cells, and treats the heart, spleen, pancreas, lungs, head, throat, chest and reduce inflammation.
Tiger’s eye is a variety of quartz, mined mainly in South Africa but is also found in Australia, Brazil, Burma, India, Namibia, Sri Lanka, and the USA.
Colour: This gemstone has stripes of yellow and brown colour; when viewed from the opposite direction, the colours are reversed. The colour ranges from brownish yellow, golden yellow, reddish brown and greenish to brown colours.
Healing properties: In the middle ages, this stone was worn to ward-off witchcraft; nowadays, tiger’s eye is recommended as a protective stone. In addition, it encourages mental clarity, builds self-confidence and courage, and allows us to see problems objectively.
Topaz is a relatively hard stone and therefore durable. Some topaz can contain gas bubble or liquid cavities, whilst other inclusions, such as cracks, can also occur.
Colour: Natural pink topaz is the most valuable but also rare. Most pink topaz is often heat-treated. However, topaz can be yellow, brown, blue, green or colourless; colours are often created by heat-treating and/or irradiating topaz.
Healing properties: Topaz is used to cure eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia and obesity, and is also a powerful aid for tissue-regeneration and strengthening almost any organ and the glands. Calming and tranquillising, this stone is also excellent for attracting people in both friendship and business.
There are many varieties of tourmalines, mainly found in Africa, Brazil, Pakistan, Russia and United States.
Colour: Tourmaline has the greatest colour range of any gemstone. The lighter colours are more valuable than the darker colours. Sometimes, tourmaline can have several colours in just one stone.
Healing properties: In its many colours, tourmaline offers a strong protective influence, and has many benefits for all of the body. In addition, it is acknowledged as a powerful healer of mental disorder.
Found all over the world, Turquoise has been mined from at least 6000 BC by early Egyptians. Markedly, it has played an important role in many cultures and traditions.
Colour: Turquoise in colour may vary from greenish-blue to sky-blue.
Healing properties: Turquoise is particularly good for the throat, helping to soothe and clear sore throats, and also purifies the lungs. The ‘ecologically friendly’ stone protects against all environmental pollutants. Turquoise is a powerful physical, emotional, mental and spiritual healer that regenerates the whole body.