Last month we talked about the history and background of birthstones and that sometimes there is more than one in a month, December is just such a case with Turquoise, Zircon and recently added Tanzanite, although we are only focusing on the oldest known of the three (Turquoise).
Turquoise Turquoise is considered by some to be a symbol of good fortune and success, believed to bring prosperity to its wearer. Â To geologists though turquoise is known as â€œcopper aluminum phosphateâ€ â€“ though good fortune and success sounds much better!Â Turquoise is usually developed in rock near water tables, located in arid evirons and formed through chemical leaching out of adjacent rocks by rain and groundwater.
This stone can be found in Armenia, Kazakhstan, China, Australia, Tibet, China, Mexico, Brazil, and Egypt. In Iran, where some of the best stones are found, turquoise is the national gem. The American southwest-Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and California-are primary producers of turquoise.
Its name is believed to originate from the French phrase â€œpierre turquoiseâ€ meaning â€œTurkish stoneâ€ because turquoise was brought to Europe by Venetian merchants who first acquired it in Turkish bazaars. It is also considered by some as a love charm. When received as a gift, the turquoise symbolizes a pledge of affection. Shakespeare used this lore in â€œThe Merchant of Veniceâ€™. In it, Leah gave a turquoise ring to Shylock when he was a bachelor, hoping it would win his affections so he would ask her to marry him. In Russia, the turquoise is popularly used in wedding rings.
Turquoise is one of the earliest known stones referenced in history as having been used to make jewelry. Â It was particularly popular with the Pharaohs of Early Egypt. Four turquoise bracelets were found on the arm of Queen Zer who ruled in 5500 B.C. when her tomb was excavated in 1900.Â Turquoise amulets inscribed with the Koran and proverbs were highly valued in the 7th century A.D.Â Â Turquoise was highly popular in the American southwest where Native Americans have been using it to make jewelry and other piece for thousands of years.
Many superstitions surround this stone â€“ from protecting owners from falling off their horse to revealing whether your wife was faithful or not.Â The Navajo believed that prayer to the rain god and throwing turquoise pieces into a river would bring rain. Apache lore held that a turquoise attached to a bow or gun would ensure accurate aim. Throughout history, these relatively soft gems, prized for their color, have continued to be used, whether for their beauty or for their supposed magical properties.
June counts three gems as birthstones – Pearl, Moonstone, and Alexandrite. People born under the Gemini sign are privileged to have such a range of gemstones to choose from and should be able to find one that suits their own personal style. The pearl is also the 3rd and the 30th anniversary gemstone, while the Alexandrite is the 55th anniversary gemstone.
The birthstone most commonly associated with June is the Pearl. Unlike most gemstones that are found within the Earth, pearls have an organic origin. They are created inside the shells of certain species of oysters and clams. Pearls are made mostly of aragonite, a relatively soft (2.5 to 4.5 on Moh’s scale of hardness) carbonate mineral (CaCO3) that also makes up the shells of mollusks. Care should be taken with all pearls as they can be easily damaged. Since they are mostly calcium carbonate they are susceptible to weak acids and can be dissolved with vinegar even. Pearls come in a wide array of colors, with white or cream being the most common. Some pearls are found naturally in mollusks that inhabit the sea or freshwater settings such as rivers. However, many pearls today are cultured, raised in oyster farms that sustain a thriving pearl industry.
A pearl is created when a very small fragment of rock, a sand grain, or a parasite enters the mollusk’s shell. It irritates the oyster or clam, who responds by coating the foreign material with layer upon layer of nacre, the iridescent shell material. Pearls formed on the inside of the shell are usually irregular in shape and have little commercial value. However, those formed within the tissue of the mollusk are either spherical or pear-shaped, and are highly sought out for jewelry. Fine quality natural pearls are very rare and as such are highly prized and can be pricey. A good alternative to natural pearls are cultured pearls. Cultured pearls are created the same way as natural pearls except that the foreign substance (usually a bead or a piece of tissue) is deliberately placed in the mollusk. This process typically takes between 2 and 7 years to produce a pearl. The only way to tell a cultured from a natural pearl is through x-ray to reveal its internal structure. There are also quite a few fake/imitation pearls in the market that are simply made of mother of pearl or conch shell, or even of glass that is coated with an iridescent solution containing fish scales. Imitation pearls do initially look the part, but they do not have the same weight or smoothness, and their luster will dim greatly too. It is fairly easy, at least most of the time, to tell fake from natural or cultured pearls by simply rubbing the pearl against your teeth or against each other. A fake pearl will be smooth, and real pearls will feel somewhat rough or gritty.
Pearls possess a uniquely delicate translucence and luster that place them among the most highly valued of gemstones. The color of the pearl depends very much on the species of mollusk that produced it, and its environment. White is perhaps the best-known and most common color. However, pearls also come in delicate shades of black, cream, gray, blue, yellow, lavender, green, and mauve. Tahitian pearls (also called black pearls but are very rarely black), are found in the waters around the French Polynesian islands. Black pearls can also be found in the Gulf of Mexico and can be identified from the Tahitian pearls since they fluoresce somewhat red under ultraviolet light. The Persian Gulf and Sri Lanka are well-known for exquisite cream-colored pearls called Orientals. Other localities for natural seawater pearls include the waters off the Celebes in Indonesia, the Gulf of California, and the Pacific coast of Mexico. The Mississippi River and forest streams of Bavaria, Germany, contain pearl-producing freshwater mussels. Japan is famous for its cultured pearls. Cultured pearl industries are also carried out in Australia and equatorial islands of the Pacific. Some of the tradenames used for the cultured pearls are the Akoya (named for a variety of mollusk used), black Tahitian, and white or golden South Sea pearls. A controversial pearl, the Keshi (sometimes incorrectly spelled Keishi) pearl, is actually considered a bi-product of cultured pearl farming and is a “pearl” created without a nucleus. The controversy is based on arguments between scientists about whether these are natural or cultured. These pearls are never round, but have a beautiful luster as they are made of up of many layers of the iridescent nacre material. They can be any color of the mollusk shell material.
The largest pearl in the world is believed to be about three inches long and two inches across, weighing one-third of a pound. Called the Pearl of Asia, it was a gift from Shah Jahan of India to his favorite wife, Mumtaz, for whom he also built the Taj Mahal.
La Peregrina (the Wanderer) is considered by many experts to be the most beautiful pearl. It was said to be originally found by a slave in Panama in the 1500s, who gave it up in return for his freedom. In 1570, the conquistador ruler of the area sent the pearl to King Philip II of Spain. This pear-shaped white pearl, one and a half inches in length (50-56 carats), hangs from a platinum mount studded with diamonds. The pearl was passed to Mary I of England, then to Prince Louis Napoleon of France. He sold it to the British Marquis of Abercorn, whose family kept the pearl until 1969, when they offered it for sale at Sotheby’s. Actor Richard Burton bought it for his wife, Elizabeth Taylor. In 2011 it sold for $11.8 million.
Matched natural pearls are very rare, the Baroda Pearls, once part of the Maharaja of Baroda’s necklace are a double strand of 68 pearls that sold for $7 million in 2007.
Pearls, according to South Asian mythology, were dewdrops from heaven that fell into the sea. They were caught by shellfish under the first rays of the rising sun, during a period of full moon. In India, warriors encrusted their swords with pearls to symbolize the tears and sorrow that a sword brings. Pearls were also widely used as medicine in Europe until the 17th century. Arabs and Persians believed it was a cure for various kinds of diseases, including insanity. Pearls have also been used as medicine as early as 2000 BC in China, where they were believed to represent wealth, power and longevity. Even to this day, lowest-grade pearls are ground for use as medicine in Asia. It is no wonder that they are considered to represent health and longevity, since the pearl is created by creating layer upon layer of nacre covering the threat of the foreign body to the mollusk.
Pearls are truly fascinating, but unless you want a book about them I better stop here !
Moonstone is another of June’s birthstones. Moonstones are believed to be named for the visual effect or sheen, that when held up to light project an enchanting silvery play of color /light very much like moonlight. It truly is a wondrous and mysterious stone, when the stone is moved back and forth, the brilliant rays appear to move about, much like moonbeams playing over water. It happens to be one of my favorite stones to just site and play with in the light as no two seem to be exactly alike.
This gemstone belongs to the family of minerals called feldspars, an important group of silicate minerals commonly formed in rocks. About half the Earth’s crust is composed of feldspar. This mineral occurs in many igneous and metamorphic rocks, and also constitutes a large percentage of soils and marine clays.
Rare geologic conditions produce gem varieties of feldspar such as moonstone, labradorite, amazonite, and sunstone. They appear as large clean mineral grains, found in pegmatites (coarse-grained igneous rock) and ancient deep crustal rocks. Feldspars of gem quality are aluminosilicates (minerals containing aluminum, silicon and oxygen), that are mixed with sodium and potassium. The stones are relatively hard at 6.0 on Mohs scale of hardness. The best moonstones are from Sri Lanka. They are also found in the Alps, Madagascar, Myanmar (Burma), and India. The Sri Lanka moonstones shimmer a pale blue and are almost transparent, while the ones found in India have a more nebulous play of light and shadow on backgrounds of beige, brown, or even green or orange.
The ancient Roman natural historian, Pliny, said that the moonstone changed in appearance with the phases of the moon, a belief that persisted until the sixteenth century. The Romans and the Greeks associated this stone with lunar deities. The ancient Romans believed that the image of Diana, goddess of the moon, was enclosed within the stone. Moonstones were believed to have the power to bring victory, health, and wisdom to those who wore it. It is also known as the Travelers Stone for the protection it gives the wearer, especially at night. As such, these were also thought to give protection for those while on shamanistic journeys.
In India, the moonstone is considered a sacred stone and often displayed on a yellow cloth – yellow being considered a sacred color. The stone is believed to bring good fortune, brought on by a spirit that lives within the stone and is a traditional wedding gift.
In more recent history the stone became popular during the Art Nouveau period. The moonstone was used in an inordinately large number of pieces crafted by the famous goldsmith Rene Lalique.
June’s third birthstone is the alexandrite, as well as it being the stone for 55th anniversaries. Alexandrite is a highly sought after variety of Chrysoberyl that possesses an enchanting chameleon-like coloring. In daylight, it appears as a beautiful green, sometimes with a bluish cast or a brownish tint. However, under artificial lighting, the stone turns reddish-violet or violet. The duality of this stone matches those born under the Gemini sign perfectly.
As mentioned, the Alexandrite belongs to the Chrysoberyl family, a mineral called beryllium aluminum oxide in chemistry jargon that contains the elements beryllium, aluminum and oxygen. It is a relatively hard mineral (about 8.5 out of 10 on Moh’s hardness scale), only surpassed in hardness by diamonds and corundum (sapphires and rubies). The unusual colors in alexandrite are attributed to the presence of slight impurities of the metal chromium. Chrysoberyl is found to crystallize in pegmatites (very coarse-grained igneous rock, crystallized from magma) rich in beryllium. They are also found in alluvial deposits – weathered pegmatites, containing the gemstones, which are carried by rivers and streams.
Alexandrite is an uncommon stone, and therefore very expensive. They were first discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia, but the Russian deposits have long been exhausted and it is very rare to find any from Russia. Sri Lanka is the main source of alexandrite today, and the stones have also been found in Brazil, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Myanmar (Burma). Synthetic alexandrite, resembling a reddish-hued amethyst with a tinge of green, has been manufactured but the color change seen from natural to artificial lighting cannot be reproduced. However, laboratory grown Alexandrite does exhibit color changes with a wide variety of green to purple and blue to purple color-changes. Natural Alexandrite is so rare and expensive they have likely been seen by very few people. These lab-grown specimens make them very affordable though.
The stone is named after Prince Alexander of Russia, who was to become Czar Alexander II in 1855. Discovered in 1839, rumored to be on the prince’s birthday, Alexandrite was found in an emerald mine in the Ural Mountains of Russia. The story is that while mining an Emerald mine, the miners brought the stones out in the sunlight and found one that was red. But in the morning when they awoke it was green again, so they realized they had a new type of gemstone on their hands. It became very popular then and was soon played out in Russia. America’s Tiffany Company did much to popularize the gemstone, when Tiffany’s master gem buyer George Kunz fell in love with the stone.
Because it is a relatively recent discovery in the 19th century, there has not been much time for it develop the typical myths and superstitions surrounding this gemstone. In Russia, the stone was also popular because it reflected the Russian national colors, green and red, and was believed to be a good omen.
American Gem Society: https://www.americangemsociety.org/en/june-birthstones
MAY BIRTHSTONE – EMERALD
May’s birthstone is the Emerald – the stone traditionally associated with fertility, love and rebirth. Besides being May’s birthstone, it is also considered the anniversary stone for years 20, 35 and 55.
May’s birthstone, the emerald, is a type of beryl, a six-sided crystal (beryllium aluminum silicate). Beryl consists of four elements: beryllium, aluminum, silicon, and oxygen, with the color derived by chromium and sometimes by trace amounts of vanadium. The beryl family of minerals include aquamarine (one of March’s birthstones), heliodor, and morganite. Emeralds vary in color from light to deep green, but can lose its color when heated. Emeralds are frequently found inside a form of shale, which is a fine-grained sedimentary rock. The type of shale where Emeralds are found has undergone some recrystallization that’s caused by changes in pressure and temperature. In the 1960s, the American jewelry industry changed the definition of emeralds to include the green-vanadium bearing emeralds, and as such some emeralds purchased in the United States is not recognized in the United Kingdom or Europe. The “new’ vanadium emeralds are sometimes termed as “Columbian Emeralds”, which can be confusing.
Colombia produces the largest and highest quality emeralds, with Zambia second. In antiquity they were mined in Egypt since before 1500 BCE. They were also discovered, and subsequently mined, in the Ural Mountains of Russia around 1830. In the United States, emeralds can be found in North Carolina, South Carolina, Nevada, Connecticut, Montana and Nevada. Around the world, they also occur in Brazil, Pakistan, Norway, Austria, India, Madagascar, and Australia. Large quantities of emeralds were taken from the Peruvians by the conquistadors during their invasion of South America, but the source of the emeralds was not discovered. In 1537, the Spaniards found Chivor in Colombia, now the location of an important emerald mine. They also took over the Muzo mine following the defeat of the Muzo Indians. Mining operations at Muzo have continued almost uninterrupted since the Spanish invasion, and is said to produce the world’s best emeralds and is probably the most famous emerald mine in Colombia.
Emeralds are relatively hard; beryls generally have a hardness that ranges between 7.5 – 8 on the Moh’s scale of hardness. Although they are generally hard, Emeralds typically have lots of inclusions (pieces or pockets of other minerals), which make them more susceptible to breakage. Finding emeralds with a high level of clarity or few inclusions is much rarer than diamonds, which is why they are so highly prized, and unlike diamonds emerald clarity is graded by the eye alone. If it has no visible inclusions, then it is considered flawless. Perfect emeralds are among the rarest of gemstones. Most emeralds are oiled in the post-lapidary process to improve the clarity and stability of the stone, but makes the emerald worth much less than if it was untreated. If purchasing an expensive emerald, you might do well to insist upon a treatment report from a reputable laboratory.
Manufacture of synthetic emeralds was first achieved before World War II by German chemists. Shortly after that in 1946, the Unite States began growing synthetic stones of fine quality. There are also excellent imitation emeralds on the market made of colored cut glass. If you see stones or jewelry with emeralds that are clear and of a cheap or reasonable price, it is likely cut glass or synthetic at best.
Several famous historical artifacts were made of emeralds. Among them is the Crown of the Andes, said to be made from emeralds worn by Atahualpa, the last Inca (king) of Peru. The crown is set with about 450 emeralds, collectively weighing 10 ounces (1523 carats).
The word "emerald" is derived (via Old French: esmeraude and Middle English: emeraude), from Vulgar Latin: esmaralda/esmaraldus, a variant of Latin smaragdus, which originated in Greek: σμάραγδος (smaragdos; "green gem"), a term applied to several kinds of green stones. The history of emeralds can be traced back many years. They were worn by royalty in Babylon and Egypt. Tools dating back to 1300 B.C., during the reign of Rameses II, have been found in emerald mines in Egypt. Queen Cleopatra’s emeralds were believed to originate from mines in Southern Egypt, near the Red Sea.
There are many myths associated with the emerald. Its magnificent green color was said to rest and relieve the eye. Some thought it would heal any disease of the eye. They would put the stone in water overnight, then pour the water over the eye (I can tell you that doesn’t work. Stupid I know – but thought worth a try to reduce the cost of glasses). The stone was once believed to prevent epilepsy, stop bleeding, cure dysentery and fever, and protect the wearer from panic. Umm..no I didn’t try these yet. To the ancient Romans, emeralds were dedicated to the goddess Venus because the green emerald symbolized the reproductive forces of nature, and they also felt that the soul of an individual was restored by wearing emeralds. Early Christians saw it as a symbol of the resurrection of Christ, and was considered to represent faith and hope. In the Middle Ages, emeralds were believed to hold the power to foretell the future.
MARCH BIRTHSTONES – Aquamarine – Bloodstone
March’s birthstones are Aquamarine – the stone representing beauty, honesty and loyalty – and Bloodstone – a mystical stone representing knowledge. Besides being March’s birthstone, it is also considered the anniversary stone for both year 16 and 19. My daughter’s birthstone is Aquamarine, and she definitely possesses all the qualities listed above – so maybe there is some truth to the meaning of the stones.
Aquamarine is a form of the mineral beryl and varies in color from the light blue of the sky to deep blue/blue-green of the seas. Stones of deep blue that occur naturally are highly prized because they are rare and expensive. Some stones can be heat treated to change the color to blue, such as yellow beryl. It is in the same family of minerals as emerald, morganite, and heliodor. Beryl consists of four elements: beryllium, aluminum, silicon, and oxygen. The blue color for the aquamarines is caused by traces of iron included in the beryl crystal. The best commercial source for aquamarines is Brazil. High quality stones can also be found in the Ural Mountains of Russia, Columbia, India, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina.
Aquamarine is a relatively hard gemstone, ranking after the diamond, sapphire, ruby, alexandrite, and topaz. Gem and mineral hardness is measured on the Mohs scale and are based on the relative ease – or difficulty – with which one mineral can be scratched by another ranging from 1 (talc) to 10 (diamond). This scale can be deceptive though, because the hardness is not actually evenly spaced; for example, diamonds, at 10 on the hardness scale, are only one step away from corundum (rubies and sapphires), with a hardness of 9, but diamonds are many times harder than rubies or sapphires. Aquamarine is a 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale, so it is a durable gemstone for jewelry as long as it is treated with care to protect it against scratching or hard knocks. It can also become paler if left out in the sun too so store in a jewelry box.
The name aquamarine was derived by the Romans, “aqua,” meaning water, and “mare,” meaning sea, because it looked like sea water. Aquamarines, which captured the lucid blue of the oceans, were believed to have originated from the jewel stashes of mermaids. They were considered sacred to Neptune, Roman god of the sea. This association with the sea made it the sailors’ lucky stone, promising prosperous and safe voyages, as well as protection against perils and monsters of the sea. It was associated with the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, with its first documented use by the Greeks around 300 BC, who wore aquamarine amulets engraved with Poseidon on a chariot. The aquamarine was also thought to possess medicinal and healing powers in the Roman period – curing ailments of stomach, liver and throat. In the Middle Ages it was believed to be an antidote against poison.
One use that continued into at least near modern day was as eyeglasses. It is said that Emperor Nero used it as an eyeglass 2,000 years ago. Later they were in Germany as glasses to correct short sightedness. In fact, the German name for eyeglasses today is “brille,” derived from the mineral beryl.
The other birthstone for March is the Bloodstone, also known as heliotrope.
Bloodstone is a form of the mineral quartz, known as cryptocrystalline quartz, meaning it’s a mass of tiny quartz crystals formed in large lumps without an actual external crystal form. Yet, each individual crystal in the mass is a genuine crystal. This quartz variety is also called chalcedony. Dark green chalcedony spotted with flecks of red jasper is known as Bloodstone. Bloodstone is found embedded in rocks, or as pebbles in riverbeds. The best sources of this stone are India, Brazil, and Australia.
Bloodstone received its name because the red flecks in the dark green tone was though to represent blood, specifically the blood of Christ from his crucifixion. Babylonians used this stone to make seals and amulets, and it was also a favorite with Roman gladiators. In the Middle Ages, bloodstone was believed to hold healing powers. Powdered and mixed with honey and white of egg, it was believed to cure tumors and stop all types of hemorrhage. Ancient alchemists used it to treat blood disorders, including blood poisoning and the flow of blood from a wound. One of my favorites is that Bloodstone was also believed to draw out the venom of snakes! It doesn’t say if you are supposed to grind it up first though or just wave it over the wound, so you better grind some to have on hand just in case you don’t have time to after bit by a snake (you do know I’m kidding right?).
We have several items that incorporate Aquamarine into the designs and just a couple of Bloodstone items. Bloodstone is one of my favorite materials to use to make Rune stones. Happy shopping.
Credit for history and meanings go to earthsky.org. Check them out - I signed up for their newsletter and they have some truly amazing stories daily.
February – Amethyst
February’s birthstone, the amethyst, was the stone of royalty, representing power.
Amethysts contain the second most abundant mineral found in Earth’s crust – quartz. Like quartz, amethysts are a transparent form of silicon dioxide (SiO2). An amethyst’s color can range from a faint mauve to a rich purple. It’s not clear why they’re purple. Some scientists believe the purple color arises from the amethysts’ iron oxide content, while others attribute the color to manganese or hydrocarbons.
Quartz is often found lining the insides of geodes, which sometimes contain amethysts too. I have a fairly large amethyst geode (called a church) myself that was a graduation gift from my Dad. It stands about 1.5 feet tall with fairly large crystals throughout it. I’ve seen some larger than a doorway even. Geodes are one of nature’s most wondrous creations. The kids and I used to hunt for geodes in a creek like Easter eggs – and it was so much fun to crack them open and see what was inside. We never found amethysts in our geodes – but a lot of pretty quartz and calcite crystals. Commercial sources of amethyst are Brazil and Uruguay; while in the U.S., most amethyst is found in Arizona and North Carolina.
Amethysts are sensitive to heat and if heated to 400 or 500 degrees Celsius can change color from a brownish yellow to red. Some stones can turn green when heated too and it’s fairly common to see green amethysts used in jewelry. Heat may even transform an amethyst into a naturally-rare mineral called citrine. The violet color of an amethyst may fade over time naturally too – even without heat.
The amethyst has a rich history of lore and legend. It can be traced back as far as 25,000 years ago in France, where it was used as a decorative stone by prehistoric humans. It has also been found among the remains of Neolithic man. Early Egyptians believed the Amethyst possessed good powers, and were placed in the tombs of pharaohs. It’s said that the signet ring worn by Cleopatra was an amethyst, engraved with the figure of Mithras, a Persian deity symbolizing the Divine Idea, Source of Light and Life. It is also said to be the stone of Saint Valentine, who wore an amethyst engraved with the figure of his assistant, Cupid. Saint Valentine’s Day is still observed in February.
The word amethyst comes from the Greek word “amethystos” meaning “not drunk,” and was believed to prevent its wearers from intoxication. In ancient Rome, amethyst cups were used for wine, so drinkers would have no fear of overindulgence. However, during the Middle Ages it was as a medication that was thought to dispel sleep and sharpen the intellect – nothing like drinking ground up stones to keep you awake huh? It was also thought to protect the wearer from sorcery and to bring victory in battle.
We have quite a few lovely items that incorporate amethysts into the designs, so be sure and get one for the good power, protection from sorcery and victory in your battles. I wouldn’t recommend grinding them up and drinking them thoughJ. Happy shopping.Credit for history and meanings go to earthsky.org. Check them out - I signed up for their newsletter and they have some truly amazing stories daily.
Continuing in our vein of providing birthstone information on a monthly basis, January’s birthstone is garnet. It is also the state mineral of Connecticut, and the gemstone of New York.
The name “garnet” is derived from the Latin “granatum” meaning “pomegranate” because the crystals resemble the red color and seed-like form of this fruit. The garnet is considered by some to symbolize a light heart, loyalty and enduring affection. But to geologists like myself, garnets are known as a group of silicate minerals with a range of hardness from 6.5 to 7.5 - and sometimes higher - on the Mohs scale of hardness. Unlike many gemstones, the garnet is not just one mineral, but has many different chemical compositions, which accounts for the reason it comes in such a wide range of colors including red, orange, yellow, green, purple, brown, blue, black, pink, and colorless, with reddish shades most common. Geologists also use the garnet group as a key mineral in defining the genesis of metamorphic and igneous rocks. Each variety is found to occur within certain temperature ranges and as such when found in a rock formation it can help to determine the temperature / time of the rocks surrounding it were formed. Garnets are commonly found as small pebbles in streams, where the igneous and metamorphic rocks that contain them have weathered away. They are also found intact as part of metamorphic or igneous rock facies. They’re found in many places around the world, including North and South America, Australia, India, Asia and Spain.
Garnets have been used since the Bronze age as both jewelry and abrasives. In the former Czechoslovakia, evidence of garnet jewelry dating to the Bronze age was found in ancient graves in the former Czechoslovakia. Garnet jewelry has also been discovered dating back to 3100 B.C. in Egypt, 2300 B.C. in Sumeria, and 2000-1000 B.C. in Sweden. Red garnets were the most commonly used gemstones in the Late Antique Roman world, and the Migration Period art of the "barbarian" peoples who took over the territory of the Western Roman Empire. They were especially used in the cloisonné (inlaid in gold) technique, a style often just called garnet cloisonné, found from Anglo-Saxon England, like that of pieces found as part of the Staffordshire horde discovered in 2009. Pre-Columbian Aztec and Native Americans also used garnets in their ornaments. Besides being used as jewelry, ancient warriors believed that garnets brought victory and the Crusaders used them for protection. Asiatic warriors believed that glowing garnets, used as bullets, inflicted more severe wounds. In 1892, during hostilities on the Kashmir frontier, the Hanza tribesmen fired on British soldiers with garnet bullets, believing them to be more effective than lead bullets. Garnet is still used today for both jewelry and as an abrasive, such as that found in sandpaper.
Although there is only one gemstone for the month of January, as mentioned there are many varieties of Garnet, a few of which are described further in this article. One of the most common garnets is Almandine sometimes called almandite or almandine ruby. The name Almandine is a corruption of the world Alabanda, from an Asia Minor region where stones were cut in ancient times. The deep red transparent color of this iron/aluminum-rich garnet make it one of the most commonly used of the gem garnets and occurs in metamorphic rocks like mica schists.
Andradite garnet has a variable composition and as such it may be found as red, yellow, green or black. Demantoid (green) is a particular favorite variety of Andradite and has been called the “emerald of the Urals” and is one of the most sought after garnet varieties.
Grossular garnet is a fairly common variety where the name is derived from the botanical name for gooseberry, grossularia, in reference to the green garnet that is found in Siberia. There are other shades of grossular though that include cinnamon brown, red, and yellow. The grossular garnet from Kenya and Tanzania is called tsavorite for the Tsavo area of Kenya.
Pyrope (from the Greek pyrōpós meaning "fire-eyed") is red in color and chemically a magnesium aluminum silicate, though the magnesium can be replaced in part by calcium and ferrous iron. The color of pyrope varies from deep red to black. A beautiful orange variety of garnet, Spessartine, is found in Madagascar, while violet-red varieties, sometimes called rhodolite (Greek for “rose”) are found in Colorado and Maine. Blue Pyrope-Spessartine garnets discovered in Madagascar, parts of the United States, Russia, Kenya, Tanzania and Turkey, change color from blue-green to purple depending on the color temperature of the viewing light. The color change is due to the high amount of vanadium in the garnets. This is the rarest type of garnet. Pyrope has many tradenames: California Ruby, Rocky Mountain Ruby, Arizona Ruby, Cape Ruby, and Bohemian Garnet.
Finally, Ubarovite is a rare garnet, a very bright green in color usually found in the Ural mountains of Russia and Finland.