Gemstones come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and varieties. Solvang Antiques has compiled a detailed A to Z gemstone encyclopedia for your convenience. Find out more educational information on your favorite gemstone and their meanings and history alphabetically. Let’s broaden your gemstone knowledge with this descriptive reference guide of the most precious and popular stones in the world.
Alexandrite is a very rare gem with the exciting effect of color change! On the market today, you will see far more synthetic than natural, and both are special. The colors transform between incandescent and fluorescent light. Alexandrite was named for Czar Alexander II. Alexandrite is the birthstone for June and the gemstone for your 55th wedding anniversary.
Amethyst is in the Quartz family. This gemstone is often flawless. Purple is also the color of royalty and will make the wearer feel like they should be wearing a crown! St. Valentine, the patron saint of love, is said to have always worn an amethyst ring with a carved cupid. Amethyst is the birthstone for February and the stone for your sixth anniversary.
Aquamarine is from the Beryl family and is a stone that often has high clarity. Growing in large crystals, it lends itself well to large wearable gems. Aquamarine is Latin for seawater and brings with it images of the beautiful blue seawater of tropical locales. Aquamarine’s gemstone meaning is said to calm the stormy waters of life and bring happiness to a marriage. Aquamarine is the birthstone for March and the gem for your 19th anniversary.
Bloodstone is a type of chalcedony called jasper with a dark green background with red iron oxide inclusions. It does go by a second name of heliotrope as well, and some believe it has religious significance related to the blood of Christ. Bloodstone is thought to increase strength, and to preserve the health and youth of the wearer.
Topaz in nature rarely occurs in blue. The stones you see on the market have been heat-treated to give them their stunning blue color. The Greeks believed topaz gave strength, while the Europeans believed the gem drove away angry thoughts. Today, some believe topaz will bring prosperity. Blue topaz is one of the birthstones for December, and is also the gemstone for your fourth anniversary.
The phenomenon of cat’s eye, or chatoyancy, occurs in varying gems, with chrysoberyl and tourmaline being the most popular. When light reflects off needle-like inclusions near the surface, a band of light moves, resembling that of a cat’s eye. Cat’s eye gems are the tradition for your 18th anniversary.
Citrine is from the Quartz family. Natural citrine is quite rare in nature. Most of what is on the current market is actually amethyst that has been treated with heat to achieve the citrine color. To widen your gemstone knowledge, here’s a bit more insight. The history of this gemstone dates back to ancient times when Citrine was first loved by the Pharaohs of Egypt. Citrine is a birthstone for November and the gemstone for your 13th anniversary.
Coral comes in a variety of colors with red being the highest prized. Although Coral does not have a place on the birthstone calendar, it is one of the most long-treasured adornments dating back to jewelry worn 30,000 years ago, but is highly regulated today. Quality vintage and antique coral are increasingly hard to find.
Diamond is rare, with most mines harvesting one part diamond to one million parts host rock! Diamond is the hardest mineral on Earth, created under extreme conditions. Diamond is a symbol of unchanging love and commitment, making it the most popular gemstone for engagement rings. Diamond is the birthstone for April, as well as the gemstone to celebrate your 10th and 60th wedding anniversaries.
Colombia has historically been the most important source of emeralds. Today, Afghanistan, Brazil, and Namibia are also key sources. The most desired colors of emerald are bluish green to pure green, and the more vivid the color, the better. All emeralds are included, some more than others, just like a marriage that has survived and thrived. Emerald is the birthstone for May, as well as the gemstone for your 20th and 35th wedding anniversaries.
Garnets attracted Egyptian Pharaohs and Russian Czars. Even Fabregé encrusted his famed eggs with garnets. They come in many colors, although the most well-known are the red varieties of pyrope, almandine, and rhodolite (which has a purple component to the color). Tsavorite and Demantoid are the popular green varieties. You will also see orange Spessartite often on the market. Garnet is the birthstone for January, as well as the gemstone for your second anniversary.
Imperial Topaz was so valued in 19th century Russia, that only the royal family was allowed to own it! Legend says that topaz is worn to bring long life, beauty, and intelligence. Imperial topaz is one of the birthstones for November, along with the gemstone for your 23rd anniversary.
Iolite is pleochroic, it varies distinctly in color as you turn it. This gemstone is not treated, its color is natural, just the way Mother Nature intended. Iolite is often used as a substitute for tanzanite, as they look similar, but it is often more affordable. Iolite is the gemstone for your 21st anniversary.
Poets have long referred to jade as “the stone of Heaven”. Jade is the trade name for both Jadeite and Nephrite. Jadeite is more rare, with the best exhibiting a smooth texture and semi-translucent opacity. Mayan, Aztec, and Chinese cultures have treasured jade for centuries. Jade is the stone to commemorate your 12th anniversary.
Kunzite ranges from light pink to violet. This is the most popular gemstone from the Spudomene family. San Diego is an important source for this gemstone, and from where it was first discovered in 1902. Both treated and natural kunzite’s color will fade if exposed to heat or bright light.
The premier source of Lapis Lazuli is in Afghanistan where rough lies buried in mountains up to 17,000 feet high. Mines date back as far as 700 BCE, making them one of the oldest commercial gemstone sources. The best Lapis will have no calcite visible. The gold flecks that you see in this stone are pyrite. Lapis Lazuli is the stone for your ninth anniversary.
Moonstone appears as though moonlight is cascading across the water. It does this by reflecting light through the layers of the orthoclase and albite creating a phenomenon called adularescence. This gemstone from the Feldspar family was featured by top jewelry designers in the Art Nouveau era, including Louis Comfort Tiffany & René Lalique. It is thought by many cultures to bring good luck to the wearer.
Morganite is a pale pink to salmon color of Beryl, in the same family of emerald and aquamarine. This rarer form of Beryl is named in honor of J.P. Morgan, who was one of the biggest gem collectors in the early 1900s and was recognized for his gifts of gems to the museums of natural history in New York and Paris.
Mother of Pearl is a mineral created by mollusks that lines their shells. Unlike pearls that are used in bead form, mother of pearl is flat, so it is used for larger surface areas such as watch faces and carved tablet style pendants.
Onyx is a chalcedony that has been dyed black. Chalcedony has been found in Mesopotamian jewelry, dating back to the cradles of civilization. The meaning of these gemstone is that it’s believed to bring wearers good health and safe travels. Onyx is a tough stone and will stand the test of time and everyday wear. Onyx is the stone to commemorate your 7th wedding anniversary.
Opal is enchanting with its play-of-color that is unique to each stone. When viewed from various angles, the stone provides a kaleidoscope of color. Romans believed that the opal was the most special and powerful gem in the world, as it possessed the colors of all the others. They also believed opal symbolized love and hope. The Bedouins believed opals contained lightning that fell from the thunderclouds.
If you stare into an opal do you see lightning, galaxies, fireworks, or rainbows? No two opals are alike. Each gem contains a unique pattern of not only color, but pattern as well. Opal’s play-of-color can be displayed in flashes, pinfire, or harlequin patterns. The refraction of light within the stacked silica spheres is what gives opal its play-of-color. Opals contain up to 20% water. Opal is the birthstone for October, along with the gem for your 14th anniversary.
Queen Mary I received a natural pearl the size of a pigeon’s egg from her husband in the 1500’s! Natural pearls are rare, but cultured pearl jewelry is classic, timeless, and essential to every wardrobe. Cultured pearl varieties include freshwater, Akoya, Tahitian, and South Seas. Beyond strands, pearl jewelry comes in many styles, shapes, and colors. Pearl is the birthstone for June, along with the anniversary gem for your 3rd and 30th anniversaries.
Most peridot has arrived at the Earth’s surface as the result of a volcanic eruption. But out of all the gems in our gemstone encyclopedia, peridot is the most out of this world. Some rare specimens even came from space via a meteorite! The finest peridot is a fine green color, but most stones on the market will have a yellow component to the color. Peridot is the birthstone for August and the gem for your 16th anniversary.
Ruby is known as the king of precious stones. It is from the family of corundum (same as sapphire). Ruby gets its red color from chromium. Myanmar has long been the most important source of ruby, along with Mozambique, Kenya, and Vietnam. It is said that a ruby’s glow comes from an inner fire that can never be extinguished. Ruby is the birthstone for July, as well as the gemstone for your 15th and 40th wedding anniversaries.
Sapphire ranks a 9 on the Mohs hardness scale, making it one of the toughest gemstones. The most common color of sapphire is blue, but it does come in a rainbow of colors. Sapphire is from the corundum family, the same as ruby, but tends to be less included than ruby. Sapphire symbolizes sincerity, truth, and faithfulness. Sapphire is the birthstone for September, as well as the gem to celebrate your fifth and 45th wedding anniversaries.
Sardonyx is a form of chalcedony made of sard and onyx. Sard provides bands of brown to red to orange between the black and white bands of onyx. You will find it used to carve cameos and intaglios. It is most well-known for its historic use as Roman signets and seals. It was often worn by Roman soldiers for courage, protection and strength.
Spinel comes in red, pink, orange, purple, and blue, and is often free from inclusions, even in large stones. Red spinel is so beautiful it was often mistaken for ruby. The most famous spinel in the Black Prince’s Ruby which is set in Britain’s royal Imperial State Crown. Spinel is the gemstone to commemorate your 22nd anniversary.
Tanzanite is only found in one place on Earth! It is mined in the hills of northern Tanzania in the shadows of Mount Kilimanjaro. Tanzanite is a newer gemstone, only being discovered in 1967. It is pleochroic, showing three different colors in three different directions. The most valuable colors are pure blue, similar to sapphire, or a vivid violet-blue. Tanzanite is one of the birthstones for December and the gem for your 24th anniversary.
Tourmaline was first discovered by a Spanish conquistador in Brazil in the 1500s. A mine in San Diego supplied tourmaline to a Chinese Empress Tz’u Hsi in the 1800s. Tourmaline comes in several vivid colors from green to pink! Tourmaline is one of the birthstones for October and the gemstone for your 8th anniversary.
Turquoise has been used in jewelry since 4000 BCE and is used widely in Native American jewelry design even today. The prized color for turquoise is a pure robin’s egg blue. The most noted sources are Iran, China, and Arizona. Turquoise is one of the birthstones for December, along with the stone to celebrate your 11th anniversary.
Don’t confuse zircon and cubic zirconia, there is no relation. Zircon has a rich history, occurring in many colors, but is most well-known in blue as a traditional birthstone for December. Zircon is the oldest mineral on Earth, with specimens found in Australia dating back 4.4 billion years. It is best known for its high brilliance, and was a favorite for jewelry designers in Victorian times.