Every gemstone has its own unique set of properties, and characteristics that result in striking colour and lustre, fire and luminescence, play of light and exquisite iridescence. The rarity of many gemstones also means that they are surrounded by mystery, associated with myths that are centuries old. The birthstone tradition is believed to date back to a breastplate with gemstones representing the 12 tribes of Israel and, according to legend, wearing them during their assigned months heightened any healing powers. Scroll down to learn more about your favourite gemstones – and wear and treasure them for years to come.
Amethyst is the most highly valued stone in the Quartz group and the birthstone for February. Its name has a meaning you probably wouldn’t associate with the pretty violet or lavender-coloured gemstone; it translates as ‘sober’ because it was worn as an amulet against drunkenness. In the Chinese philosophy of Feng Sui, Amethyst is believed to enhance the ‘wealth corner’ that brings about the giving and receiving of material riches. Green Amethyst, also known as Prasiolite (from the Greek for leek), is a very soft, pale shade of green.
Aquamarines are found in shades ranging from a pale pastel blue to a deep, dark, ocean blue. The name comes from the Latin for ‘water of the sea’, referencing its colour and clarity, and it’s the birthstone of those born in March. Aquamarine is a member of the Beryl family, which includes Emerald and Morganite, and its gemstones are graded using the same system as Diamonds – by colour, cut, clarity, and carat weight. The Ancient Greeks and Romans relied on the ‘Sailors’ Gem’ to ensure safe passage across stormy seas.
Green Beryl is a beautiful sea-green gemstone, named from the Greek beryllos, which means precious blue-green colour. The pink variety of Beryl is known as Morganite, and Emeralds are a variety of Beryl too. When the very first eyeglasses were constructed in 13th century Italy, the lenses were made from Beryl or rock crystal, as glass could not be made clear enough. Legend has it that Beryl can ward off evil spirits, as well as protecting travellers from danger, promoting marital love, and maintaining youthfulness.
Kiki always uses the eye-catchingly elegant sky blue shade of Topaz but in fact the most common colour of Topaz, the December birthstone, is actually yellow with a red tint. It is also found in orange, pink-red, pale green and, the most recognisable, blue – in three shades called London Blue, Sky and Swiss Blue. Its name might be derived from an island in the Red Sea, once known as Topazos, or from the Sanskrit word tapas, meaning fire. It’s symbolic of fidelity and love.
Citrine is a form of Quartz and the sister of Amethyst. Ranging from the palest yellow to a dark amber colour, its name originates from citrin, the French word for lemon. Its vibrant, warm colour has always been symbolic of healing and hope. Citrine is one of two birthstones used to celebrate November birthdays; the other is Topaz. Ancient Egyptians used Citrine gems as talismans; it is associated with hope, cheerfulness, youth, health and fidelity. Its nicknames include the ‘Success Stone’, because of its tendency to attract wealth.
April’s birthstone is Diamond. Ancient civilisations believed that Diamonds were created when lightning struck rock. The name refers to its hardness – the Greek for unconquerable – because there is no comparable stone. Its cutting resistance is an awesome 140 times greater than that of Ruby and Sapphire, the gemstones next in hardness. In 1477, the Archduke of Austria commissioned the first diamond engagement ring on record for his fiancée and dazzling Diamonds remain popular for engagement rings and special 60th wedding anniversary gifts.
This remarkable, distinctive gemstone comes in shades varying from pale orange to dark orange to red. Despite the shared name, Fire Opals, also known as ‘Mexican Opals’, are quite different from pure Opals; they are transparent or translucent, with iron content that makes them appear orange, while Opals are opaque and white, with an iridescent, rainbow-coloured shimmer. Believed to have magical powers, Fire Opals symbolise love, loyalty, hope, happiness and truth, respected in ancient India as a symbol of the warmest love.
Iolite is an elegant, inky-blue gemstone, sometimes called the Water Sapphire because of its colour and named after the Greek for ‘violet’. Like Tanzanite, another blue gemstone, Iolite is pleochroic, meaning it transmits light differently when viewed from different directions. The Vikings made Iolite’s pleochroism a virtue by using thin slices of the stone as a light polariser to determine the direction of the sun on overcast days. Although only officially named in 1912, Iolite has been used and admired for centuries.
Lemon Quartz is a beautiful shade of yellow, a colour associated with clarity, happiness and communication. It is thought to bring balance and positive energy to its wearer – and it’s a very durable gemstone that can be worn daily for everything from parties to Pilates. It’s believed by some gemologists that the word Quartz is derived from the ancient Greek krustallos, meaning ice; the Greeks and Romans believed that Quartz was ice that never melted because it was formed by the gods.
This gemstone, also called Pink or Rose Beryl, was discovered on an island off the coast of Madagascar in 1910. The New York Academy of Sciences then named this beautiful pink variety of Beryl ‘Morganite’ after financier and gem enthusiast J. P. Morgan. The Morganite stone is found in shades ranging from the prettiest soft pink and salmon colours to violet. Morganite is said to be an excellent stone for Pisceans and it’s one of Kiki’s favourite gemstones.
A distinctive olive green, those born in August can claim Peridot, believed to instil power and influence in the wearer, as their birthstone. The name could derive from faridat, the Arabic for gem, or it’s an alteration of pedoretés, which is a kind of Opal. Either way, it’s a mysterious name for a mesmerising stone. It was mined on an island in the Red Sea from 250BC but forgotten for centuries, and rediscovered around 1900. It is one of the few gemstones that are found in only one colour.
The gemstone known as Rubellite, which means ‘red stone’, belongs to the colourful Tourmaline family, and it’s found in shades ranging from a deep violet-pink to a vivid purple-red. Tourmaline gemstones are distinguished by their three-sided prisms – no other common mineral has three sides – and according to a charming ancient Egyptian legend, their variety of colours is the result of the fact that, on the long way from the Earth’s heart up towards the sun, Tourmalines travelled along a rainbow and collected its colours along the way.
Smoky Quartz is a grey, translucent variety of Quartz that ranges in clarity from almost completely transparent to an opaque brownish-grey or black crystal. This dark-coloured gemstone is striking and chic, named for its smoky hue, and it’s believed by some gemmologists that the word Quartz is derived from the ancient Greek krustallos, meaning ice; the Greeks (and Romans) believed that Quartz was ice that never melted because it was formed by the gods.
Tanzanite gemstones vary from blue with a hint of purple towards a darker blue, which means they can be mistaken for Sapphires. The name for the rare purple-blue gemstone comes from the East African country Tanzania, where it was momentously discovered in 1967. That’s the only place it’s been found and the conditions responsible for creating this amazing stone were so unique that geological experts consider the chance of finding them anywhere else in the world less than a million to one. It’s the birthstone for those born in December.
Tourmalines come in a wide variety of colours, and Kiki’s favourites are elegant mint green and striking pink. Its name comes courtesy of the Dutch, who brought the stone to Western and Central Europe in 1703 and named it Turamali – the stone of mixed colours. Tourmaline gemstones are distinguished by their three-sided prisms – no other common mineral has three sides – and according to a charming ancient Egyptian legend, their variety of colours is the result of the fact that, on the long way from the Earth’s heart up towards the sun, Tourmalines travelled along a rainbow and collected its colours along the way.