history and composition
Gems & minerals
Amethyst gets its name from the Koine Greek ἀμέθυστος amethystos from ἀ- a-, meaning "not" and μεθύσκω methysko / μεθύω methyo, meaning "intoxicate", thus referencing the belief that the stone protected its owner from drunkenness. The ancient Greeks wore amethyst and carved drinking vessels from it in the hope that it would prevent intoxication.
Amethyst is a semiprecious stone, one of several varieties of quartz, and is the traditional birthstone for February. The best varieties of amethyst can be found in Siberia, Sri Lanka, Brazil and the far East.
Aquamarine (from Latin: aqua marina, being, water, and marīna, from marīnus; of the sea) is a blue variety of beryl. Green-yellow beryl - occurring in Brazil, among other localities - is sometimes called chrysolite aquamarine. The deep blue version of aquamarine is called maxixe. Maxixe is commonly found in the country of Madagascar.
In the US, aquamarines can be found at the summit of Mt. Antero in the Sawatch Range in central Colorado; in Wyoming, in the Big Horn Mountains, near Powder River Pass; and in the Sawtooth Range near Stanley, Idaho, although the minerals are within a wilderness area which prevents collecting. In Brazil, there are mines in the states of Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, and Bahia, and Rio Grande do Norte. The stone is also mined in Colombia, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya.
Larimar is a rare variety of volcanic blue pectolite found only in the Dominican Republic. Its coloration varies from white, light-blue, green-blue to deep blue (the highest grade) and can contain traces of volcanic ash as well as iron, which results in spots or veins of green, red, and brown.
Miguel Méndez and Norman Rilling rediscovered Larimar in 1974 on a beach at the base of the Bahoruco Mountain Range in Barahona. Miguel combined his young daughter's name, Larissa, with the Spanish word for sea (mar) to form the moniker Larimar, a name which suggests both the colors of the Caribbean Sea where it was found as well as the stone's patterning, reminiscent of the shape light takes when refracted through ocean waves.
Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in Earth's continental crust, behind feldspar. Since antiquity, varieties of quartz have been the most commonly used minerals in the making of jewelry and hardstone carvings. The Ancient Greeks referred to quartz as κρύσταλλος (krustallos) derived from the Ancient Greek κρύος (kruos) meaning "icy cold", because some philosophers believed the mineral to be a form of supercooled ice. Today, the term rock crystal is sometimes used as an alternative name for the purest form of quartz.
Pure quartz is colorless and translucent; Common colored varieties include citrine, rose quartz, amethyst, smoky quartz, and milky quartz.
Druzy quartz is made up of primarily tiny crystals, but there large or medium crystals can appear within the formation as well. Treated colorful crystals are sometimes coated with a film of gold, platinum, sterling silver, or titanium, each of which can contribute various hues. When the Druzy is coated with titanium, for example, this adds cobalt, purple, and various rainbow colors.
Tanzanite is the blue and violet variety of the mineral zoisite. The gemstone was discovered in 1967 by Manuel d'Souza in Northern Tanzania, near Mount Kilimanjaro. It is only found in Tanzania, in a very small mining area (approximately 7 km long and 2 km wide) near the Mirerani Hills.
The gemstone was given the consumer-friendly name 'tanzanite' by Tiffany & Co. after the country in which it was discovered. In 2002, the American Gem Trade Association chose tanzanite as a December birthstone, the first change to their birthstone list since 1912.
The name "topaz" is usually derived (via Old French: Topace and Latin: Topazus) from the Greek Τοπάζιος (Τοpáziοs) or Τοπάζιον (Τοpáziοn), from Τοπαζος, the ancient name of St. John's Island in the Red Sea which was notoriously difficult to find and from which a yellow stone (now believed to be chrysolite: yellowish olivine) was mined in ancient times. Alternatively, the word topaz may be related to the Sanskrit word तपस् "tapas", meaning "heat" or "fire".
Topaz in its natural state is a golden brown to yellow, a characteristic which means it is sometimes confused with the gemstone citrine. However, impurities and treatments can cause topaz to appear in a variety of different colors.
Orange topaz, also known as precious topaz, is the traditional November birthstone, the symbol of friendship, and the state gemstone of the US state of Utah. Imperial topaz is yellow, pink (rare, if natural) or pink-orange. Brazilian Imperial Topaz can often have a bright yellow to deep golden brown hue, sometimes even violet. Many brown or pale topazes are treated to make them bright yellow, gold, pink or violet colored.
Blue topaz is the state gemstone of the US state of Texas. Naturally occurring blue topaz is quite rare. Typically, colorless, gray or pale yellow and blue material is heat treated and irradiated to produce a more desired darker blue. Mystic topaz is colorless topaz which has been artificially coated via a vapor deposition process giving it a rainbow effect on its surface.
Although it has historically been known by many different names, the modern word turquoise dates to the 17th century and is derived from the French turquois for "Turkish" because the mineral was first brought to Europe from mines in the historical Khorasan Province of Persia. Pliny the Elder referred to the mineral as callais and the Aztecs knew it as chalchihuitl. It is rare and valuable in finer grades and has been prized as a gemstone and ornamental stone for thousands of years owing to its unique hue.
It has adorned the rulers of Ancient Egypt, the Aztecs, Persia, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and to some extent ancient China. The Aztecs as well as Native American tribes like the Pueblo, Navajo and Apache valued turquoise for its amuletic use; the latter tribe believe the stone to afford the archer dead aim. The Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi) of the Chaco Canyon and surrounding region are believed to have prospered greatly from their production and trade of turquoise objects.
Notable examples of turquoise use in ancient art, architecture, and adornments include the Medresseh-I Shah Husein Mosque of Isfahan, the Taj Mahal, and various pieces recovered from Tutankhamun's tomb, namely the Pharaoh's iconic burial mask which was inlaid with the stone. A common belief shared by many of these civilizations held that turquoise possessed certain prophylactic qualities; it was thought to change colour with the wearer's health and protect him or her from untoward forces.