Tell Me A Story: Fun Facts About Gemstones Add Interest to Your Handmade Jewelry

I love being able to tell people a little something about the gemstones I use to make the jewelry they buy from me. I think a fun response to “What a pretty necklace!” would be “Thank you, it’s aquamarine–did you know that sailors wore aquamarine to ward off seasickness?”

Gemstones for Jewelry Making

Here are some fun facts and ancient tales about many gemstones I use in my own jewelry designs. These are great stones for jewelry making because they’re durable and hard enough for normal jewelry wear. Plus, they’re affordable. Even gems such as aquamarine, sapphire, and ruby, which can be fairly costly as faceted gems, are generally more affordable in bead and cabochon form.

"<yoastmark

Lapis Lazuli

lapis lazuli gemstonesIn the fourteenth century, lapis lazuli stones were ground up and mixed with oils to create the highly prized and very expensive ultramarine used by artists (such as da Vinci) in paintings (such as those in the Sistine Chapel). Ultramarine was known as “blue gold” because it was more expensive than gold at times. Lapis was forbidden to commoners in ancient Egypt, where only royalty could wear it. Blue was divine to them, so lapis was ground into a powder that was used to add color to royal Egyptians and their statues. However, lapis necklaces were given to shy Egyptian children to help them be courageous.

Ancient Hebrews believed the blue lazurite in lapis was symbolic of heaven and the gold pyrite flecks symbolic of the sun, and some Biblical scholars believe that Moses’ Ten Commandments were carved on lapis tablets.

Tourmaline is not the only gemstone with spectacular bicolor possibilities. This 13.35 carat golden/purplish pink topaz is a knockout. Photo Mia Dixon, courtesy Pala International.

Tourmaline is not the only gemstone with spectacular bicolor possibilities. This 13.35 carat golden/purplish pink topaz is a knockout. Photo Mia Dixon, courtesy Pala International.

Tourmaline

tourmaline gemstones

Tourmaline is one of my favorite gemstones. It occurs naturally in nearly every color, and some of them are popular enough to have their own names, including the ruby-red tourmaline known as rubellite and a pretty blue-green tourmaline called indicolite.

Did you know that when tourmaline is rubbed, it can become statically charged and attract lint, dust, or small pieces of paper? It’s sometimes referred to as “the electric stone” for that reason; this characteristic is related to the properties of pyroelectricity and piezoelectricity.

Gemstones and Birthstones: Peridot--History and Lore

9.90 ct. cushion-cut Burmese peridot. Photo by Mia Dixon, courtesy Palagems.

Peridot

peridot gemstones

Peridot comes in such a cheery, bright shade of green, it’s no wonder that it has been symbolic of happiness, loyalty, and friendship. It has had an interesting history throughout ancient cultures, including everything from preventing “terrors of the night” to being strung on donkey’s hair and tied around the left arm to ward off evil.

Ancient Egyptians even believed that peridot disappeared in sunlight and glowed at night, so it was mined in darkness. Today, most of the world’s production of peridot is mined on the San Carlos reservation in Arizona . . . but I’m not sure whether it’s mined during the day or night!

amethyst gemstones: Inclusions like those visible in this 8.34 carat round amethyst are indicative of a natural stone. Photo Mia Dixon. Courtesy Pala International.

Inclusions like those visible in this 8.34 carat round amethyst are indicative of a natural stone. Photo Mia Dixon. Courtesy Pala International.

Amethyst

amethyst gemstones

Amethyst’s purple hues have long made it a symbol of purity and royalty for rulers, clergymen, and the wealthy. Amethyst plays an important role in religion throughout history, as bishop’s rings and rosaries and with its color replicated in their robes. Celebratory ancient Greeks wore amethyst to be protected from seduction and drunkenness.

Another bonus about amethyst is its affordability. It’s a plentiful stone, so you’ll find it in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and at budget-friendly prices.

2.03 carat cushion-cut natural ruby. Photo by Mia Dixon, courtesy of Palagems.com.

2.03 carat cushion-cut natural ruby. Photo by Mia Dixon, courtesy of Palagems.com.

ruby gemstonesRuby

Ruby has such a long and storied history, it’s impossible to even begin to share it here. My favorite piece of lore about ruby is that ancient Hindus believed that dark, heavily saturated rubies were male and pale, less saturated rubies were female. Ruby is mentioned throughout the Bible and has often been used as a symbol of life, possibly due to its color similarity to blood.

Have you heard the mysterious story of the Black Prince’s Ruby? It’s a must-read!

Citrine

citrine gemstonesWhat a fortunate stone citrine is believed to be! Throughout history, various cultures have attributed citrine with bringing them success and wealth and protecting them from evil thoughts and snake bites. All of those would come in handy to Scottish warriors, who used citrine in dagger handles during the seventeenth century.

Citrine owes its modern popularity to its pretty orange hues and affordability but also to Queen Victoria, who gave citrine a place of honor in traditional Highland brooches and kilt pins to celebrate citrine mining resources in Scotland.

Gemstones and Birthstones: Sapphires in Blue and All the Colors of the Rainbow

 

sapphire gemstonesSapphire

Sapphire’s lore generally centers around eyesight and vision, especially for blue sapphires. Clergymen in the Middle Ages wore blue sapphire rings, believing the blue hues were symbolic of heaven. Healers and medicine men believed touching a blue sapphire to the eyes would soothe tired eyes and improve vision.

But sapphire goes way beyond blue and literally comes in every color of the rainbow–including red, which is known as ruby.

A square emerald-cut, greenish-blue aquamarine of 20.72 carats. Photo by Mia Dixon, courtesy Pala International.

A square emerald-cut, greenish-blue aquamarine of 20.72 carats. Photo by Mia Dixon, courtesy Pala International.

Aquamarine

aquamarine gemstone beadsIn addition to protecting sailors from drowning, nightmares, and seasickness, aquamarine is associated with many other legends involving water. No wonder, as the word aquamarine literally means “ocean water.” Ancient sailors believed that the fish-like lower portion of mermaids’ bodies were made of aquamarine. Healers and medicine men in various cultures thought water touched by aquamarine could heal ailments of the eyes and lungs.

Set Gems in Jewelry

Ready to add color and value to your jewelry designs with gemstones? Learn more about gemstones’ hardness and durability, so you can set stones in the safest way.


Get Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and other gemstone resources today in our shop!

Post a Comment