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Semiprecious Stone Beads

Alternative Birthstones

What's your birthstone? Just about everyone knows the birthstone for the month they were born. Who began the tradition of birthstones anyway? It may have become popular in the Middle Ages, at that time astrology was all the rage, but it probably goes back much further. A look at George Kunz's book The Curious Lore of Precious Stones contains much more information than this short article.

According to Kunz; the Bible, the book of Revelations and possibly the book of Exodus may give us a clue to where it began. The Talmud of Jewish tradition also mentions the use of precious stone as talismans. The Jewish historian Josephus writing around 200 AD, noted a connection between the months of the year and the breastplate of the high priest in the Great Temple in Jerusalem. The breastplate contained 12 different stones.

This information is somewhat obscure. The first temple was built by Solomon and then destroyed. It was later rebuilt on the same site. The second temple was destroyed by the Romans about the time of Christ. The last remnant is the wailing wall in Jerusalem. The contents of the temple including the breastplate were lost.

All these sources mention wearing or keeping precious stones to influence unseen forces. However, the practice of wearing birthstone was not common until the 1500s in northern Europe, mostly Germany and Poland when astrology gained it greatest popularity. Astrologers were considered scientist at that time and everyone wanted a horoscope. It was considered a real necessity. Although astrology had external trappings of magic the information was based on biblical philosophy.

In the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance in Europe almost all higher learning was based on religion. Most learning and "scientific research" took place in monasteries and the few universities that then existed. The Old Testament was considered the source of all learning and commentaries were written on just about every phrase or sentence it contained. This was the basis of a liberal arts education and covered natural philosophy (science), rhetoric (speech and debate), music, literature, art, and other subjects. Religion was so intertwined in the day to day existence. it should be considered an integral part of the current culture. It was not until the protestant reformation of Martin Luther begun in 1517 that alternative world views could be examined without ridicule. Astrology could be explored beyond church sanctions. These lists are the result.

Each month has special stones and so do the four seasons. There are stones for days of the week and hours of the day. Each of the twelve apostles has a special stone and so do the angels who guard the gates of heaven. Each zodiac sign has its own stone as well.

Here are the tables for each:

Months of the Year

MarchAquamarine or Bloodstone
JunePearl, Moonstone or Alexandrite
AugustPeridot or Sardonyx
OctoberOpal or Pink Tourmaline
NovemberTopaz or Citrine
DecemberTurquoise or Blue Zircon



Days of the Week

SundayTopaz or Sunstone
MondayRock Crystal, Pearl or Moonstone
TuesdayRuby, Emerald or Star Sapphire
WednesdayAmethyst, Lodestone or Star Ruby
ThursdaySapphire, Carnelian or Cat's Eye
FridayEmerald, Cat's Eye or Alexandrite
SaturdayTurquoise, Diamond or Labradorite

Hours of the Day

1 AMSmoky Quartz
2 AMHematite
3 AMMalachite
4 AMLapis Lazuli
5 AMTurquoise
6 AMTourmaline
7 AMChrysolite
8 AMAmethyst
9 AMKunzite
10 AMSapphire
11 AMGarnet
12 AMDiamond
1 PMZircon
2 PMEmerald
3 PMBeryl
4 PMTopaz
5 PMRuby
6 PMOpal
7 PMSardonyx
8 PMChalcedony
9 PMJade
10 PMJasper
11 PMLodestone
12 PMOnyx


St. PeterJasper
St. AndrewCarbuncle
St. James and JohnEmerald
St. PhilipCarnelian
St. BartholomewChrysolite
St. ThomasBeryl
St. MatthewTopaz
St. JamesSardonyx
St. ThaddeusChrysoprase
St. SimeonJacinth
St. MatthewAmethyst
St. PaulSapphire
Note: James and John share a stone while Matthew has two stones

Guardians of the Gates of Paradise

Guardian AngelStone

Zodiac or Sun Signs


These are very old lists, and some of the names of stones are no longer used or refer to stones whose names have changed over time. Prior to 19th century, there was no way to confirm the crystalline structure or chemical composition of gemstones and many names were used interchangeably.

Beryl - This is the modern form of the Greek word ‘beryllos’. In the distant past it referred to any green stone and included emerald or aquamarine. The modern term 'Beryl' refers to any stone with the chemical composition (Be3Al2Si6O18). These include emerald (a green stone), aquamarine (a pale blue stone), morganite (a purplish-red stone), heliodor ( a yellowish brown stone), and 2 unnamed varieties deep blue and violet-red.

Carbuncle - Derives from the Latin ‘Carbunculus’ and means little coal or small spark. In ancient times it referred to any red stone with a smooth rounded top (cabochon), usually a garnet. The term carbuncle is no longer used by modern gemologists

Chalcedony - It refers to Cryptocrystalline Quartz (SiO2). This means that even under very high magnification the crystalline structure cannot be seen because it is so small. One early source of this stone was the seaport town of Chalcedon in modern Turkey near Constantinople, hence the name. The Greek form of this word is ‘chalkedon’ and the Latin form is ‘chalcedonium’. Chalcedony is the modern technical term for most agates, jaspers, onyx and other cryptocrystalline stones.

Chrysolite - Chrysos refers to a yellow color and chrysolite means any yellowish green stone. It is often confused with chrysoberyl. This term is sometimes used to describe Peridot and is generally considered an antique term rather than a technical term.

Chrysoberyl - This is a specific chemical crystal structure (BeAl2O4) that includes Alexandrite and Cat'sEye. The term ‘chrysos’ is Greek and means golden and 'beryllos' means a gem. In former times meant any yellowish gem.

Chrysoprase - This is a variety of chalcedony. The name 'chrysos' derives from Greek meaning yellow or golden. ‘Prase’ is the modern term for the Greek term ‘prasios’ meaning leek green. It is another term for yellowish green stones.

Jacinth - Is the antique term and is interchangeable with Hyacinth and Chrysolite. It is used to describe any yellow-green stone. The modern usage of the term Hyacinth refers to a yellow variety of sapphire.

Kunzite - A light purple stone only recently described in technical terms and named for G. F. Kunz, an American mineralogist and gemologist. It is a form of spodumene. The first description of spodumene referred to the non-gem variety. ‘Spodmenos’ is a Greek word that means burnt to ashes in reference to those ashy crude crystals. The gem variety is a pretty pale purple stone.

Labradorite - First found by Moravian missionaries in Labrador, Canada in the 1700's. It was called by the missionaries labrador spar or labrador stone. This is a form of feldspar. ‘Feld’ is a German word meaning field, while ‘spar’ is Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘easily cleavable mineral’. This refers to the fact that is cleaves or breaks clearly along the planes of the crystal.

Lodestone or Loadstone - Antique names for magnetite, a magnetic stone.

Sardonyx - This is another chalcedony and shows pronounced banding or layers, usually brown with black or white. The term ‘sard’ is a reference to Sardis the capital of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) an early source for this stone.


The Curious Lore of Precious Stones by George Frederick Kunz

Handbook of Gem Identification by Richard T. Liddicoat, Jr.

Planet Earth; Gemstones by Paul O’Neil

Class notes from Gemology 101 & 102 by Beverly Fernandes

Amethyst: Royal Purple Quartz of the Ages

The lovely violet quartz amethyst is the highest valued member of the quartz family of stones and continues through the ages to mystify and amaze us. As the birthstone for February and the gemstone for Pisces, amethyst veils the second month of the year in its purple haze. Though the clearest and deepest colors of purple are favored for jewelry and bead making, amethyst can range from nearly clear to an opaque purple/black and registers at 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Amethyst occurs naturally in a 6 pointed crystal formation and can also be found in clusters (druse) or encased in geodes. This quartz can be sensitive to light and when heated shows tones of yellow, orange, green and clear. Most of the amethyst on the market today has been heat treated and most citrine is in fact heat treated amethyst. Prassiolite (green amethyst) is also a viable name for heat treated amethyst, as well.Since the times of Pharaohs and Greek mythology up through the ages, amethyst has been enlisted for many purposes including healing, protection and status. In fact, the name amethyst comes from the ancient Greek words a-("not") and methustos-("intoxicated") and was believed that wearing amethyst or drinking from an amethyst vessel would protect the owner from drunkenness or intoxication. Ancient Egyptians used amethyst to create ‘intaglio engraved’ gems; cabachons that were carved to create portraits of important leaders and symbols of historic importance. These carvings were done only for the luxury of kings and amethyst even appears in the Bible as one of the 12 stones on the breastplate of Aaron, representing one of the 12 Tribes of Israel.All quartz is used to clarify and concentrate psychic activity but the beloved purple quartz is believed to aid in healing, spiritual insight, courage, protection and happiness. As the 7th Chakra stone, amethyst is the perfect gift to give prior to birth or to encourage sobriety and healing.Today, amethyst is widely mined all over the world and is still readily available and affordable. A huge deposit was found in the early 1900's in Brazil and thus lowered the market value of the stone even until today. Amethyst would be much more expensive today were it not as available because it exhibits many of the traits we look for in higher priced gemstones. Purple is known as the color of royalty and with its rich, variable tones, amethyst has become a staple in jewelry-making, beadwork and adornment. Matching deep purple amethyst with gold beads and findings can enhance this regal quality. We occasionally see this stone in vintage gold or platinum settings though it is more commonly set in silver for rings, earrings and pendants. Try amethyst with amber and silver beads for a unique blend of ancient and modern, or mix with pearls for an instantly classic look!


en..wikipedia.org/wiki/Amethyst www.bernardine.com/gemstones/amethyst.htm From Gemstones of the World www.artisan-jewelry-online.com/amethysthistory.html www.gemstone.org/gem-by-gem/english/amethyst.html

Peridot: The Gem Form of Olivine

Olivine is normally an opaque rock, but as peridot can sometimes be found as translucent stones or crystals. Normally it is associated with either basalt or peridotite. Small crystals form near these rocks while it cools slowly deep in the earth. The slower this molten rock cools the larger the peridot crystals can grow.

The gem gravels of Burma sometimes produce large, nearly transparent stones of peridot. This is the main source of this stone, it is also found on Zebirget Island in the Red Sea. Another more recent source is Arizona, USA.

Peridot or Chrysolite is August's birthstone and it is also associated with the sun sign Libra, the apostle St. Bartholomew, and the hour of 7AM.


Peridot is the name applied by jewelers to the mineral known as olivine. The term chrysolite has also been applied to this material, especially to the pale-colored varieties. Gem-quality peridot is transparent and occurs in yellowish green, green, greenish yellow, brownish green, and brown. It can be confused with demantoid garnet (often called ‘olivine’ by jewelers), emerald, tourmaline, chrysoberyl, zircon, sapphire, synthetic sapphire, synthetic spinel, doublets, and artificial and natural glass (moldavite).

Peridot is a magnesium-iron silicate, which in fine quality, contains much more magnesium than iron. Since the proportions vary in different deposits, some property variation is expected. In the usual green or rare brown, gem peridot is usually near 1.654 and 1.690 in refractive indices, with a birefringence near .036. The specific gravity is usually near 3.32 to 3.35, but slightly higher readings are occasionally encountered.


Peridot forms in metamorphic contact zones where high heat penetrates a layer of cooler sedimentary rock. Intrusive granitic magma increases the temperature of the solid rock to more than 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. Excited by the heat energy, the atoms in the sedimentary mineral break free of the crystal structure and reform into new, more stable structures.

Technical Information 
Refractive Index:1.654 +/- .020
Specific Gravity:3.34 +.14 -.03
Fracture:Conchoidal to uneven
Mohs Hardness:6.5 - 7


Handbook of Gem Identification by Richard Liddicoat

The Curious Lore of Precious stones by George Frederick Kunz

Quartz: The Most Common Forms

Quartz crystals form from one atom of silicon and two atoms of oxygen - SiO2 - and it is the most common form of crystal on the earth's surface. It combines with a multitude of other elements to form most of the earth’s crust. Quartz is the crystal clear form of this semi-precious gemstone. Amethyst is purple quartz; citrine is yellow quartz; rose quartz is pink quartz; smoky quartz is brown quartz; and morion is black quartz. CLEAR QUARTZ or Rock CrystalDescription: Normally found as hexagonal crystals, the size ranges from grains of sand to large crystal columns. Clear crystal does not contain metallic oxides that give other varieties their characteristic colors.Name Derivation: Crystal is derived from the Greek ‘krytallus’, a term now used to denote any crystallized mineral. Lore: The Greeks and Romans believed it to be petrified water that was frozen so hard it would never melt. Rock Crystal is one of the birthstones for April. AMETHYSTDescription: Amethyst, the violet form of quartz, is commonly found in North America, South America, Africa and Madagascar, in fact Amethyst is found on every continent. The color comes from a presence of iron atoms that influence it’s purple color and every area where it comes from gives it a different amount of iron and variants in its color. Madagascar and Hungarian amethyst is a bluish-violet, while stones from Mexico are reddish-violet and amethyst from Pennsylvania is a smoky purple while Brazil produces a clear purple amethyst. Name derivation: From the Greek ‘amethystos,’ meaning ‘not drunken,’ because the Greeks believed that wearing an amethyst would prevent intoxication. One story has it that water poured into a goblet of amethyst would appear to be wine. Lore: According to Greek legend, Bacchus, the god of wine, created this beautiful purple stone. To avenge an insult he vowed to have a tiger devour the first person he met, that person happened to be a beautiful young maiden named Amethyst. The maiden cried out for the goddess Diana to save her and was turned into a brilliant crystal. When he saw what he had done, Bacchus was full of remorse. He poured wine over the stone maiden, turning it a lovely violet. Amethyst is one of the birthstones for February. CITRINEDescription: This yellow colored gem usually begins as amethyst and is heat treated at 500 - 600 degrees centigrade to create the brilliant yellow color as most natural citrine is a brownish yellow color. Citrine forms in hydrothermal lodes and pegmatites as well as in acidic igneous rock and its color is also due to iron oxides.Name Derivation: From the French word ‘citron,’ meaning ‘lemon,’ in allusion to its color. Some common misnomers are ‘Topaz quartz,’ ‘Spanish topaz,’ ‘Madeira topaz’ or ‘Saxon topaz’.Lore: Citrine was believed to alleviate jaundice and disorders of the liver or kidneys and is an alternate birthstone for November. ROSE QUARTZDescription: Rose quartz is found in Madagascar, India, Germany and in the USA, but the majority of it comes from Brazil. This rosy pink crystal gets its color from iron or titanium impurities in the quartz crystals. It forms mostly in pegmatites, but recently well formed crystals have been found in Brazil. Lore: Rose quartz is believed to reduce negative energy and tension and to promote love and compassion and is one of the birthstones for January. SMOKY QUARTZ or Cairngorm and MorionDescription: Brown quartz is better known as smoky quartz, most of which comes from Brazil while a very dark form of smoky quartz known as Morion is found in India.Name Derivation: The name Cairngorm comes from Scotland and it is a traditional stone for Scottish jewelry with the original source the Cairngorm Mountains hence the name. Morion quartz gets its name from the old roman word mormorion Pliny the Elder tells us, "Mormorion is a transparent stone from India, of a deep black color, and known also as promnion."