Of course the birthstone for May is emerald. All I have to do it look out my window to see why. After an early spring showing of pastel blossoms and bright tulips, the trees and grass have burst into all their leafy green glory. No wonder The Wizard of Oz made all visitors to the Emerald City wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from the brilliance of all the sheer greenness everywhere. Summer is just around the corner, but first we need to celebrate our May birthday girls with their gorgeous green birthstone!
A precious gemstone like rubies, diamonds and sapphires, the vivid green emerald is the most valuable member of the Beryl family, which includes its cousin, aquamarine. Chromium gives emerald is vivid green color, whereas iron turns aquamarine a pale blue. The highest quality emeralds are even more valuable than diamonds. Snap!
Like some of our older relations, emeralds are fragile and should be handled with care. They are riddled with inclusions and faults, which is part of their charm (also like grandparents), and these imperfections are thought of more as fingerprints than flaws. “Oiling” this gem to enhance its brilliance and diminish these marks is a standard practice. However, I love the character given to the emeralds I use in my birthstone jewelry by the patterns and markings made by the gemstones’ inclusions.The name emerald originates from the ancient Greek word “smardagos,” which means “green gem.” Fortunately for us, in Old French it evolved into “esmerelde,” as a smardagos ring des not sound quite as appealing. The Cleopatra Mines in Egypt are the oldest recorded emerald mines, operating from 3000 to 1500 BC. They were named, of course, for the infamous Queen, who had a passion for the green sparklers. Another decadent leader who was partial to emeralds was the Roman Emperor Nero. You think your designer shades are pricey? Nero had a pair of sunglasses made from emeralds to refresh his tired eyes after a day at the Coliseum. Watching gladiators dismember each other can be such a strain on one’s vision…
Speaking of royalty…what do Angelina Jolie and Queen Victoria have in common? More than you’d think, actually. Both ladies have been known to adorn themselves with extra-large emeralds and are members of monarchies, the Hollywood and British variety, respectively. They were both also fortunate enough to find their soul mate…though we’re watching you, Angie, with our emerald-tinted sunglasses! Remember the enormous emerald drop earrings she wore to the at the Oscars a few years back? Stunning…and so much classier than this year’s dramatic leg flash pose. What was that?!? Please.
Back in the 19th century, Queen Victoria loved her cousin Albert so much that she proposed to him, and their marriage is one of history’s most famous love stories. There’s even an art museum now named after them in London, the Victoria & Albert. Stop by next time you’re in town to see their amazing collections of art and, of course, jewelry. The V&A has one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of jewellery in the world. Over 3,000 pieces tell the story of jewellery in Europe from ancient times to the present day; from a great gold Celtic breastplate to medieval love rings and pendants given by Elizabeth I to her courtiers; from jewels by Cartier to animals by Fabergé; and jewellery by an international selection of contemporary makers. Of course, you can also see some amazing jewels a bit closer to home, such at our amazing Field Museum in Chicago.
Like Brad and Angie, Al and Vicky not only loved their royal bling, but also had many offspring (nine, and all from one continent, as far as we know). The Prince loved spoiling his Queen with spectacular jewelry he designed just for her, such as the imaginatively named “The Emerald and Diamond Tiara.” Sadly, nobody knows where the tiara is today, as it was passed down to one of their children and probably dismantled to make new jewelry. Wait a minute, Angie’s earrings look familiar….hmmm….
Anyway, like Brad (fingers crossed) and the devoted Prince Albert, emeralds are in it for the long haul, which is why they are traditionally given on the 20th and 35th wedding anniversaries. Emeralds are considered one of the symbolic “love stones,” because they are said to enhance amorous feelings and create a bridge between two people. Beware their dark side though, as emeralds can also stand for jealousy. Rumor has it that if one partner betrays the other, the stone will fade, because it is also the stone of truth. Last, some believe that if you find yourself in a doubtful situation, you should put an emerald under your tongue, meditate, and the truth will be revealed.
I wonder why after seven years and six children Brad and Angie finally decided to make it official? I would comment, but I’m sucking on an emerald…
“A kiss on the hand may be quite continental,
But diamonds are a girl’s best friend…”
Marilyn Monroe famously sung these words in the 1953 film “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” but does it really look like she’s having a great time with her gal pals? These days, one can’t be too sure about diamonds’ intentions, platonic or otherwise. True, the celebrated birthstone of April is the world’s most popular and hardest gem. The word diamond is Greek for “unbreakable,” but we all know those little sparklers can sure break the bank (and sometimes your heart)! Don’t get me wrong, I love me a gorgeous diamond, too, but also want to offer my designs in several gorgeous, affordable diamond substitutes that will be kinder to your wallet and still give you April birthday girls, blushing brides, ice queens and bling babes the frosty sparkle you crave.
Happy birthday, April girl! Choose your friends wisely…
Diamonds are formed more than 250 miles below the Earth’s crust, from extreme heat and pressure, which makes them pretty tough. At the playground, Miss Diamond will always come out the winner against all the other nice little gems. Only another diamond can scratch her hardbody in a sandbox scuffle. Impressive qualities, but do you really want that kind of “popular” girl as your best friend? She’s so high maintenance and you’re always afraid of losing her.
Diamonds represent love, fidelity, purity and innocence, which makes them the perfect stone for wedding jewelry. But the gem’s popularity is largely self-generated thanks to a “brilliant” ad campaign that South African mining conglomerate DeBeers launched in the 1950s, and convinced us that “a diamond is forever.” Thus, the de rigueur solitaire diamond engagement ring was born, though it is thought that such a ring was given by Archduke Maximilian of Austria to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. Now more than $72 billion worth of diamonds are sold globally each year, and the most popular cut is the round brilliant, which has 57 facets.
Diamonds can also have questionable histories, and it is always advisable to know where your stone came from and what baggage it carries. Of the world’s diamonds, today more than 65% come from Africa. When buying a diamond, it’s important to make sure it isn’t an African blood, or conflict diamond. In ancient India, Diamonds were believed to have magical properties and adorned sacred religious icons. It was considered taboo in India to cut the treasured gem until about 800 years ago.
More than a few spectacular diamonds were snatched from these sacred Indian statues by greedy Imperialists, which some believe incurred the wrath of the gods. Some of these famous cursed stones have been known bring death and misfortune to their owners. Now in the Smithsonian, the Hope Diamond was whisked away by a Frenchman who was subsequently torn apart by a pack of wild dogs. Ouch! Another unfortunate owner of the Hope Diamond, Marie Antoinette, wore the stone around her pretty neck to her own beheading. Not a good look.
The majestic,105-karat Koh-i-Noor Diamond (meaning “mountain of light)was hidden in the turban of the Mogul Emperor to save it from marauding Persians, but was also separated from the emperor along with his head. It’s now one of the crown jewels of the British Royal family, and the Windsors are certainly not the world’s luckiest clan. The world’s largest cut diamond at 530 carats, the Cullian I stone, is also part of the royal treasury. It is set in a sceptre Queen Elizabeth carried at her 1953 coronation and is now on display at the Tower of London. Let’s hope that Princess Kate’s diamond bridal tiara will bring her and William better fortune than Elizabeth’s offspring!
If diamond is sounding more and more high maintenance to you now, then you must take a look at some of our alternatives, including rock crystal, white topaz and cubic Zirconia. And check out the LTJ Birthstone Collection, where you can create a custom necklace with gemstone, initials, and symbol charms. Wear these beauties and we guarantee you won’t suffer neck pain from consistently looking over your shoulder for packs of wild dogs.
- Rock Crystal is the second most abundant mineral on the face of the planet. She’s your of your salt-of-earth friend. It’s actually quartz in its most pure, colorless form, which led ancient people to believe it was petrified ice. In gem lore, rock crystal is said to bring harmony, balance, and clarity to the wearer. And if you want to predict the future, a crystal ball always comes in handy.
- White Topaz is the friend you want when you’re feeling blue, and is thought of as the stone of true friendship. She will replace negativity with love, peace and joy and energy. Unlike the blue and yellow topaz, the untreated white variety is colorless, like your hair before you started messing with it. She also has perfect cleavage, but worry not, in gemstone lingo this just means she will always break predictably and cleanly.
- Cubic Zirconia, who also goes by the nickname CZ, is sometimes unfairly looked down upon because, as a synthetic gemstone, she is not a “natural beauty.” But once you get over that, you’ll see that she is a great choice. CZ is durable, flawless and optically mimics diamonds in its brilliance. Today, CZ is the gem most competitive with diamonds.
Also remember that as the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers, and shortly thereafter June sprouts weddings. Here at LTJ, we offer a stunning range of Wedding Collection of jewelry for brides featuring rock crystal, white topaz, CZ, moonstone and freshwater pearls. Still need something blue? LTJ has you covered with a small blue aquamarine dangling from the clasp of each bridal necklace or bracelet. Your wedding party will look fabulous with endless possibilities of either matching styles in different gemstones, or mixing styles in the same gemstone for a gift they will adore you for!
Coming next month…everything you wanted to know
(and more) about May’s birthstone, the gorgeous green emerald.
“ The lovely aquamarine, which seems to have come from the same mermaid’s treasure house, in the depths of a summer sea, has charms not be denied. ”
As months go, March can be a tough one here in Chicago. We manage to get through winter, and we’re all ready for spring, but then March doesn’t always play along. The Anglo Saxons called it Hlyd Monath, which means “stormy month, and the ancient Irish people cryptically called this March “The Month When the Old Cow Died.” On the bright side, aquamarine, the gorgeous birthstone for March, reminds me that sunnier days are ahead. With its gradation from medium to almost transparent blue, sometimes hinting at green, the beautiful aquamarine is said to imitate sea and sky.
In fact, the very name aquamarine means “seawater,” and this gem is all about things aquatic. The ancient Romans and the Greeks believed that wearing an aquamarine ensured a safe journey across stormy seas, so the gemstone was often given to sailors as a gift. The Greeks believed aquamarines were the stone of the sea-god Neptune, and that they spilled out of the jewelry boxes of the Sirens, the temptresses whose seductive music lured sailors to shipwrecks. But I wouldn’t listen to that. Seriously, don’t listen to the Sirens. And the zodiac sign for March? Pisces (the fish), naturally.
In other gem lore, the aquamarine is said to bring the wearer luck, a sense of peace and calm, and even increase intuition. In the middle ages, aquamarines were actually thought to be an antidote for poison. You didn’t even have to eat them, because they believed it was enough to wear one. Needless to say, this stone was worn by many a medieval royal personage, because, if you were the firstborn son, you know had to watch your back. The aquamarine was also believed to render soldiers invincible and to bring victory in battles. The ancient Romans frequently used aquamarines in their jewelry, and held the unusual belief that if you wore an aquamarine bearing a frog carving, it would help you to reconcile with your enemies and renew friendships. Although there are no LTJ designs featuring the frog motif (yet), we do have plenty of aquamarine jewelry to help you out with any of these issues (as well as finding a gift for March birthday girls)!
A few things set March’s birthstone apart from all the other gems. Aquamarines are almost always flawless and come in a range of sizes and shades of pale blue. Their stunning blue display comes from iron content, and the depth of color depends on how much or how little iron is in the stone. Aquamarines are in the beryl family, and are a close cousin to emeralds.
Unlike many other gemstones, aquamarine also maintains brilliance in artificial light. There aren’t many things in life that you can say those things about. Sure, men come in a range of colors, shapes and sizes…but flawless (see below)? And why can’t we all look sparkly and pretty under fluorescent lights while trying on bathing suits? It’s just not fair, aquamarine!
Speaking of bathing suits, how many of us who live in the frigid North find ourselves dreaming of lounging by the pool or on this beach this time of year? Close your eyes, and imagine an Ice Blue Martini in hand, a cloudless azure sky spreading out above us, and our feet dangling in warm, shimmering turquoise water. Can you say aaaahhhquamarine? Now, put the dashing Bradley Cooper into the picture, gazing longingly at you with his baby blues. Or, for you Anglophiles, imagine being on the receiving end of Dan Stevens’ (Daniel from Downton Abbey) adorably tortured cerulean gaze…ladies, take your pick…or pick your team! Have you forgotten all about the chill in the March air yet?
Although we can’t guarantee you a tropical vacation or a poolside visit with Bradley or Dan (sorry), you can find the same cool shades as their baby blues in the LTJ selection of beautiful aquamarine jewelry.