The history of Amber reaches back one million years. Formed from the fossilised sticky resin from ancient Pine trees, Amber sometimes contains unusual inclusions such as fossilised insects, bugs and plant life. A perfectly formed fossilised inclusion can greatly enhance the value of Amber.
Amber is a very soft gemstone, so great care should be taken to avoid scratching the stone. Throughout the ages Sorcerers have used amber, believing it to enhance their magical powers. It is known as the 'Stone of the Sun' and has been considered to have purifying powers.
The fossil-storing abilities of this yellow/orange stone are of great use to those studying extinct species. You may remember that fossilised dinosaur remains were stored in Amber in the great Hollywood movie, Jurassic Park.
Emerald, the beautiful rich green gemstone is highly prized throughout the world. Whereas inclusions and flaws in other stones may reduce their value and desirability, flaws in Emeralds are often considered to add to their value by adding to each stones unique character and even acting as an assurance as to the stone's authenticity.
Emerald belongs to the same mineral family as Aquamarine, Beryl. It is used in a variety of jewellery including rings, bracelets, pendants and necklaces. Rich sources of Emerald deposits include southeast Asia, southern Africa, Australia and the USA.
The ancient Chinese and Egyptians believed Jade to have talismanic qualities, attracting good fortune and personal loyalty. It has been used often in statues, pendants and amulets.
There are two types of Jade : Jadeite and Nephrite. Nephrite is the more common type and is always green on colour. Jadeite however can come in one of several colours, including red, green, black and blue.
Jade is an extremely hard and durable stone and because of this it is often used in gem carving. The most valuable Jade is known as Imperial Jade and comes from Burma.
The jewel of wisdom and inner vision is blue in colour, sometimes with a violet or green tint. Its blueness stems from the sulphur content of the stone.
Finest quality Lapis Lazuli hails from Afghanistan where it has been mined for around 6000 years. Belief in the stone's spiritual qualities led to its use in Ancient Egypt and Biblical times by priests and Holy men.
In addition to its use in jewellery, Lapis Lazuli is also used as an ornamental stone and has also been used in ground-down form as a base material for paint.
This beautiful stone was a favourite of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Indeed, the name Onyx comes from the Greek myth in which Cupid cut the fingernails of the Goddess Venus. The Fates transformed the fingernail clippings into stone to preserve and protect these fallen parts of the Goddess. The name Onyx is derived from the Greek for 'fingernail'.
Although we mostly think of Onyx as a black stone, there is Onyx that has white stripes and a variety called Sardonyx is a reddish brown colour with white and lighter red bands.
Ruby belongs to the Corundum mineral family. The red variety of Corundum is known as Ruby, while other coloured stones in that family are known as Sapphire.
Although we think of Ruby red as a deep red colour, rubies can be any shade of red right through to a pink shade. The redness of a ruby depends on the chromium and iron content of the stone.
Although this type of gemstone is hard and durable, care should be taken to avoid fracturing or chipping rubies.
Sapphires are commonly thought of as blue in colour, but they can be nearly any colour. Sapphire belongs to the same family of stones as the ruby called the Corundum family of minerals. Rubies are red, of course, and sapphires are the non-red stones of the Corundum family.
Although sapphire is a hard-wearing stone, one should take care to avoid chipping and fracturing these precious gemstones.
Probably the most highly valued non-opaque gemstone, Turquoise is believed to relieve stress and aid in relaxing the mind.
The name Turquoise comes from the stones origins and introduction into Europe from Eastern Mediterranean traders – literally, in French, it is the stone of the Turks. Its long history dates right back to 6000BC when the ancient Egyptians used the stone.
Iranian turquoise is regarded as the highest quality turquoise. Other regions that produce turquoise include Mexico and the southwestern states of the USA.
Turquoise is a soft stone and you should avoid exposing stones to hot water and household chemicals.