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Know Your Gemstones

There is something mysterious and beautiful about gemstones that has fascinated man since time immemorial. Gemstones come in virtually the entire spectrum of colours, and an amazing range of shades, shapes and sizes. While jewellery made of silver, gold, platinum or any other metal is beautiful in itself, such beauty is enhanced by gemstones, whether these are matte, sparkling or brilliant. Each gemstone is special in its own right and appeals to different people in different ways. At Mehta, we believe that knowing something about gemstones helps you when making a choice and adds the joy of wearing them.

So, for your reading pleasure, we've put together small capsules of information about popular gemstones.

Navaratna

The navaratna or nine gems have cultural and religious significance not only in India, but all over Asia. They are, in fact, the royal symbol of the king of Thailand and find mention in the Parichad Jataka written by the late Thai astrologer, Horacharn Thep Sarikabutr.

Humans have been, and will continue to be, fascinated by the unknown. That a particular gemstone or combination of them bring luck or help one regain lost health and wealth is debatable, but just as all other things, the navaratnas have their individual auras and are supposed to work collectively as a talisman or good luck charm. Worn together in a multi-coloured ring, bracelet, chain or pendant, they do make a fashion statement and can be carried off with virtually any dress.
 
In Vedic astrology, each of the navaratnas represents a planet and is associated with a day of the week. We list below these nine gems, the planets they are associated with and their common ‘other’ name(s) by which they are known in India.

Gemstone Day of the Week Planet Also known as
Ruby Sunday Sun / Surya Manek, Kempu
Pearl Monday Moon / Chandra Moti, Muthu, Muthyam
Red Coral Tuesday Mars / Kuja / Mangal Moonga, Pavalam, Pagadam
Emerald Wednesday Mercury / Budha Panna, Patchai, Markata
Yellow Sapphire Thursday Jupiter / Guru / Brihaspati Pukhraj, Pushparagam
Diamond Friday Venus / Shukra Heera, Vairam, Vajram
Blue Sapphire Saturday Saturn / Shani Neelam, Shani
Hessonite Saturday Northern node of the moon Gomedh, Gomedhakam
Cat’s Eye Tuesday Southern node of the moon Vaiduryam, Lehsunya

Ruby

The ruby is a beautiful and hardy gemstone that does not erode easily. Considered one of the four precious stones along with diamonds, sapphires and emeralds, the ruby ranges in colour from pink to blood red. It derives its name from the Latin ruber for red. This gemstone is an aluminium oxide called corundum, the same mineral as sapphire. It is the chromium impurities in corundum which gives it its red colour.

 

Pearl

Composed of the organic mineral calcium carbonate, a pearl is produced inside a living shelled-mollusc. When a minute particle gets between its shell and soft tissue, the irritation causes the mollusc to secrete nacre; this coats the particle in concentric circles to produce a pearl. Pearls are also cultured or farmed and these are more affordable. In the past, they have also been crushed and used in cosmetics, medicines and paint formulations.
 

Pearls can be found in many shapes; the perfectly round ones are preferred in jewellery. Good quality pearls have a nacreous and iridescent lustre. Natural pearls that are even in colour and shape are rare and expensive. It is for this reason that everything fine, admirable, and valuable is compared to a perfect pearl.

Red Coral  

The red coral or corallium rubrum - grows some 10 to 300 metres deep within the sea, on the rocky sea bottom. Like pearls, corals too are composed of calcium carbonate. When harvested they are naturally matte; they are then polished for high gloss. Coral is soft and porous and can only be cut en cabochon or made into beads. It varies in colour from pale pink to a deep red, which is preferred in India. The coral is called mangal, pavalam or pagadam in India and said to represent the planet Mars.

 

Emerald

Emeralds are formed of beryllium-aluminium silicate. Top quality fine emeralds cost more than diamonds and have been valued greatly by royalty the world over. Emeralds are very brittle and tend to chip or break easily. Emeralds from the mines in Columbia, South America, which have a beautiful green colour, are considered to be the best while the oldest emerald was mined in Zimbabwe 2600 million years ago. Zimbabwe emeralds bear a yellowish tint; those mined in Brazil and Zambia have a slight bluish undertone. Emeralds are also found in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Russia.

Emeralds find mention in the Vedas for their healing properties and promise of good luck and well-being. Emeralds are supposed to have a cooling effect on the eyes. Gemstone graders, who spend long hours looking at rubies and other dark coloured stones, are said to reduce the strain on their eyes by gazing on these green gems.

Emeralds and emerald beads are very popular in India, where these gems are called panna or patchai in India. Since it is rare to find them of even colour or without inclusions, many are, in fact, colour enhanced. A jeweller you trust is expected to keep you informed if any gemstones have been colour enhanced.

Yellow Sapphire

Like the ruby and blue sapphire, the kanaka pushparagam or golden sapphire is also corundum or aluminium oxide, with titanium to give it its yellow hue. Less expensive than blue sapphires, the yellow sapphire is one of the navarathnas. When worn by itself, it is usually set in a ring for the index finger. Pure corundum is colourless; colourless sapphires have been used as a cheaper substitute in place of diamonds and known as pukhraj or pushparagam. Aluminium oxide with copper gives the corundum an orange colour, magnesium gives it green, and chromium give it a purple shade.

 

Diamond

Did you know that over 90% of the world diamonds today are cut in Surat in Gujarat, India? In fact, the Golconda mines in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh produced several of the most notable diamonds in the world, including those in the British crown jewels.
 
The diamond has always fascinated us. It gets its name from the Greek adamas, meaning 'unbreakable'. So hard that it can cut any material, it can be faceted and polished to incredible brilliance and fire.
 
Looking at a diamond, it is hard to imagine that this brilliant gemstone is composed of the same element as a piece of coal. The diamond is a avatar of carbon, formed by the tremendous pressure within the earth. Diamonds of the first water are colourless and as pure as 'a drop of water'. Besides their colour, diamonds are assessed and graded according to their cut, clarity and carat weight; these together are popularly known as the 4 Cs of the diamond.
 
Diamonds are called heera, vairam or vajram in India. Today, fancy-coloured diamonds are becoming increasingly popular; they come in intriguing shades of pinks and blues, yellows, oranges and greens.

Blue sapphire

All corundum which are not ruby-red are sapphires, but the most popular and precious of them is the blue sapphire. Aluminium oxide with iron gives the sapphire its blue colour. It is the third hardest mineral after diamond and moisannite. It is called shani in India as it represents the planet, Saturn. It is called neelam in southern India because blue is its best known colour. These gems can, however, be found in a variety of colours; padparadscha - a totally natural variety of pink-orange to orange-pink sapphire is extremely rare and expensive.

 

Hessonite

Hessonite is a quartz; a garnet derivative. Composed of calcium-aluminium silicate this gemstone has a characteristic red colour inclining towards lovely orange or warm honey hues. Hessonite used to be mistaken for zircons, till it was discovered to have a lower specific gravity.
 
Known as gomed or gomedakam in India, these gemstones are found chiefly in Sri Lanka and India in limestone deposits.

 

Chrysoberyl Cat’s Eye 

Ordinary chrysoberyl is yellowish-green and transparent to translucent. Only when it is transparent and bears a good pale green to yellow colour is it used as a gemstone. The cat’s eye effect in a chrysoberyl is a phenomenon caused by the twin crystals in its formation that bears a striking similarity to the physical appearance of a feline’s eye. This gemstone is also called cymophane, lehsunya and vaiduryam. It is available in a variety of colours, the ‘milk-and-honey’ or the ‘kanak-khetu’ being the most preferred.