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Rock On: A Sparkling Guide to Our Favourite Gemstones

There's no question about it - gemstone jewelry is gorgeous. We can't get enough of the striking colours and their captivating sparkle. But the obsession surrounding gemstone jewelry doesn't stop at their beauty; they also have fascinating origins and important meanings assigned to them. Here are five of our favourite gemstones to work with, and a little bit of trivia about them!

How are gemstones created? 
Most gemstones form in the Earth's crust, approximately 3 to 25 miles beneath the Earth's surface. They start as minerals, which are forced together under great pressure and heat as a result of the natural movement of the earth's tectonic plates. Solid gemstones form as a result of the cooling and crystallization of magma, a molten liquid that becomes lava once it reaches the surface of the earth. Other gemstones, such as pearls, are formed organically from animals and plants. In more recent history, gems such as opals can be created in labs. They are chemically, physically, and optically identical to natural gems, but they are often more cost-effective, have a lighter carbon footprint, and contain fewer visual flaws. 

How do gemstones get their meanings and properties?
Many cultures have cultivated and honoured gemstones far before written history. Every culture had their own beliefs and traditions that contributed to the legend and myths about how each gemstone came to be. Many cultures believed that gemstones did not come directly from the earth, but rather were gifts sent by gods and divine beings. Many meanings and healing properties were assigned based on the look and feel of the gemstone itself, and much of this lore still stands today.

Tourmaline Dream
First discovered off the West Coast of Italy between the late 1600’s and early 1700’s, the varying and vibrant colours of tourmaline caused it to be mistaken for other gems. Common misconceptions were that green tourmaline was emerald, yellow was topaz, red and pink were rubies, and so on. It wasn't until the 1800s when mineralists finally understood that this multi-hued stone was actually its own species of mineral. The name "tourmaline" comes from the words "tura mali", meaning “stone with mixed colours” in Sinhala, a Sri Lankan language. Tourmaline has the widest range of colours of all gemstones, and some stones display two or more colours at once. Tourmaline is the alternate birthstone for October, and is said to deflect negative vibes and help to balance yin and yang energies.

By the light of the moonstone
The story of moonstone begins in ancient Rome, where it was believed that the stone was created from moonbeams. The stone was often used as illumination in dark spaces, and became known as the "Traveller's Stone" as it was said to protect those who travel at night, especially at sea. The Romans also believed that if you looked closely enough, the Roman goddess Diana, goddess of the moon, could be seen within the stone. The Romans thought that Diana would bestow love, wisdom, and good fortune upon those who possessed a moonstone. Today, moonstone is known to the stone of divine femininity that also protects the wearer while traveling. Moonstone is also the birthstone for the month of June.

Shine bright like a labradorite 
Labradorite was named after Labrador, Newfoundland, where the stone was first discovered around 1770. The First Nations people in the area believed the gem to have magical properties, and the ancient myth is that Labradorite contains the Northern Lights trapped inside the stone, due to its varying colours that appear to "dance" when the stone is moved. Labradorite is known to be a stone of transformation, like the changing colours seen inside. It is a helpful companion in times of change, imparting strength and perseverance and is said to be helpful in areas of self-confidence and inner strength. It is the birthstone of both February and March, and is often called a sister to the Moonstone as they come from the same mineral "family" and display similar plays of light and colour.  

Opulent opals 
According to archaeological evidence, it is believed that opal was first discovered in northwest Arizona over 10,000 years ago. It was also found in East Africa, South and Central America, and Australia. The Aboriginal people of Australia gave the stone the name of ‘Rainbow Serpent’, believing that the Creator formed the stone by using the colours of the rainbow. Its name is derived from the Sanskrit “upala” meaning “precious stone” and from the Greek “opalliosis” meaning “to see a change of color”. Today, opal is known to intensify emotions and release inhibitions while encouraging both freedom and independence. As well, the stone guides the wearer to follow their own creative path. It also is the birthstone of October. 

Pearls of wisdom
Pearls are considered to be one of the world's oldest gemstones. The name "pearl" is said to have originated from the Middle English word "perle" and the Latin word "perna", meaning "leg". This is thought to refer to the leg-shaped bivalve of the oyster from which a pearl is formed.The first discovery of pearls predates written history, but it is commonly believed that they were discovered by people who were searching for food near the seashore. In ancient Rome, only the higher class were allowed to wear pearls as jewelry, which explains its lasting connection to royalty and sophistication. Today, pearls promote love, care, and wisdom in the wearer. They are also symbols of beauty and purity, and the birthstone of June, along with Moonstone.

A real gem
Every piece of jewelry tells a story. Sometimes it's a gift, or a physical reminder of a cherished memory. Practically overflowing with history and significance, wearing gemstones is a beautiful form of expression, remembrance, and most importantly - style.

Do you choose your gemstone jewelry based on looks, or meaning, or both? Tell us in the comments below!
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