Turquiose, birthstone of December

Turquoise_

In ancient Persia it was once believed that the wearing of turquoise talismans would protect the wearer from death. It was also believed – not only among Persians but also among a number of other cultures – that a change in the color of the turquoise was a sign of danger or illness. Turquoise was carried by physicians of the fifteenth century. They claimed that the stone would counter the harmful effects of poison. They prepared a potion containing finely powdered turquoise, which, as well as proving to be a powerful antidote to scorpion stings, was also considered effective in banishing the pains arising from possession by demons.

Turks often attached Turquoise to the bridles of their horses believing that it rendered the horse more sure-footed. As the horse was often regarded as a symbol of the sun in its rapid course through the heavens, the sky-blue color of Turquoise may have caused it to be associated in some way with the horse.

The name turquoise is apparently related to the fact that is was brought to Europe from the Eastern Mediterranean by Levantine traders, more commonly known as Turks.  Its been used as a valuable ornament for ages and was used by the Egyptians thousands of years ago. The color is, of course, turquoise, but its range of color varies from green and greenish blue to sky blue shades.

For centuries, the most valuable turquoise came from Iran (Persia) but today some specimens mined in the southwestern United States compete with it.  The name “Persian Turquoise” is now generally used to refer to any turquoise stone that does not have the black or brown veining commonly found in turquoise mined in the United States.

Topaz

Topaz

Topaz was one of the original gems on the breastplate of the Jewish high priest, inscribed to with the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. While many of the birthstones have been changed over the millennia, topaz is one gem that is almost universally accepted as November’s birthstone; it is the gem of the zodiac sign Sagittarius. It is also called Sunday’s gemstone-and it associated with the sun.

Indeed, St. John in Revelation writes that topaz was “touched by the splendor of the sun.” He lists topaz as the ninth foundation stone–each of the stones represents a Christian virtue. To St. John, topaz is the clearest of all gemstones and signifies contemplation which expands the heart and aligns men with the nine orders of angels.

The name, “topaz,” comes from the island, Topazio, which is in the Red Sea. It was commonly used as an amulet as protection from the “evil eye.” The theme of a cure of eyes runs though some of the early Christian writing from the tenth century. St. Hildegard of Bingen claimed the gem was so brilliant that it illuminated prayers in a dark chapel, and claimed the gem was a cure of dim vision. She recommended placing a piece of topaz in white wine for three days and nights, then rubbing the eye with the stone before sleep with the wet stone and using the wine as an eye wash.

Other “healing” applications vary over the centuries. Powdered topaz placed in wine cured asthma, burns, insomnia and hemorrhage. It was said to cure sadness and make you more intelligent and was particularly powerful if used in moonlight. Pope Clement VI and Pope Gregory II claimed that topaz could even cure the sores from the plague.