It’s my birthday and I’ll sparkle if I want to!

This weekend we’re throwing it back all the way to primary school with some good old birthstone chat. Later on we can play MASH and maybe a bit of Red Rover…

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My oldest school friend turned 26 last week, and for one of her gifts I designed her a silver and emerald earring and necklace set. As well as being one of her favourite stones, emerald is also her birthstone, which is something we were VERY excited about back in junior school (along with birth flowers, star signs, and any other vaguely mystical identifiers we could find…).

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All this birthstone nostalgia made me wonder where birthstones even came from. I mean, it’s a fairly niche idea when you think about it. Star signs, the Chinese zodiac, all of those identifiers are based on astrology, but birthstones? Whose idea was that?

The birth of birthstones

Surprisingly, it seems like it was Aaron’s. Not as in Aaron Burr, but as in the High Priest Aaron, Moses’ brother. In Exodus 28, when Aaron is being fitted for a new breastplate, Moses decrees it should carry 12 gemstones, one for each of the tribes of Israel. Historians have since argued that these stones were also linked to the months of the year and the signs of the Zodiac. Because names of gemstones have changed over time and translation, nobody is quite sure which stones Aaron was sporting, but a commonly-accepted list is as follows:

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Source: peacefulmind.com

As you can see below, some of these stones or close alternates still appear on today’s lists…

However, the practice of wearing your birth month’s stone only appeared in Europe a few hundred years ago; before that, it was customary (presumably only among those who could afford it!) to keep one of each stone and wear it during its month. However, by the 20th century, birthstones were such a popular (and lucrative) concept that both the American National Association of Jewelers and the British National Association of Goldsmiths created their own ‘official’ list of birthstones.

Let’s get stoned

Ever wonder what your own birthstone is? Well, wonder no longer – I’m about to take you through the official (British NAG) list of birthstones. Some of them are pricier than others, but the NAG have thoughtfully provided alternatives on some months. I also have a couple of suggestions for budget-friendly dupes for some of the more expensive stones…

January: Garnet

As I’ve mentioned once or twice, I bloody love garnet. If only my mum had held onto me a solid month past my due date this stone could have been mine… The gorgeous dark red colour is perfectly set off by faceting, and it looks lovely in a gold or silver setting.

 

February: Amethyst

February’s stone is amethyst, a lovely violet-coloured form of quartz. Fun fact about amethyst: its name comes from the Ancient Greek for the words ‘not’ and ‘intoxicate’. This belief that amethyst protected you from drunkenness (and, indeed, hangovers!) led to lots of drinking vessels carved from or inlaid with the stone, as well as charms:

 

Maybe I’ll try wearing amethyst charms on my next night out and see how my head is the next day…

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Available here

March: Aquamarine/Bloodstone

Two quite different stones for March – perhaps March babies are meant to be more indecisive? Bloodstone sounds – and looks! – a bit emo, whilst aquamarine is delicate and classic:

 

If you don’t fancy either of these, March’s birth colours are white and light blue, so you could always consider substituting a pearl or a moonstone for the two ‘official’ options…

April: Diamond/Rock crystal

One of the most expensive months of the year is April, with diamond as its main stone. Luckily, a more affordable alternative, rock crystal, is given, and you could also substitute crystal quartz:

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Available here

May: Emerald/Chrysoprase

If only I’d be born in May… Emeralds speak for themselves, and luckily chrysoprase makes a nice, affordable substitute for emerald. Chrysoprase also has some lovely marble-esque inclusions which adds a bit of interest:

 

June: Pearl/Moonstone

June’s stones of pearl or moonstone give some lovely, neutral-coloured options for birthstone jewellery, but the benefit of pearls is they also come in different colours to suit all tastes and styles, and rainbow moonstones also produce lovely colours when the light hits them:

 

July: Ruby/Carnelian

Another red month, with cardinal stone ruby and semi-precious carnelian for some fiery birthstone jewellery:

 

August: Peridot/Sardonyx

Leaving aside the fact that Sardonyx sounds like me as a Pokemon, it’s also quite different from the better-known August birthstone of peridot. August babies have tons of colours and patterns to choose from with sardonyx, as well as a light green sparkler with periot. I think I prefer the sardonyx for its variety (and name!), but peridot isn’t too shabby either:

 

September: Sapphire/Lapis Lazuli

Yet another month I’m jealous of; more for the lapis lazuli than the sapphire, actually. I just love its gold flecks and historical appeal. That being said, you can’t go too far wrong with a sapphire, and they come in a bunch of different colours as well, so you can choose your favourite or sport a rainbow birthstone piece (if you’ve the budget for it!):

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October: Opal

Opals have come back in in a big way in the past couple of years, so lucky October babies! Opals were extremely rare before the 19th century discovery of huge opal deposits in Australia, and appear in the treasuries of many European royal houses. Like many of the stones on this list, opals come in a range of colours and styles…

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November: Topaz/Citrine

November is the only month with predominantly yellow stones, perhaps to make up for the lack of sunshine the UK during these babies’ birthdays… Topaz does, of course, come in blues, greens and pinks as well as yellows, whilst citrine (as the name suggests) is just yellow. According to British superstition, Topaz also cures ‘lunacy’, so take from that what you will…

 

December: Turquoise/Tanzanite

I love turquoise now, but when I was little, it did feel a little like they’d just run out of stones by the time they got to my birth month. I mean, turquoise isn’t even sparkly! Gorgeous, purply-blue tanzanite is, but I didn’t know about it back then. Tanzanite is also a lot more expensive; turquoise is definitely the affordable December stone, but it does have the advantage of a huge range of variations in colour and inclusions (the speckly bits)…

 

What’s your birthstone, and, more importantly, do you like it? If your month has two stones, what do you prefer? Let me know in the comments…

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Colours of Christmas

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Our tree has been up for 2 weeks, and last night The Goblin covered the flat in fairy lights and all of the leftover fake tea lights from the wedding. It’s safe to say we’re excited (even the usually Scrooge-like Goblin is full of Christmas cheer!), so this week’s post had to be a festive one.

Everywhere you look, it’s red and green, and my workshop is no exception, so here are the colours of Christmas in precious and semi-precious formats…

Reds

Currently my favourite red stone is garnet (which is actually the birthstone for January, so I’m a bit early, but never mind that…).

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A deeper blood red than its ruby cousin, garnet is a truly historic stone which has been popular for centuries, featuring heavily in both Roman and early-medieval English design:

Fast facts:

  • Garnet is a member of the silicate family of minerals, which is the largest and most important class of rock-forming minerals, according to Wikipedia. My GCSE Double Science doesn’t give me any more clues on what that actually means, so let’s move on to language, which I’m a bit more familiar with…
  • The word ‘garnet’ comes from the Middle English word ‘gernet’, meaning dark red, although garnets do occasionally come in other colours, including green, purple, and blue.
  • Garnet is the state mineral of Connecticut and Idaho, and the official gemstone of New York. (More on state gemstones in a later post, because I just discovered they exist and I love it… If I ruled a state, the gemstone would be haematite or moonstone, if anyone is interested.)

Other prominent red stones include:

  • Ruby – everyone knows what these are, but did you know they’re part of a group called the ‘cardinal gemstones’ which includes sapphires, diamonds, emeralds and amethysts, and which were traditionally valued above all other stones?
  • Red Topaz (topaz also comes in tons of other colours, most often blue or yellow)
  • Red Spinels (spinels also come in a range of colours, including black, and I’d never heard of them until I bought a couple to try in the design below…)
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Available here

Green

It would be a cardinal sin not to pick emeralds for my favourite stone here (geddit), but I covered them in an earlier post, so I’m going to hone in on my second-favourite: aventurine.

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Available here

It’s a type of quartz that, like lapis lazuli, has gold inclusions, which gives it extra shimmer despite being a translucent stone.

Fast facts:

  • The shimmer the gold inclusions give off is referred to as aventurescence. I aspire one day to be so shiny that my glittering has its own descriptor…
  • It was discovered by chance in the eighteenth century, which is why it’s called aventurine, after the Italian for ‘by chance’: a ventura.
  • As well as jewellery, aventurine is used in landscaping, monuments, and interior design:

Other popular green stones include:

  • Jade – historically significant and highly-prized for centuries
  • Garnet – that’s right, my favourite stone above also comes in green (huzzah!)
  • Sapphire – these usually-blue stones have other varieties, notably pink and green
  • Malachite – pure stripy gorgeousness:

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That’s all for tonight, folks – I’m off to wrap some pressies to put under the tree…

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How to choose your bridal jewellery in 5 easy steps

It’s an undeniable fact of life that weddings in the Western world are overwhelmingly focused around the appearance of the bride and, let’s face it, that’s a lot of pressure. There are so many things to consider, and that’s before you start looking at wedding magazines or websites for inspiration. When you’re busy obsessing over every aspect of your dress/makeup/bouquet/hair/shoes, it’s easiest to leave the jewellery till last.

I’ve done exactly this, and only just chosen what I’m going to wear, although my wedding is in just over three weeks. Like a lot of brides, I had a couple of family/sentimental pieces in mind early on, but then I got stuck making it work as a whole ‘look’. (To be fair, it probably didn’t help that I changed my mind about my wedding dress three months before the wedding and had to find one to exchange it for… More on that in a different post, probably.)

Anyway, now I’ve (pretty much) finalised what jewellery I’m going to sport on the Big Day™, I’ve got five quick tips for any other brides-to-be who find themselves in similar circumstances…

1) Consider the style of your dress

This sounds obvious, but it’s worth saying anyway. The dress is, naturally, the focal point of your appearance, and it will look better in photos if the jewellery works well with the dress. For example, my dress has a relatively high neck and a very embellished bodice, so I’m not having a necklace because it would be too much, and would get lost in the beading. If your dress is in a vintage style, it might also be worth considering jewellery (real or replica) which suits the era you’re wearing.

2) Stay true to your own tastes and dress sense

If there’s a style or piece of jewellery you see cropping up on wedding blogs or Pinterest, it’s easy to start thinking ‘well perhaps I should wear something like that, too’, but if you wouldn’t wear something similar in every day life, think twice about whether it’s right for you. Of course, I don’t mean if you wouldn’t wear a huge tiara every day you shouldn’t wear one for your wedding, but if, say, the tiara is heavily jewelled and you usually favour clean, simple lines, look for a tiara that fits those tastes.

3) Consider wearing jewellery for sentimental reasons…

‘Jewellery reigns over clothing not because it is absolutely precious but because it plays a crucial role in making clothing mean something.’ –  Roland Barthes

Because jewellery is valuable, it’s often handed down through the generations, imbuing it with memories and emotions, so it’s no wonder many brides wear at least one piece that has sentimental value. I’m mixing old with new for my wedding by wearing three sentimental items combined with a new ring I’ve made myself, and a hairpiece I sourced from another Etsy seller.

If you’re struggling to pull your pieces into a cohesive look, consider choosing one material, style or era to make things go without having to be matchy-matchy. For example, I’ve decided to feature pearls in many of the pieces I’m wearing in order to tie the different styles together. I’m also wearing an heirloom brooch on my bouquet because it doesn’t match the wedding colours; including a piece you like but which doesn’t go with your dress on your bouquet is a great way to wear your treasured pieces without compromising on your style.

4) …but don’t feel bound by tradition if you want a shiny new set of jewels

Conversely, if you’re determined for your look to come together seamlessly, or want to create new heirlooms and memories with some brand new pieces, don’t feel you have to wear something old just because it’s ‘expected’ of you. (Let’s face it, there are enough expectations around you as a bride without adhering to tiny ones like this…) This tip is kind of an extension of point 2; essentially, you do you.

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(Source: pedestrian.tv)

5) Try not to obsess over it

I feel this should be the last point on any wedding advice list, and it’s one I’m terrible at following, but it’s so important. Your wedding outfit will never be perfect (especially in years to come when you look back and your gorgeous mermaid gown looks like those puffy-sleeved 80s monstrosities do now), but you should be so happy on the day itself that it won’t bloody matter. The best you can do is to make the choice you’re happy with now, and then try and forget about it (she says, with incredible hypocrisy).

And what am I wearing, after all that? Well…

  • My mum’s pearl and haematite earring and bracelet set (from Cellini)
  • A new diamanté and pearl hairpiece from this Etsy store
  • A new ring I’ve made to match my bouquet, with an asymmetrical setting of two garnets, a pearl and a cubic zirconia
  • A brooch The Goblin gave me when he proposed (an actual goblin family heirloom, which doubles as my ‘something blue’ and my ‘something old’)
  • My wedding ring, which I also made

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Yes, these are my actual wedding flowers (Goblin with allergies= silk all the way)
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The iridescent blue is from the butterfly wing behind the glass

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Of course, true to indecisive form, I’m thinking of swapping out the garnet ring I made with the one The Goblin gave me for our first anniversary (what a lovely Goblin he is):

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Like I mentioned earlier, the dress is seriously embellished, so it’s got to be one or the other. Any ideas? Let me know in the comments…