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Colored Gemstones

Educational Tools from Austin’s Diamond Specialists

Identifying Your Gemstone

At Villarreal Diamond Engagement Rings and Fine Jewelry, we love creating custom-made engagement and wedding rings as well as other special occasion jewelry with colored gemstones. Beauty. Rarity. Durability. These attributes attract us to colored gemstones for personal adornment and make gemstones valuable and precious. Colored gemstones provide the opportunity for uniquely personal expression.

Current GIA Alumni Member

Since 1987, Graduate Gemologist Joseph R. Villarreal has been an alumni member in good standing, of the Gemological Institute of America.  Before his career as a Graduate Gemologist, founder Joseph Villarreal, was always fascinated by unusual rocks, minerals, and ultimately diamonds and other precious gemstones. To further his interest and gain entry into the jewelry industry, Joseph studied Gemology at the prestigious Gemological Institute of America – “The World’s Foremost Authority in Gemology.” He then earned his Graduate Gemologist diploma, a highly valued accolade with worldwide recognition.

After 10 years of working in the wholesale jewelry and diamond business in Dallas, Texas, Joseph decided to move back to his hometown in Austin and opened a jewelry company of his own. Since its inception in 1997, Villarreal Diamond Engagement Rings and Fine Jewelry has grown through Joseph’s diligence and hard work. It has cultivated a loyal clientele who appreciate his care, integrity, and principled customer service.

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January Birthstone - Garnet - Villarreal Fine Jewelers

Garnet is the accepted birthstone for the month of January. It is also the anniversary gemstone for the second year marriage. When most people think of garnet, they picture the dark red Bohemian garnet that was popular in Victorian times. You may be surprised to learn that the garnets are found in every color except blue, including brilliant green Tsavorite garnet, Raspberry Pink Rhodolite Garnet, and Orange Malaya Garnet, Bright Red “Anthill” Garnets are found in Arizona.

The czar of Russia favored rare green Demantoid garnets. Garnets offer enough variety in appearance to suit every pocketbook. Legend holds that Noah hung a large garnet in the ark for illumination. It reportedly also gives it s wearer guidance in the night, protection form nightmares, and according to Egyptians is an antidote for snake bites and food poisoning. It was also thought to have a special affinity with the blood.

Garnets are durable and brilliant and will give years of pleasure. As with all gemstones, care should be taken to protect garnet for scratches, sharp blows, and extreme temperature changes. Garnets are found in the U.S, Africa, Sri Lanka, Russia, Brazil and India.


Amethyst is the recognized birthstone for February and the accepted anniversary gemstone for the sixth year of marriage. Amethyst is a variety of quartz and comes in pale lilac to rich, deep purple shades. Ideally, it is a deep medium purple with rose-colored flashes that give the amethyst its beauty and fire. Because of its abundance, it is readily available in all sizes and shapes. It is durable and can be worn every day.

Coupled with the folk legend of the Greeks that it will prevent intoxication when worn, it becomes a most desirable gem! Amethyst was said to have a sobering effect on the wearer-not only those who indulged but on those over-excited by love’s passion as well. It has symbolized peace, protection and tranquility. Some say it will prevent baldness and improve the complexion, as well as protect from treason and deceit.

Royalty has always adored the color purple, amethyst bound in the ornaments of ancient Greeks and Egyptians, and in the British crown jewels. As with all gemstones, care should be taken to protect it from scratches and sharp blows. Amethyst is found in Brazil, Uruguay and Zambia.


Aquamarine is the traditional birthstone of March. It is also the accepted anniversary gem for the 19th year of marriage. The ideal color for Aquamarine is a refreshing pastel sea blue. Stones with a clear blue color without green or gray, are generally the most valuable. If you are looking for a big, durable gemstone, aqua is readily available in larger sizes and is truly dramatic when cut in rectangular or oval shapes.

It is a member of the important Beryl family, which also includes emerald. In ancient times, the stone was said to aid seafarers; thus it is an excellent gift suggestion for sailors or one who takes frequent cruises! To dream of aquamarine signifies the making of new friends; to wear aquamarine earrings brings love and affection. It is a universal symbol of youth, hope, and health. Parts of the normal finishing process, some aquamarines are heated to remove traces of green and yellow.

To maintain the brilliance of this beautiful gemstone, it should be immersed in jewelry cleaner or in lukewarm soapy water and cleaned with a small bristle brush. Do not use home ultrasonic machine. As with all gemstones, care should be taken to protect it from scratches and sharp blows. Aquamarine is found mainly in Brazil, Nigeria, Zambia, and Madagascar.


Diamond is the birthstone for the month of April. Besides being the most popular gemstone for engagement rings, it is the accepted anniversary gem for the 10th and 60th years of marriage. The name “diamond” comes for the Greek word ‘adamas”, meaning unconquerable-suggesting the eternity of love. In fact, diamonds have been the traditional symbol of love since Greece.

Discovered about 2,500 years ago in India, the ancients believed they were splinters from the stars, perhaps crystallized lightning or hardened dew drops. Although diamonds are associated with being a colorless stone, they are occasionally found with a strong, bright color-green, red, pink, blue, canary yellow or amber. These “fancy” colored diamonds are highly prized.

Occasionally, to improve appearance, diamonds are laser drilled and, sometimes, a foreign substance is used to fill surface cavities or fractures. Diamonds may also be irradiated or heated to induce ‘fancy’ colors. Even though it is the most durable gemstone, care should be taken to protect a diamond from sharp blows.

Household chemicals may discolor or damage the mounting. To clean, you may use jewelry cleaner, lukewarm soapy water and a small bristle brush, soak in a half-and-half solution of cold water and ammonia for ½ hour, or use a home ultra sonic machine with its recommended cleaner.


Emerald is the birthstone for the month of May. It is also the anniversary gemstone for the 20th and 35th years of marriage. Emerald is one of the most highly prized of all the gems. The name comes from the Greek word “smaragdos” which means green stone. The most prized is pure grass green.

Emeralds are often characterized by a garden of inclusions trapped within, known as the “jardin”, because under magnification you will see all sorts of lovely patterns resembling foliage in a garden. A flawless, clear emerald is a very rare and is usually found in only small sizes. Small to medium sized stones are often faceted in the “step” or emerald cut. The gem is also lovely when cut into a cabochon or dome shape, Sometimes emeralds are even carved.

According to legend, the wearing of emerald not only cured a wide range of ailments, including low I.Q., poor eye sight and infertility, but also enabled the wearer to predict the future. As part of the normal fashioning process, most emeralds are immersed in colorless oil or resin so small voids are not as noticeable.

Care should be taken to protect it from scratches and sharp blows, household chemicals, and extreme temperature changes. Do not use a home ultrasonic machine. Emeralds are found mainly in Colombia, Brazil, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.


Pearl is the birthstone for the month of June. It is also the accepted anniversary gemstone for the 3rd and 30th years of marriage. A pearl is the product of an oyster’s defense mechanism. When a foreign irritant is introduced either by humans (cultured) or naturally, the oyster immediately surrounds it with a layer of a substance called nacre. This forms the exquisite gemstone known as pearl. Natural pearls are extremely rare.

Almost all pearls on the market today are cultured by humans. Cultured pearls come in a wide range of colors. They should be relatively free from skin blemishes. The more perfectly round the shape the better. The higher the luster, or “orient” the more valuable the specimen. The larger the cultured pearl, the greater the value. Besides the popular round shape, they are stylish (large hemispherical cultured pearls), freshwater(elongated in interesting shapes and colors), and South Sea (large cultured pearls 10mm and up from Australia’s and Indonesia’s waters) to name a few.

Cultured pearls have been recognized as the emblem of modesty, chastity, and purity. They have come to symbolize a happy marriage. Avoid household chemicals, cosmetics, hair sprays, and perfumes. Don’t use ultrasonic cleaners. Wash with mild soap and water and store in a protective chamois pouch or tissue paper. Moonstone is sometimes used as an alternative by those born in June since it physically resembles some pearls.


Ruby is the accepted birthstone of July. It is also the accepted anniversary gemstone for the 15th and 40th year of marriage. Ruby is known as the “Lord of the Gems” because of its rarity and beauty. Derived from the Latin word, “ruber” it simply means red. Ruby, like Sapphire, is a variety of corundum and only exists as a true red color. The finest color is a vivid, almost pure spectral red.

The highest quality rubies are said to protect their owner from all kinds of misfortune. A fine ruby assured the owner he would live in harmony with his neighbors. It would protect ones stature in life, home and his land. Its protective powers were intensified when set in jewelry and worn on the left side. Many believed rubies possessed an inner flame that burned eternally.

As part of the customary fashioning process, virtually all rubies are heated to permanently improve their color and appearance. As with all gemstones, care should be taken to protect the ruby from scratches and sharp blows.

The finest rubies emanate from Burma, having been mined there since ancient times. Other sources include Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania, Cambodia, Afghanistan, and India.


Peridot is the accepted birthstone for August. It is also the accepted anniversary gemstone for the 16th year of marriage. Peridot should be a lively lime green, without a brownish or olive cast.

Peridot is the child of volcanic action. Tiny peridot crystals are sometimes comber from the black sands of Hawaii. Peridots were favored by pirates, considered powerful amulets against all evil, and when set in gold were said to protect the wearer from the terrors of the night. They had medicinal uses, too. If fashioned into a chalice from the medicines were drunk, they intensified the effects of the drug.

Care should be taken to protect the peridot from scratches, and sharp blows, household chemicals, and extreme temperature change. Do not use home ultrasonic machine for cleaning.

The peridot is abundant and is available in larger sizes. It is found in Burma and the U.S. The most important source of peridot in the world is the San Carlos Apache Native American Reservation near Globe, Arizona, where it is mined by Native Americans. Large sizes are mined in Myanmar (Burma), and peridot is also found in China.


Sapphire is the September birthstone as well as the accepted anniversary gem for the 5th and 45th years of marriage. Sapphire, a variety of corundum, comes in all colors except red (the red variety being known as ruby), but is especially popular in deep blue. Fancy colored sapphires- including pink, green, orange, and golden yellow-are magnificent when combined in a necklace or a bracelet.

The stone’s durability, combined with its beauty, makes it the perfect alternative for an engagement ring. Ancient priests and sorcerers honored sapphire above all gems, for this stone enabled them to interpret oracles and foretell the future. Ancients believe the Ten Commandments were written on a sapphire tablet. Marriage partners put great faith in the stone. If the luster dimmed, one knew his or her spouse had been unfaithful. Sapphire refused to shine when worn by the wicked or impure.

As part of the customary fashioning process, virtually blue, yellow, and golden sapphires are heated to permanently produce or intensify their color. As well all gemstones, care should be taken to protect it from scratches and sharp blows. Sapphire is found in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), Australia, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, China, and the U.S.


Opal is the birthstone of October as well as the accepted anniversary gemstone for the 14th year of marriage. The well-known Roman naturalist Pliny described opal as, “made up of the glories of the most precious gems… the gentler fire of the ruby, the rich purple of the amethyst, the sea-green of the emerald, glittering together…” White opal has a white or light body color with flashes of many colors. Black opal has black, dark blue, dark green or gray body color with vivid flashes of color such as red, pink, and bright green.

In the middle ages, young, fair-haired girls wore opal in their hair to protect its lovely blonde color. Medieval writers believed opal could render its wearer invisible when the need arose. It was also said to have beneficial effect on eyesight. It was thought to banish evil spirits and favor children, the theater, amusements, friendships and feelings.

Care should be taken to protect it from scratches, sharp blows, household chemicals, and extreme temperature change. To maintain the brilliance of the opal, it should be wiped clean with a soft cloth. Do not use ultrasonic machine or jewelry cleaner.

Opal sources are Australia, Mexico, and the U.S. Tourmaline is sometimes used as a birthstone for October and spans the spectrum from red to violet. It also occurs in color combinations in one stone, which accounts for its popularity. It is not fragile as opal and is sometimes selected by those who prefer faceted stones.


Topaz is the accepted birthstone for November. Blue topaz the accepted anniversary gemstone for the 4th year; imperial topaz is for the 23rd year of marriage. Most people think of topaz as a transparent golden yellow gemstone. However, this gemstone occurs colorless as well as orange-yellow, red, honey-brown (dark sherry), light green, blue, and pink. The name topaz is derived from the Greek word meaning “to shine” and also implies “fire”. Orange-red “imperial” topaz and pink colors are rare and most valuable.

The love, magic, and romance of topaz goes back many thousands of years. It holds the distinction of being the gemstone with the widest range of curative powers. The Greeks felt it gave them strength. In addition, it supposedly cooled tempers, restored sanity, cured asthma, relieved insomnia, and even warded of sudden death. Topaz is said to make its wearer invisible in time of emergency. It proved the loyalty of associates by changing color in the presence of poison.

As part of the normal fashioning process, most brownish to sherry topaz is heated to produce a permanent pink color. Certain types of topaz are irradiated and heated to produce shades of blue.

Topaz is found mainly in Brazil, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and China. Citrine is often used as an alternative to topaz because it appears in many of the same colors of topaz. Unlike topaz, citrine is readily available and inexpensive even in large sizes.


Turquoise is the accepted birthstone for December and is accepted anniversary gemstone for the 11th year of marriage. Colors of turquoise range from sky blue (most desirable color), blue green, and apple green. The name means “Turkish stone”, because the trade route that brought it to Europe used to come via Turkey.

The best qualities are found in northeast Iran (Persian turquoise). However, the southwestern United States is now the world leader in production. The deposits in Sinai were already worked out by 4,000 B.C. At that time the stone was used for jewelry, amulets and in the preparation of cosmetics.

During the 16th century turquoise was used as currency by the Southwest Native Americans. They believe the gemstone could bring spoils to the warrior, animals to the hunter, and the happiness and good fortune to all.

Although large Quantities of beautiful turquoise that have not been color enhance are available, today’s turquoise is commonly stabilize with plastic to improve its color and durability. Chalky varieties of turquoise are normally impregnated with oil or wax to enhance color. This color change way not be permanent.

Care should be taken to protect the turquoise from scratches and sharp blows, hot water, and household chemicals. Do not use a home ultrasonic machine.

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