Aquamarine -March Birthstone

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on March 11, 2019

Aquamarine -March Birthstone

In the northern hemisphere, March signals the coming of spring and warmer weather. The soft blue to blue-green color of aquamarine, the March birthstone, is perfect for this month, as it evokes the serenity and the tranquility of the seaside in early spring. Aquamarine gets its name from the Latin words ‘aqua’ meaning water and ‘mare’ which means the sea. This beautiful stone was also thought to be the treasure of mermaids, and its energetic qualities were believed to be especially strong when it was submerged in water.
 
True to its name, the lovely aquamarine was thought to protect sailors from the wrath of Poseidon, God of the Sea. Sailors, caught in a storm, would throw their aquamarines over the side of the ship into the sea in a last ditch effort to cool Poseidon’s temper.
 
The stone’s cool blue-green color was thought to cool human tempers and calm angry hearts as well. My favorite historical (and slightly odd!) fact about the lovely stone comes from the ancient Romans, who thought that a frog carved from aquamarine would help to resolve differences between enemies. Many people who lived in the Middle Ages believed that wearing an aquamarine would prevent them from being poisoned (another odd fact!) Sumerian, Egyptian, and Hebrew warriors wore the aquamarine into battle to help them achieve victory.

 

Aquamarine is a member of the beryl family and gets its lovely color from the presence of iron. All the members of the beryl family derive their color from the presence of metallic elements. Otherwise, they would be colorless. The stone can vary in color from it's characteristic pale blue, with the darker stones being more valuable as well as more desirable. The biggest source for aquamarine is Brazil but Africa is rapidly becoming a secondary and important source of this popular gemstone.
 
Aquamarine is also associated with courage, loyalty, friendship, and communication as well as beauty.  For anyone with a March birthday, a beautiful Irish Claddagh ring in either sterling silver, white or yellow gold and set with a gorgeous blue-green aquamarine as the heart makes a perfect gift, evoking all these qualities and more.  And with its reputation for smoothing over relationships and re-awakening lost love, the tranquil aquamarine was often given as an anniversary gift and is listed as the official 19th-anniversary gemstone as well.
 
Even if your birthday is not in March, the beguiling blue of the beautiful aquamarine set in a lovely Claddagh pendant or a pair of beautiful Claddagh earrings is a wonderful way to treat yourself any time of year!

Amethyst - February’s Birthstone

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on January 28, 2019

Amethyst - February’s Birthstone

The beautiful purple amethyst is just right for February, for many some of the coldest and darkest weeks of winter, so the warmth of this stone’s rich, royal color makes this gem a perfect choice for this month’s birthstone  St. Valentine  supposedly wore an amethyst ring and Roman soldiers, recognizing the ring, would ask him to perform the marriage ceremony for them and their loves. Perhaps this is why this beautiful stone is said to attract love.

 

Celtic February Birthstone Sterling Silver Pendant


The stone’s purple color reminded the ancient Greeks of wine and it was thought that amethyst could protect one from drunkenness. Although there are many variations of the story, according to Aristotle, Amethyst was a nymph who was suffering the unwanted amorous attentions of Bacchus, the god of winemaking, and who pleaded with the goddess Diana for her protection. Diana answered Amethyst’s plea and transformed her into a gemstone. To commemorate his love for the nymph, Bacchus not only gave the stone its purple color but transmitted to it the quality of protecting whoever wore the stone from the ill effects of too much wine. Thus began the practice of drinking wine made from cups of amethyst.

February Birthstone w/ Crystals Claddagh Sterling Silver Pendant

Amethyst was thought to have many other wonderful qualities as well. Soldiers valued amethyst’s ability to protect them from surprise attacks and to make them victorious in battle. Hunters appreciated its assistance in the successful killing of wild beasts and the gemstone was widely thought to protect against witchcraft as well as black magic. Farmers who wore amethysts believed their crops to be protected from storms and hailstones. "Ahlamah”, the Hebrew word for amethyst, means ‘dreams’ and the stone is thought to be the cause of beautiful dreams.

 

Sterling Silver February Birthstone Claddagh Earrings


The English, in particular, held amethyst in high esteem. Beads made from the gemstone have been found in Anglo-Saxon graves. Queen Elizabeth has a historic set of amethyst jewelry, known as the Kent Demi-Parure, which was originally owned by Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent and has been passed down to the Crown. Tibetans hold much reverence for the stone as well, as they believe that amethyst was sacred to the Buddha and often make their prayer beads from it.

 

Sterling Silver February Birthstone Claddagh Ring


Most of today’s amethysts are mined in Brazil. At the beginning of the 20th century, large deposits were discovered in South America, making the stone much more widely available than it had been. This is the reason much of the older amethyst jewelry comes from that era. Before the Brazilian source had been found, most amethysts came from Siberia, a place that was cold, remote and inaccessible, so at that time most of these beautiful gemstones were in the possession of royalty or other aristocracies.

 

Sterling Silver Claddagh February Birthstone Pendant

Amethyst is also found in many locations within the United States, including Arizona, Texas, Yellowstone National Park, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and many other places. Canada also boasts large deposits of the gemstone, with the largest amethyst mine in North America located in Ontario. It’s no wonder the official gemstone of the Province of Ontario is the amethyst!

 

Sterling Silver with Crystal February Birthstone Claddagh Pendant


Amethyst belongs to the quartz family. Quartz, composed of silicon and oxygen, is colorless in its pure state. Just a few ‘stray’ atoms of another element will cause quartz to take on a variety of beautiful colors. With amethyst, it is just a scattering of iron atoms that cause the vibrant purple hue. Depending on the number of iron atoms in a particular stone, amethyst’s colors can vary widely from light lilac to deep violet to royal purple.

February Birthstone Rings

 

Only a relatively small amount of amethyst deposits are found in the soils of the Emerald Isle. One of these locations is on Achill Island off the western coast of County Mayo. The cliffside road to Keem Bay off Achill Island crosses a geological boundary where a vein of amethyst is exposed to view. Locals say the best time to hunt for amethyst gemstones on Achill Island is just after a rain. Fortunately for gem hunters, Ireland gets plenty!

February Birthstone Claddagh Pendant


But even if Ireland is not so well known for its amethyst deposits, this beautiful stone is shown off to perfection in this gorgeous Claddagh pendant with an amethyst stone set as the heart, in sterling silver, white or yellow gold. And what better complement to the pendant than these matching Claddagh amethyst earrings. Add to your collection with this Irish amethyst Claddagh ring and you will have a set worthy of royalty!

Sterling Silver February Birthstone Ring


Amethyst jewelry should not be overexposed to strong sunlight, as this can fade the color. Avoid subjecting your amethyst to heat, so your stones should not be steam cleaned. The safest method for cleaning your amethyst jewelry is to use warm soapy water. With a little care, your amethyst jewelry will remain beautiful for generations to come.

October's Birthstone - Tourmaline

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on October 01, 2018

October's Birthstone - Tourmaline

Luckily for us, the Empress Dowager Cixi didn’t buy up the entire world’s supply of pink tourmaline, as evidenced by our beautiful sterling silver Irish Claddagh ring with a pink tourmaline stone set as the heart. This ring, paired with these dainty Claddagh earrings with simulated pink tourmaline stones set as the hearts and a matching Claddagh pendant will have your October born loved ones (or yourself!) dancing for joy.
 

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The Sapphire - September’s ‘Stone of Blue Fire’ Birthstone

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on September 27, 2018

September's birthstone - the sapphire stone of blue fire

But you certainly don’t have to have royal blood to own or gift one of these lovely blue gemstones. This sterling silver Irish Claddagh ring with a blue sapphire stone set as the heart,, plus a set of matching Claddagh earrings with simulated blue sapphire stones set as the hearts or this beautiful Claddagh pendant with a simulated blue sapphire heart, will win the heart of any September born friend or loved one.

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The History Of The Claddagh Ring

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on August 13, 2018

the history of the claddagh ring blog post

The origins of the Claddagh ring are blurred by history. However, the most likely account (and the one that does not involve mythology of any sort) is the story of Richard Joyce. Joyce was a native of Galway and left his home to pursue work overseas in the 17th century. While at sea, his vessel was attacked by pirates, and Joyce was taken as a slave.

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Peridot - August and the Goddess of Fire

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on August 06, 2018

Peridot  -  August  and  the  Goddess  of  Fire

If you or a loved one has an August birthday, you are in luck! August, like the months of December and June, is one of only three months to have multiple gemstones from which to choose. Sardonyx was the original August birthstone, then later peridot was added and became the best known August birthstone. Most recently, those born in August can also choose the lovely spinel as their birthstone gem.

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The Ruby - July’s ‘King of Gems’ Birthstone

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on July 05, 2018

July Birthstone Blog post - Celtic by Design

July’s birthstone is known as the king of precious stones, the gorgeous red ruby. The ruby’s name is derived from the Latin Rubeus meaning red and these beautiful gemstones have been treasured for centuries for their fluorescent vibrant color. A ruby is really a red form of corundum, with all other colors being sapphires.

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St. Valentine’s and the Irish

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on February 15, 2018

St. Valentine’s and the Irish

Valentine’s Day, February 14th, is not a day most people associate with the Irish. And it’s true that the people of the Emerald Isle have no special Irish way in which to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Yes, our Irish Valentine’s flowers, cards, and candy are still red, not green, just like the rest of the world!
Trinity Knot Heart Pendant

But, it turns out there is an Irish connection to the original St. Valentine! Before we go into that, it’s important to understand that very little in the way of confirmed facts are known about St. Valentine, even such widely accepted things as why he was made a saint or why he is associated with love.
Celtic Knot Sterling Silver and Gold Heart Pendant

What we do know is this: he lived and worked during the 3rd century AD, his feast day is February 14th (which has been celebrated since 496 AD) and that he was laid to rest on the Via Flaminia north of Rome. Everything else is shrouded in mystery.
Sterling Silver Claddagh Knot Heart Locket Pendant

There may even have been as many as three Valentines who were saints and all associated with the February 14th date; the Bishop of Interamna, a Roman priest, and a man who died a martyr in the province (not the continent) of Africa. Some say these were all the same person and so he would have been born and lived in Interamna, worked as a  priest and later became a Bishop.
Sterling Silver Trinity Knot Heart Pendant

He was imprisoned and tortured in Rome under the order of the cruel Emperor Claudius and executed on February 14th for illegally marrying Christian couples so the men would not have to go off to war. Claudius’ army was in short supply of soldiers and he had canceled all marriages because of this, in the belief that married men were too reluctant to leave their families and join the army. But even under the threat of death, Father Valentine continued to carry out the Christian ceremony. Perhaps this is partly how his name became associated with a day of love.
Gold Mo Anam Cara Heart Pendant with CZ

There are, of course, many legends surrounding the life of St. Valentine. One of the most touching involved a jailer and his daughter Julia. Before the priest was arrested, a jailer for the Emperor of Rome brought his blind daughter to see Father Valentine at his residence, having heard of his healing abilities, both medical and spiritual. The jailer’s daughter had been blind since birth and Father Valentine knew this would be a difficult case, although he assured the jailer he would do what he could. Father Valentine gave the child some ointment for her eyes and bade her come back for rechecks.
Sterling Silver Trinity Knot Heart Earrings

The jailer, having perceived that his child Julia was of a quick mind, asked Father Valentine to teach her which he readily agreed to do. He taught her the history of Rome, lessons from nature, arithmetic and told her about God. A strong bond quickly developed between the two.
Sterling Silver Trinity Knot Love Pendant

On one of her visits with the priest, Julia asked Father Valentine if God really did exist. He assured her that He did. The child told him that she prayed daily that her eyes might be healed and her sight restored. Father Valentine gently told the girl to continue to have faith and that her future, whether she was physically healed or not, was in the hands of the Almighty.
Sterling Silver with Gold Bead Mo Anam Cara Heart Pendant

Soon afterward, Father Valentine was arrested and awaited execution in his cell. On the evening of February 13th, he wrote a last note to Julia and gave it to the jailer to give to his blind daughter. He told her to remain close to God and signed the letter “from your Valentine.”
Sterling Silver Trinity Knot Heart Pendant

When the child was presented with the note she opened it, only to have a yellow crocus fall into her hands. She could see the brilliant color of the little flower as her sight had now been restored. Pope Gelasius I named February 14 as Saint Valentine’s Day in 496 AD and symbols of love and devotion are exchanged between couples all around the world in memory of his selfless devotion.
Sterling Silver Heart and CZ Pendant

So on to the St. Valentine and the Irish. Father John Spratt, an Irish Roman Catholic priest, who lived in the 1800s, traveled to Rome in 1836 where he gave a brilliant sermon. None other than Pope Gregory XVI took notice and the Pope bestowed a gift on him, a small vessel stained with the blood of St. Valentine along with a letter of authentication of the relic.
Mo Anam Cara Sterling Silver and Gold Pendnat

Father Spratt returned to Ireland and had the relic and the letter placed in a shrine to St. Valentine in the Carmelite Church on Whitefriar Street ( which is now Aungier Street) in Dublin which is still open to visitors.
Sterling Silver Claddagh Pendant with green Crystal heart

If you are Irish (or know someone who is!) there is perhaps a no better symbol of your love than one of our exquisite Irish heart pendants, in sterling silver or gold. After all, St. Valentine has a special bond with the Irish through Father Spratt and this is a lovely way to commemorate your love with that special someone. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Alexandrite - June’s Color Changing Birthstone

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on July 08, 2017

June Claddagh Birthstone Pendant Alexandrite Birthstone

Alexandrite, the beautiful June birthstone often described as ‘emerald by day, ruby by night, is named in honor of Russian Czar Alexander II. Legend has it that the future Czar came of age on the same day in 1834 that Alexandrite was discovered in the emerald mines of Russia’s Ural Mountains. Adding to its rich history, the stone’s rich red and green tones were a match for Russia’s military colors and alexandrite was shortly crowned the official gemstone of the Russian Czars.

The astute observational powers of the French mineralogist Nils Gustaf Nordenskiöld who discovered the jewel are responsible for determining that indeed this was not an emerald but a unique gemstone. Only one of three birthstones that can change color (the others being garnet and sapphire) alexandrite is bluish green in natural daylight but under incandescent light appears purplish red. The reason this stone has the ability to change color under differing light conditions is due to the presence of trace amounts of chromium in its makeup. This color change phenomenon is known as the ‘alexandrite effect.’


The presence of chromium perhaps doesn’t seem so surprising since alexandrite was originally discovered in the emerald mines of Russia and emeralds also have trace amounts of chromium. But actually, it’s very unlikely these two elements would combine under just the right conditions to form this gorgeous gem. This makes alexandrite very, very rare, and equally precious.


Although the most vibrant, beautiful and expensive alexandrite originated in the now exhausted mines in Russia, today most stones come from Brazil, Sri Lanka and East Africa. Even diamonds and rubies, popularly considered to be the world’s most expensive gemstones, pale beside the value of the rare and beautiful alexandrite. Because of its rarity and expense, there is a market for synthetic alexandrite. Synthetic alexandrite stones grown in a lab exhibit the same chemical and physical properties as natural alexandrite, the only difference being the stone was made in the laboratory, not in the earth.


Most large alexandrite gemstones are found in old period jewelry belonging to museums and private collectors, as current large stones are extremely rare. Some English Victorian pieces feature relatively large alexandrite stones, but it is the antique Russian jewelry designs that have the largest specimens. The largest cut alexandrite stone is housed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and is 66 karats. In fact, any alexandrite stone over 3 karats is quite rare and most cut gems weigh less than one karat.


Alexandrite is a durable, hard stone and can be worn daily without worry, but it’s still important to care for this beautiful gemstone properly. Your alexandrite jewelry can be easily cleaned by using mild soap and warm water and can be wiped down using a soft cloth or soft-bristled brush. As always, when caring for fine jewelry, avoid any strong, harsh chemical cleaners and never use bleach. After cleaning, be certain to rinse the piece well to get off any remaining soapy residue. Keep in mind that alexandrites are much harder than many other gemstones and can scratch other softer stones such as spinel, quartz, and tourmaline. Be sure to wrap your alexandrite jewelry pieces in a soft cloth and store them separately from your other jewelry.


In addition to being the June birthstone, alexandrite is the official gem for 55th wedding anniversaries. Good quality alexandrite has clarity and few inclusions, although occasionally needle-like inclusions can create a cat’s eye. Alexandrite is a member of the chrysoberyl family, which not surprisingly, includes two of the most important gem varieties in the world, alexandrite and chrysoberyl cat's eye. So it’s interesting that alexandrite can exhibit two unusual properties in one stone: color change under differing light conditions and the cat’s eye effect from inclusions.

 


The mythology surrounding alexandrite is quite fascinating as the stone is associated with discipline and self-control. It is said that the wearer of alexandrite will strive for excellence and is thought to bring peace of mind and clarity of thinking as well. Russian legend says that the owner of an alexandrite gemstone will possess good luck, good fortune and love and is believed to be a bridge between the physical and spiritual world. Alexandrite’s purported qualities include strong healing energies and are associated with the crown chakra.


Alexandrite has a fascinating history and a piece of jewelry featuring this intriguing stone would make a fine gift for anyone on your list, including those celebrating June birthdays, 55th wedding anniversaries or for anyone who needs a little clarity of thinking as well! A beautiful Irish claddagh ring, in either silver or gold, and set with an alexandrite stone or a lovely claddagh pendant with matching earrings makes a fine gift for a loved one or even for yourself!

Red Garnet – January’s Birthstone

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on April 09, 2017

Red Garnet – January’s Birthstone

Although the origin of the birthstone goes back thousands of years and is shrouded in mystery, birthstones are thought to originate from the stones set into the breastplate of Aaron, the high priest at the time of Moses, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel. And Noah was said to have used a glowing garnet lantern to guide the ark in the dark of night.

 

While these stories are intriguing, our modern birthstone designations were adopted in 1912 by the American National Association of Jewelers, with the exception of tanzanite, later added to December.

 

Sterling Silver January Birthstone Pendant

 

There are many myths and stories about the healing power of birthstones. For example, a birthstone’s healing power is amplified for those born in the month matched with the birthstone and is strongest in the actual calendar month corresponding to the stone.

 

Regardless of your belief in the healing power of birthstones, there is something undeniably beguiling about wearing a piece of beautiful gemstone jewelry, especially when that stone is associated with the month of your birth. Although each birthstone is exceptional, the garnet, January’s birthstone, is universally admired, not only for its exceptional beauty but also for its many practical uses.

 

Sterling Silver Celtic January Birthstone Pendant

 

Most people think of a red gemstone when they see the word garnet, but garnet is actually found in many vibrant colors, including green, orange and pink. Garnet’s industrial uses are many and include applications in industrial cutting, abrading and filtration.

 

Sterling Silver January Birthstone Claddagh ring

 

While all of the various colors of garnet are beautiful, it is the deep red garnet that is most universally cherished as January’s birthstone. After all, the word ‘garnet’ comes from the Latin word for pomegranate with its red, jewel-like seeds. Long considered a symbol of love and friendship, the red garnet was often exchanged between friends in the hope and expectation they would soon meet again.

 

In the Irish Celtic tradition, there is a lovely term called Anam Cara, Gaelic for ‘soul friend’ and meant to convey the deep enduring bond that forms between two souls who have come to completely trust each other. There is perhaps no more beautiful expression of this affection than a sterling silver Irish Claddagh ring with a rich, ruby red garnet set as the heart.

 

Sterling Silver Claddagh January Birthstone ring

 

Of course, the deep red garnet looks simply stunning in other Claddagh birthstone jewelry settings as well, including pendants and earrings as well as rings.  The red garnet not only makes a memorable January birthday gift for a loved one (or even yourself!) but is also perfect to commemorate a couple’s second wedding anniversary or to celebrate a new or enduring friendship.

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