Bloodstone is the traditional birthstone for the calendar month of March, alternating with aquamarine, the latter declared as the modern March birthstone in the year 1912.
Together with diamond, bloodstone and aquamarine are the ‘Gem of the House of Aries, the Ram’. The Chinese have a tradition giving the greatest prominence to Aries due to the fact that it was believed to have occupied the centre of the heavens at the Creation of the World, a belief that was also held by the Babylonians.
Also known by its Greek name ‘heliotrope’, translated as ‘sun turning’, bloodstone is a variety of green chalcedony which has been permeated by iron oxide to form the unique blood-red speckles. The name heliotrope is believed to derive from the belief that, in ancient times polished stones were described as reflecting the sun and perhaps the appearance of the gem reminded the ancients of the red setting sun, mirrored by the ocean. A somehow distinct version, attributes the name to the ancient belief that, when immersed in water, bloodstone could turn the sun’s image blood-red.
Historically used for seals and cameos, bloodstone could be highly polished, and is particularly suitable for engraving. While the first bloodstone specimens were found in India and the Ural Mountains of Russia, this alluring green chalcedony quartz has also mined in Australia and the United States.
Innumerable magic abilities and talismanic powers have been attributed to bloodstone throughout centuries, including the ability to cause thunder and lightning! The ancients applied bloodstone powder to stop internal and external bleeding, to soothe the eyes and as an antidote for snakebites. Even today, finely pulverized bloodstone is used as a medicine and an aphrodisiac in India, which may explain the relative scarcity of fine bloodstone specimens on the market!
Rings of dark green Jasper flecked with red were favorite ornaments amongst the Egyptians, who frequently wore them upon the thumb, probably because the thumb is under Martian influence, Mars being the ruling planet of the House of Aries.
One of these talismanic stones was worn by the Egyptian king Nechepsos, engraved with the form of a dragon with radiating rays of light. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that bloodstone would bestow fame and grandeur upon the wearer.
Medieval Christians often used bloodstone to carve scenes of the crucifixion and martyrs, for which reason it was also called the ‘martyr’s stone.’ An old tradition records the fact that Bloodstone had its origin at the Crucifixion, being formed by drops of blood which, following the thrust of the Roman soldier’s spear, fell upon some green jasper on which the cross was erected, the stains penetrating the stones and thus originating this particular variety. From this time onwards the stone seems to have been endowed with magical and divine powers, including the power to arrest hemorrhage from wounds, and was consequently worn by Roman soldiers for this very reason; amongst the natives of India it is customary to place the Bloodstone itself upon wounds and injuries after dipping it in cold water. Its curative properties in this respect have been explained in modern times by the fact that the iron oxide in this stone is an active and effective astringent still used today in surgery.
Bloodstone became a favorite material for carving Christian art in Medieval times and one of the most famous works of art carved from bloodstone was created in 1525 by the Italian artist Matteo del Nassaro. Bearing the title ‘The Descent from the Cross’ the statute was so masterfully carved that the spots of red on bloodstone were in their perfect positions to simulate the wounds of Christ.
In an essay written by Thomas Boyle on ‘The Origins and Virtues of Gems,’ dated 1675, we read that “a gentleman of sanguine habit” having been long troubled with excessive bleeding from the nose, was unable to find a cure until “an ancient gentleman presented him with a Bloodstone the size of a pigeon’s egg, to be worn round the neck, and upon the use of this stone he not only cured himself, but stopped hemorrhage in a neighbor.”
The Roman philosopher and poet Marbodeus Gallus described the virtues of bloodstone in the following poem:
Again it is believed to be a safeguard frank and free
To touch as ware and beare the same; and if it hallowed bee,
It makes the parties gratious and mightier too that have it
And noysome fancies as they write who ment not to deprave it
It doth dispel out of the mind. The force thereof is stronger
In silver, if this stone be set, it doth endure the longer.
And the 12th century French born Danish clergyman William of Paris (known as Saint William of ?belholt) emphasized the spiritual attributes of bloodstone in another poem he composed:
To many a gift divine this stone lays claim;
Surpassing which the power that makes its fame
Is, when conjoined with herb of title quaint,
Same as its own, whilst, spoken by a saint
Are incarnations, holy and a spell
Invoked, with words the pious tongue can tell;
Of gem and plant combined, the wearer then
Becomes invisible to the eyes of men!
Further belief in mythological powers was ascribed to Bloodstone by Magus in the Year 1801, in an article he published in ‘The Celestial Intelligencer':
“The stone heliotropium, (heliotrope) green, like jasper. or emerald, beset with red specks makes the wearer constant, renowned, and famous, conducing to a long life; there is likewise another wonderful property in this stone, which is, that it so dazzles the eyes of men, that it causes the bearer to be invisible.”
A beautiful collection of carved bloodstone is held at the Louvre Museum in Paris, amongst which a unique piece with the seal of the German Emperor Rudolf II and Medieval carvings of Christian significance can be viewed.
In addition to bloodstone, aquamarine is the birthstone associated with March, also being the gemstone for a 19th Wedding Anniversary.
Poetically described as ‘exhibiting the color of seawater parted by the bow of a sailing ship’, and symbolizing ‘eternal youth and happiness’ since ancient times, aquamarine is a variety of beryl family of minerals, of which emerald is also a member.
Aquamarine is almost entirely free of inclusions, and exhibits wonderful shine. Iron is the substance, which gives aquamarine its enchanting color, a color that ranges from an almost indiscernible pale blue to a strong sea-blue. Some aquamarines have a light, greenish shimmer which is also a typical feature of this translucent azure gemstone, but it is the pure, clear blue that continues to epitomize the aquamarine, because it brings out so well the immaculate transparency and magnificent shine of this coveted gemstone.
The various color nuances of aquamarine have been given melodious names: The rare, intense blue aquamarines from the Santa Maria de Itabira mine in Brazil, for example, are called ‘Santa Maria’. Similar nuances come from a few gemstone mines in Africa, particularly Mozambique. To help distinguish them from the Brazilian ones, these aquamarines have been given the name ‘Santa Maria Africana’.
According to legend, aquamarine originated in the treasure chest of fabulous mermaids, and was regarded as the sailors’ lucky stone in ancient times. Ancient sailors traveled with aquamarine crystals, believing that it would ensure a safe voyage, and guarantee a safe return; they often slept with the stones under their pillow to ensure sound sleep.
The name of aquamarine is derived from the Latin words ‘aqua’ (water) and ‘mare’ (sea). It is believed that its strengths are developed more positively when it is placed in water and bathed in sunlight. However, according to the old traditions, wearing aquamarine per se promises a happy marriage and bestows joy and wealth upon its wearer.
The tender blue color of aquamarine arouses feelings of sympathy, trust, harmony, and friendship, feelings that prove their worth in lasting relationships. The blue of aquamarine is considered a divine, eternal color, because it is the color of the sky and the color of water with its life-giving force.
There is hardly any other gemstone in modern jewelry design which is refined in such a variety of ways as aquamarine. Whether fashioned as a clear, transparent gem in the classical step cut, or creatively cut in a more modern design, it is always alluringly beautiful and can produce the most fascinating creations. For decades, it has been amongst the most favorite gemstones of designers, who have often taken the world by surprise with a new, artistic cut, to be applied in their ‘avant-garde’ jewelry pieces, hence contributing to the widespread popularity of aquamarine. The lucid color of aquamarine enables the designers to bring out the brilliance of aquamarine with fine grooves, curves and edges. By doing so, each aquamarine becomes a unique specimen, whose magical attraction can hardly be resisted.