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A short history of five gemstones.

Secrets of pearl, labradorite, moonstone, tourmaline and topaz.

Pearl, gem of the sea.

Pearls are precious stones of the sea. They are born and grown in the shells of oysters, mussels and other ocean mollusks.

Pearls were discovered before written history. The earliest evidence of pearl jewellery was found in the grave of a Persian princess dated 420BC, and is on display in the Louvre in Paris. But it is known that pearls were presented as gifts to Chinese royalty as far back 2300BC.

Pearls are a gift from sea life, and help to tie us to the ocean. In Chinese culture, pearls represent purity, and some believe they can enhance focus. In Indian culture, pearls have been associated with avatars of the god Krishna.

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Victorian labradorite.

Labradorite is a mineral gemstone that was discovered by a group of missionaries in Labrador, Canada, in 1770. It is also found in Poland and Scandinavia. It is a popular gemstone due to its famous iridescence.

Labradorite became a popular jewel in the Victorian era in Britain, in the 19th century, as society industrialised and more of these gems could make their way across the Atlantic.

Probably due to its bright iridescence, some believe that labradorite brings clarity and insight to its carrier. At Carousel we reserve judgement on that - but it sure looks beautiful in our earrings.

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Roman moonstone.

Moonstone is a mineral gem that has been used in jewellery for thousands of years. It is famous for its opalescent quality.

It was particularly popular in the Roman Empire. Romans believed that moonstone was derived from solidified beams of moonlight - from whence it derived its name. More recently, it was popular in the Art Nouveau period in France.

Due to its symbolic link with moonlight, Romans saw the gemstone as representative of hope and clarity, and it was often gifted to celebrate and encourage success in new beginnings.

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Imperial Spain's tourmaline.

Tourmaline was discovered by a Spanish conquistador in Brazil in the 15th century, and he originally mistook it for emerald. In fact, tourmaline was still thought to be emerald for another 350 years, until mineralogists found that their chemical structures differed.

Tourmaline is a poly-hued gem that comes in green, red, pink and blue shades. The most fascinating thing about tourmaline are its pyroelectric properties, which cause it to repel fire ashes.

Because of this, some cultures saw tourmaline as a protective stone, carried by travellers, and often gifted to people when embarking on new journeys.

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Russian topaz.

Topaz is a silicate gem. In the bible, topaz is used to refer to any yellow gemstone.

The term Imperial topaz originated in 19th century Russia, where the Ural Mountains were topaz's leading source. The rare pink gemstones discovered there were named to honor the Russian Czar, and ownership of these stones was restricted to the royal family.

An old English superstition held that Topaz cured lunacy, and in the Middle Ages in Britain, it was thought to protect from the evil eye. There are still some today who believe it can positively contribute to stronger mental health.

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