March has two birthstones – the aquamarine and the bloodstone. These two are so different in look and feel but both can appeal. It was the American National Retail Jeweler’s Association (now Jewellers of America (JA)) who agreed in 1912 on the birthstone list we use today, although there have been minor changes since then. In that original list, the bloodstone was listed as the March gemstone but aquamarine was listed as an alternate gemstone. Over the years, the aquamarine has become the sole birthstone for March and the bloodstone has disappeared from the JA list.
It is easy to see why the aquamarine might be more popular in jewellery. This beautiful stone is usually transparent and can range in colour from a very light blue to a darker blue. Most aquamarines are very light in colour, particularly small ones. Aquamarine takes its name from the sea, literally, water of the sea. You can visualise a sea near the water’s edge which is just floating over a sandy seabed.
Popular for centuries, particularly with the Georgians, aquamarine experienced increased use in Edwardian jewellery in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was incorporated into beautiful light necklaces that went so well with their lighter clothing styles. It was used with other light coloured gemstones like pearls and moonstones, and sometimes diamonds.
The bloodstone on the other hand, is a heavier looking opaque stone, used for centuries in jewellery. Pliny, in his Natural Histories ( Book XXXVII, chapter 60) called it heliotropium, describing it as ‘a leek-green colour, streaked with blood-red veins’. It is usually a dark green with red spots caused by traces of iron silicates and with patches of red jasper. In medieval times, it was believed that the red spots in bloodstone were spots of Christ’s blood.
Bloodstone is used predominantly in men’s jewellery – signet rings, tie pins and so on.