Valentine’s Day and Jewelry

Valentine’s Day is considered the most romantic day of the year in the United States. When people think of Valentine’s Day, thoughts of love, marriage, and proposals come to mind. Each Valentine’s Day we give flowers, chocolate and jewelry to those we love. We do this in honor of St. Valentine. But who is “St. Valentine”?

Some people think that Valentine’s Day is based on the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration held on February 15th. In 496, Pope Gelasius declared the holiday a Christian feast day celebrated on February 14th and called it St. Valentine’s Day.

Different legends identify who St. Valentine is. One story is that St. Valentine was a priest who served during the third century Rome. He married young couples in secrecy due to a ban on marriage by the reigning Emperor Claudius II. When the emperor found out, he had the priest imprisoned and later put to death. The young couples who St. Valentine married visited him in prison and gave him flowers and letters.

Another legend is that Valentine was a prisoner who fell in love with the jailor’s daughter. Before he was put to death, he sent the first ‘Valentine’ to his beloved when he wrote her a letter and signed it “Your Valentine”. Cards are still signed this way today.

We may never know the true origin of the man named St. Valentine, but one thing is for sure. February has been the month to celebrate love as long as we can remember. And often that love is expressed with gifts of fine jewelry.

Diamonds are popular as well as red gemstones, typically rubies.  Ruby is the red variety of corundum. All other varieties, including colorless, are called sapphires. Pearls are also popular. Jewelry purchased for Valentine’s Day is often romantic in design, with hearts topping the list.  Heart designs with diamonds and pearls are common as well as diamonds and rubies.

Diamonds are valued based on the 4C’s – color, cut, clarity, and carat. The most important of these is cut, because cut determines how much light is reflected back to the viewer’s eye. In other words, how much brilliance, scintillation or “bling” the diamond has.

Some people value size (how many carats) over the other C’s. Others value the overall quality of the diamond over its size. Whatever route you choose, it’s critical that the diamond is graded properly to ensure you are paying an appropriate price for it.

Diamonds and rubies are precious gemstones and generally cost more than semi-precious gemstones.  While rubies are quite valuable, they are expensive to purchase. Many people who want a red colored stone at a lower cost purchase a garnet instead, which is a semi-precious gemstone.

Garnets come in a wide variety of gem types and colors, with many cutting options. Garnets are a set of closely related minerals that form a group, resulting in gemstones in almost every color.

Pyrope and almandite are species of the garnet group and range in color from orange- red to slightly purplish red to strongly reddish purple hues. Pyrope can rival ruby’s red. Fine pyropes from Arizona are easily mistaken for good-quality ruby. The best pyrope gemstones are a highly desirable intense pure red, and like ruby, are colored by chromium. Almandite typically has a dark tone with orangy red hue.

Most red garnets, including the popular rhodolite, are mixtures of pyrope and almandite. Rhodolite is the most valuable of the red garnets. Hues range from dark purplish red to to a light reddish purple.  Jewelry designers favor rhodolite in their designs due to its rich purplish red hues, relative freedom from inclusions, and availability in large sizes.

All garnets are not alike in quality or value. Make sure you have your garnet examined by a competent gemologist appraiser who can identify what type of garnet you have and tell you its value.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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