STARSTONE is a monthly glimpse into the fabulous world of birthstones, and the centuries-old stories which accompany them into the modern day.
Each month and every zodiac sign are celebrated with several gemstones, varying by period, context and culture. While these designations are far from an exact science, exploring the historical context of your birthstones can serve as a window into self-knowledge. And, give you yet another good reason to buy yourself an amazing piece of jewelry.
Rough Aquamarine ring, photo courtesy of Angela Pintaldi
We have entered a time of endings and beginnings. March 20 heralds the arrival of spring, followed by the final day of the astrological year on March 21, when fearless, fiery Aries head-butts its way into place as the first sign of the new cycle.
Meanwhile, happy birthday, dear Pisces. With a glyph symbolizing two fish swimming in opposite directions, Pisces swims in place from February 19 through March 20, and is perhaps the most watery of the three Water signs. Unlike kindred signs Cancer and Scorpio, Pisces is not a crustacean and has no self-defense except silvery scales and the ability to swim away.
The birth gem of the Fishes is Aquamarine, accurately named for the Pisces element. Opinions vary about what color Aquamarine should be, and these days tastes run toward a deep shade that is more blue than turquoise. However, it’s in the eye of the beholder, and the transparent, Caribbean green-blue of many natural Aquamarines is cooling, refreshing and comforting.
A form of the mineral beryl, Aquamarine measures 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs Hardness scale, making it durable enough to wear and enjoy daily. One of the largest Aquamarines on record is the Dom Pedro obelisk, weighing in at 10,363 carats, and housed at the Smithsonian National Gem & Mineral Collection in Washington, D.C.
Aquamarine forms in igneous (volcanic) liquid rock called magma. When magma traps water that can’t readily dissolve, the water becomes what is called a pegmatite, a pool of water trapped in ancient rock. This aspect of the gem’s formation relates to Pisces in that the Fishes are always seeking oasis, asylum, sanctuary. It’s the desire to be gently rocked to sleep in crystalline, pale green surf the temperature of baby’s bath-water, and the search for this Gauguin-like peace is central to the Piscean persona.
As the last sign of the astrological cycle, Pisces picks up some of its vibe from the preceding sign, Aquarius: the borrowed qualities include a stubbornly naive world-view of how things should be, creativity, artistic notions, and a bohemian streak that can easily double for Peter Pan-like immaturity. Depending upon your attachment-style, this makes Pisces either charming or unbearable.
Pisces is ruled by two planets: the benevolent Jupiter, largest planet in the solar system, named for the generous king of the gods, and Neptune, ruler of the watery depths, which contributes to the sign’s melancholy, depression and mood-swings.
In ancient times, Aquamarine was known as the sailor’s stone, and fishermen and navigators wore it as a talisman to prevent storms and save themselves from drowning. Some cultures believed that wearing this tranquil, tide-pool colored gem made warriors invisible on the battlefield. The ever-practical Romans, fond of overindulgence as they were, carved goblets out of Aquamarine to prevent indigestion from overeating. The gem was also used to purify water, and today, metaphysicals will often put Aquamarine into natural water (sea-water, ideally) to activate the stone’s healing properties.
Regardless of your birth-sign, the experts agree that wearing or simply touching Aquamarine will ease grief and loneliness. Sparkling like the sunlit shallows of a clear sea, Aquamarine is said to sharpen intuition and open clairvoyance. Related to the throat chakra, some practitioners use this stone to enhance clearer communication, and to enable themselves to speak truth to power.
Mary Buck @buckcrownsnclay is a visionary multi-media artist living in New Mexico, whose bespoke crowns made of semi-precious gems and twisted wire are objects of desire and empowerment for wedding attire and extra-lit festival finery. Her sterling wire and Aquamarine crown is a modern, wearable version of the Brazilian Tiara belonging to Queen Elizabeth, received in 1953 from the President of Brazil, where many fine Aquamarines are discovered.
Mermaid’s Crown by Mary Buck, @buckcrownsnclay, hand-twisted sterling wire and Aquamarine finials. Photo courtesy of Mary Buck.
Perhaps most importantly, Aquamarine has been worn to restore love. Whether a bruised friendship, or a romance for which the thrill is gone, some gem-workers maintain that the surf-toned jewel can restore attraction, affection and trust. This emotional component is deeply essential to Pisces, which many astrologers consider to be the most romantic sign in the Zodiac. Lacking Scorpio’s feverish libido as well as Cancer’s emotional extravagance, Pisces is tender, wistful, poignant, deeply sensual – all classic Water sign attributes.
While Scorpio will summon a blindfolded lover to a torchlit dungeon of lust, with slippery black satin sheets on the mattress and iron manacles on the headboard, and Cancer will court a love-interest with balcony serenades and trails of rose petals, Pisces’ idea of a good time in the sack always includes clean socks, a long nap, a sandwich, and possibly a crossword puzzle. Bonding with a partner in non-sexual ways is more important to Pisces than the carnal union itself.
If you love a Piscean, always keep the Kleenex close-by, and prepare to spoon: this is a highly sensitive sign that contains a great deal of emotion that’s kept bottled-up under the tranquil, sea-water colored surface. Like all Water Signs, Pisces carries ancient hurts. This explains the swimming motif in the sign’s glyph, for the sign is always swimming in every direction and struggling to avoid pain. Water as an element resists conflict and confrontation, and this is keenly true of Pisces. Not expressing disagreement or objections can lead to deep depression, to which Pisceans are prone.
At its best, Pisces is a sign of constant, gentle renewal. Much as the Greek goddesses could restore their own virginity every morning with a quick bath, Pisces has the ability to reinvent the self. The Fishes long for tenderness above all else, and can be terribly sentimental and nostalgic. Pisces is the lover who still gets verklempt over an autumn leaf pressed in the yellowing pages of a freshman-year paperback.
Water as an element always conveys a sense of longing and loss. These qualities are more dominant in Water signs than elsewhere in the Zodiac, and this sense of yearning – for a painless life, for a lost love – comprise the Piscean DNA. The gem Aquamarine and the sign’s fishy glyph naturally call to mind mermaids and sirens, and even on dry land, even deep in the heart of sun-baked heart of Arizona, Pisces remembers and will always be haunted by the call of the sea.
To fully understand the gestalt of Pisces, consider that this sign rules the feet and ankles. These are physical attributes that fish lack, and recalling “The Little Mermaid”, Ariel wants nothing more than to walk and dance like the humans she sees topside. Pisces often craves the stability that feet offer – even the, spiky, spidery, pointed limbs of scorpions and crabs, which allow their crustacean owners to cling and climb, and resist the battering of the waves. Pisces in this way resembles the Air sign Gemini, who also is a willow-the-wisp, a leaf in the wind: neither sign is well-equipped to proactively choose a path. Lacking this ability, the untethered, ungrounded, unmoored Pisces may be dismissed as weak by more hard-nosed signs like Aries (March 21 to April 19), which shares the month with the Fishes but could not be more different in nature,
Like all aquatic life, Pisces is no match for the deep currents and whirlpools of cosmic environment. It is possible for the Fishes to jump the waterfalls in order to meet a goal, like the fighting Koi that symbolizes masculine will and drive in many Asian cultures. However, being a pleasure-seeker, and being a lover, not a fighter by nature, Pisces is more likely to go with the flow rather than fight the power. In the best circumstances, the dual fish of Pisces can represent the yin-yang symbol of twinned forces. A Piscean who masters this balance is to be envied as someone who drifts easily with the tide, and yet still manages to find peace and satisfaction. NEXT MONTH: April, Taurus, and the Diamond Life.
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Photo: (ring) Angela Pintaldi; (tiara) Mary Buck; rest, Pexels