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Poets, singers and lyricists have all declared the beauty, joy and pain of love and now you have discovered you're in love. You've finally met the man of your dreams and you just can't wait to get engaged. Naturally the man in your life is going to give you an engagement ring: an undying symbol of love. The next question is : What sort of engagement ring do you really want?

Diamonds, so they say, are a girl's best friend and a diamond ring is certainly the first choice for thousands of young lovers every year. This gorgeous jewel is reputed to bring peace and serenity to the wearer and it also signifies constancy, fidelity and innocence. The diamond is also reckoned to be the appropriate token or gift between estranged lovers … so if you had a bit of a bust-up with your boyfriend you might hint that a diamond could well help mend your broken heart. Wasn't it Mae West who said .." Diamonds are a girl's best friend."

Ruby is another popular choice and this gem is said to represent loyalty, charity and courage - all very desirable qualities in a person. Ruby, the color of the heart, has historically symbolised passion, love, virility and sexual desire. Still, be warned in its most virile mood it imbues boldness, anger and cruelty. It is the birthstone for July and rubies come from all over the world but the best gemstones are found in India, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Tanzania and in North Carolina in the US.

The Pearl reputedly symbolises tears of sorrow and gladness. It is the symbol of patience, purity of mind and soul. The ancient Romans believed pearls could promote marital bliss, often depicting the bond between Cupid and Psyche as a strand of natural pearls. Cupid's mother, Venus, the goddess of love, was said to have been born from the sea like a pearl. The trouble is it isn't that easy to differentiate between cultured pearls and the real thing. If the pearls turn out to be very irregular they won't be real, but then they wouldn't be cultured either so that's not much use.

Jade - which actually comprises two minerals, Jadiete and Nephrite - is a symbol of forthrightness and immortality. Jade has been mined and carved by the earliest civilizations such as the Maori of New Zealand, the ancient Aztecs and Mayans. In India, in the past, only people of the highest integrity and moral character were allowed to wear jade. The Chinese character for jade is the same as for nobility and this gem is greatly revered by the Chinese who hold fast to their belief that jade not only dispels illness, but brings good fortune and wards off evil. Green is the most popular jade color; indeed, the most highly prized jade is the "Imperial" or "Old Mine" jade.

Sapphires are said to transmit peace and humility and are also alleged to symbolise truth, loyalty and justice. Sapphires are the gem of autumn and of the soul. Few gems have the mysterious depth of color, the glittering history and the aristocratic dignity of the sapphire, which is a highly valued precious stone and a member of the corundum group. It is the birthstone for September.

The Emerald enhances love. It also adds to fortitude and strength - especially in old age. It was dedicated by the ancient Greeks to the goddess Venus while Cleopatra's emerald mines in Egypt provided many lovely stones for the craftsmen of the ancient world. It is also one of the most valuable of all gemstones.

Opal has been called the Queen of Gems. The ancient Romans had a passion for fine opals, and the Senator Nonius had one coveted by Mark Anthony. Nonius was forced to choose either giving up the gem or exile from Rome; he chose the latter. Later on the superstition grew that opal was an unlucky stone - except for those people born in October. A fire opal is a variety which is yellow, orange or red in color.

Turquoise has long been prized for its superb blue color and was known to the women of ancient Egypt. Pieces of turquoise jewelry found on a mummy dated at least 7,500 years old may well be the oldest wrought jewelry items known. It is reputed to be still worn today by many kings and leaders because, so the belief goes, it ward's off assassination, accidental death or violence of any kind.

Amethyst is the gemstone of people born in February. Throughout recorded history, the rich deep purple color of this gem has attracted influential lovers of jewelry including such notables as Egyptian royalty and Catherine the Great. Folk in many parts of the world have believed that the amethyst protects the wearer against bodily harm. As a long-standing symbol of deep emotion, amethyst is said to portray love, happiness, sincerity and wealth. It is a lovely and affordable gemstone that is available in a wide range of cut and uncut stones.

Amber is one of the few gems not of mineral origin : it is the hardened, fossilised sap of ancient pine trees. Amber can be dark brown to pale yellow, orange, red, whitish, greenish, bluish or violet in color. It is also in great demand especially among collectors of antiques. If you are concerned about being poisoned then amber is most decidely for you - it is said to protect the wearer against poisons. Amber was made famous in the movie "Jurassic Park".

There you have it … a compendium of the popular gemstones for engagement rings. Have you made your choice?