Bloodstones are relatively inexpensive gems available in many sizes. The color and number of their spots play the primary role in their value. Stones with a greater number of deep red or dark orange spots usually sell for higher prizes. Of course, the artistry of the lapidary also contributes to the value of a piece.
The red spots may look like drops of blood. The name “heliotrope” is from the Ancient Greek helios and tropein for "sun" and "turning." According to the ancient natural historian Pliny the Elder, this stone gives a red reflection when turned to face the sun while immersed in water.
Although bloodstones can be faceted, they are more often cabbed or carved. Like other members of the quartz family, the stone’s hardness makes it an excellent choice for a jewelry stone. The combination of deep green and blood red results in a visually striking material.
Bloodstones have also come to symbolize bravery, perhaps through their associations with blood, vitality, and the Roman god Mars. Bloodstone is the traditional birthstone for March, the month named after this god of war.
This page from A Christmas Ring, an American book on birthstones from 1879, extols the courageous virtues of March’s “tutelary gem,” bloodstone. No known copyright restrictions.
Due to the blood-like appearance of bloodstone’s spots, Christians in the Middle Ages also popularly associated the gem with martyrdom and the crucifixion of Christ.
Heliotrope (bloodstone) cameos of the Holy Virgin and Jesus Christ, ca 1560, on display in Florence, Italy. Photo by sailko. Licensed under CC By-SA 3.0.
Although no synthetic bloodstones are known, gem buyers may encounter imitations or simulants. In particular, glass pieces can mimic bloodstone’s colors. For example, the Japanese glass manufacturer Iimori has produced a green “maple stone” with red “flowers” that resembles bloodstone. However, despite appearances, glass and bloodstones have very different properties. A microscopic analysis reveals the “flowers” differ significantly from bloodstone spots.
Currently, India is the largest producer of bloodstones. Many localities in the United States produce this gemstone, principally in California.
Other notable gem-quality sources include the following:
Although opaque, single color, oxide-stained chalcedonies are usually considered jaspers, bloodstone isn’t typically included in that category. It lacks the grainy structure also characteristic of jaspers.
Another example of a “jasper” name, this one tries to glamorize a familiar gem with an exotic association. Unfortunately, you can find many examples of this misleading naming practice that attempts to “exoticize” familiar gemstones.