The idea of a birthstone dates back to biblical times when Aaron wore a breastplate set with 12 gemstones. Historians believe these gemstones originally corresponded to the 12 tribes of Israel; however, Josephus and St. Jerome, in the first and fifth centuries respectively, began linking these gemstones with the signs of the zodiac. It was believed that each gemstone offered the wearer special powers when worn during the corresponding astrological sign, so early believers collected all 12 gemstones and wore them throughout the year either as a talisman or to provide therapeutic benefits.
The more modern idea of wearing just one gemstone that corresponds with your birth month arose in Poland in the eighteenth century, although the gemstones themselves are not the same gemstones used today. The modern list of birthstones dates back to 1912 when the National Association of Jewelers released the list. Special powers are not typically attributed to these gemstones; however, each gemstone still signifies specific things.
While ancient birthstones included a mix of transparent and opaque gemstones, such as opals, pearls, and turquoise, the modern list features only transparent gemstones, which makes it easier for you to mix several birthstones in one piece of jewelry. The ancient birthstones are still used today, so if you prefer one of the ancient stones to the modern alternative, feel free to choose jewelry with the ancient stone.
January’s birthstone is garnet. The term garnet is often used in conjunction with eight mineral species that have many commonalities; however, the garnet most often associated with the month of January is a deep red variety. Garnet gemstones range in color from deep red and dark pink/purple to yellow, orange, and several shades of green. You may also occasionally see blue garnet, which is incredibly rare. The garnet signifies trust and friendship, so it is a great gift for a friend, especially if that friend’s birthday is in January. This stone is also thought to protect people during their travels. It is ideal for everyday wear due to its good hardness.
Amethyst, a gemstone often associated with royalty due to its rich purple hue, is the birthstone for February. Like garnet, amethyst has good hardness as well as no cleavage, which means it is ideal for daily wear. You can find amethysts in a wide range of violet colors from pale lavender to deep purple. While deeper hues are typically more valuable than lighter stones, the shade you choose ultimately depends on your color preference. The amethyst also represents peace and serenity and is thought to strengthen relationships and provide courage.
A type of beryl known as aquamarine is March’s birthstone. You can find aquamarine gemstones in a range of colors, including a deep, yet pastel, blue and a nearly clear shade of blue. The darker stones are more valuable; however, most consumers prefer the lighter, clearer gemstones in their birthstone jewelry. Aquamarine exhibits good hardness and excellent clarity and transparency. Unlike other members of the beryl family, aquamarine does not have inclusions or cleavage, making it a strong, durable gemstone. In the past, aquamarine was attributed with healing powers, working specifically on the heart, liver, and stomach. Today this stone is associated with youth, health, hope, and love.
April boasts a well-known stone as its birthstone: the diamond. The diamond has long been used as a symbol of love in marriage, and is often present in engagement and wedding rings. Diamonds are found in a wide range of colors from clear to black, encompassing just about every shade of the rainbow along the way. Though clear, or colorless, diamonds are the most popular, other colors, such as yellow, champagne, and brown diamonds are increasing in popularity. The diamond is associated with everlasting love and has also been thought to give the wearer courage.
Symbolic of fertility, health, and faithfulness, the emerald is the birthstone for May. This green gem, a type of beryl, was Cleopatra’s favorite and has also served as a symbol of rebirth throughout history. It is thought to bring the owner foresight, youth, and good fortune, so if the emerald is your birthstone wear it in good health. It is difficult to find high-quality, clear emeralds for sale these days, especially in larger carat weights, though cloudier stones are available. Scientists have also created treatments to improve the clarity and quality of emeralds, though these treated emeralds may be less coveted than natural emeralds.
Historically the birthstone for June was the pearl; however, it has been replaced by a fairly new stone called Alexandrite. First discovered in Russia, Alexandrite is named for Czar Alexander II and is incredibly rare. One of the few gems to change color, Alexandrite appears green in daylight and under fluorescent light, but changes to a purple-red color beneath incandescent lighting. Since this is a newer gemstone, Alexandrite is not associated with any ancient meanings; however, it is associated with heightened intuition and may stimulate pleasure and love.
Considered a token of peace and harmony, the ruby is July’s birthstone. An exceptionally hard stone, the highest quality rubies are medium to medium-dark red and have little to no purple or orange. If the stone has too much purple or orange or is not the right shade of red it is called a fancy-color sapphire. The ruby is also a symbol of love and passion, and in ancient times people believed it protected the wearer from evil. Like emeralds, fine quality rubies are quite rare, though you can find acceptable quality stones in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Peridot is the birthstone for August. While peridot is available in a wide range of colors from yellow-green to brown, the light green or lime green variety is the one most commonly associated with August. A symbol of strength, peridot is also said to protect the wearer from nightmares. This gemstone is formed inside the earth. Volcanoes bring it to the surface, which is why the ancient Hawaii people believed that peridot was the tears of their goddess of volcanoes, Pele. According to myth, peridot was also believed to ward off evil and enchantments.
Although the blue sapphire is the most well-known color, the sapphire is found in a wide range of colors, including colorless, pink, purple, red, orange, green, and yellow. The birthstone of September, sapphire protects your loved ones from harm, according to folklore. In medieval times, the clergy wore blue sapphire as a symbol of heaven and today the stone symbolizes wisdom, purity, and faith. Sapphires are durable, so they are great for every day wear. Though sapphires are available in a variety of colors and shades, pure blue stones or blue stones with a green or purple tint are the most valuable.
Rose zircon, also referred to as tourmaline, is the October birthstone. Ranging in color from deep reddish pink to a bright, vibrant pink, rose zircon represents innocence and creativity. It is also thought that wearing pink zircon can help relieve stress and anxiety. While tourmaline is available in a wide range of shades, including multicolor varieties, it is an ideal stone for just about anyone’s color and style preference.
November’s birthstone is the yellow or golden topaz. This stone is associated with healing and strength of the mind and body. It is also believed to offer protection while traveling and support mental health. Topaz is available in a plentiful array of colors, including yellow, smoky brown, blue, pink, purple, orange, and purple. Some believe that topaz is a sign of love and affection and historically topaz has been thought to protect your eyesight and repel evil. Because topaz is available in a rainbow of hues, select the color you like best for your November birthstone.
While turquoise used to be the December birthstone, the shift to transparent stones made blue zircon the modern December birthstone. Zircon is available in a range of colors, such as blue, yellow, orange, green, red, and colorless, though the blue one is the designated stone for December. It is believed that the zircon may relieve pain, increase appetite, protect from disease and injury, and prevent nightmares. While the red zircon is considered to be the most valuable, you can find zircon in a range of colors, so pick the color you like best. When shopping for zircon jewelry, look for clear stones with little to no flaws and consistent color throughout.