Wearing birthstone jewelry has become quite fashionable in the past few centuries, but the truth is that mankind has been honoring the month of their birth with birthstones for far longer. Gem researchers theorize that the use of birthstones dates all the way back to biblical times. In Exodus 28:15-30, a ceremonial garment known as the Breastplate of Aaron is mentioned. This garment was adorned with twelve different gemstones that represented Israel’s twelve tribes. These gemstones were aligned with both the calendar months and the twelve signs of the zodiac.
People began to attribute the qualities of a gemstone with the particular personality traits of those folks born in a certain month or who were born under a certain astrological sign. Birthstone history spans millennia, and there are numerous birthstone guides that exist from culture to culture.
For example, there are birthstones that are assigned according to the zodiac calendar for each sign in the zodiac, i.e., Capricorn, Aries, so forth. There are also mystical birthstones that trace their roots to Tibet over 1K years ago. There are Ayurvedic birthstones that were established in India 1500 years before Christ’s birth. For our purposes, we will take a look at the modern monthly birthstones that were adopted in 1912 by the American National Association of Jewelers.
January (garnet). January’s birthstone is the fiery red garnet. The garnet is so named after its resemblance to the seed of the pomegranate, which was the emblem of Katherine of Aragon, the Spanish princess who wed King Henry VIII in the 16th century. The use of the garnet in making jewelry predates the birth of Christ by more than 3K years. Garnet can be found in all sorts of colors, but the garnet that was adopted for the January birthstone is red. Garnet is thought to symbolize truth, eternity, and faith, and to protect the wearer during travel. It is also thought to harbinger health, friendship, loyalty and sincerity.
February (Amethyst). February’s birthstone is the beautiful purple quartz, amethyst. This quartz stone was used in ancient Greek and Roman times to prevent drunkenness, and was thus the material that was often chosen to make drinking glasses. In the Middle Ages, purple was a color that could only be worn by royalty, and the English royalty often chose amethyst stones when having jewelry crafted. According to Leonardo da Vinci, amethyst could dissipate evil thoughts and make the wearer smarter. Other attributes that have been assigned to amethyst throughout the years include keeping the wearer level-headed and even tempered, driving away worrisome thoughts, and bringing about a sense of calm, tranquility, and serenity.
March (aquamarine). The official March birthstone is aquamarine, and legend has it that aquamarine is a treasure of the mermaids. The word aquamarine comes from Latin words aqua meaning water and marina meaning the sea, which is fitting since this stone is the color of sea water. Aquamarine is typically light greenish blue to blue green in color although larger gems are usually a deeper color. Aquamarine is made from beryl and is in the same family as emeralds. Throughout the years, much folklore exists about aquamarine, including that it can provide protection to sailors if worn as a talisman during a voyage. Aquamarine is said to cool the temper and calm emotions while it sharpens the mind. It is also a symbol of hope, youth, and health.
April (diamond). Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, especially if she happens to be born in April, since the diamond is the official birthstone of April babies. The name diamond stems from the Greek word for “unconquerable”, and it was oftentimes worn to protect soldiers in battle. The Ancient Greeks thought that the diamond was actually formed from the tears of the gods or from fallen star fragments, so they placed great value on these gems. Diamonds are valued today for their brilliance and fire and are graded based on carat weight, color, clarity and cut. The diamond is symbolic of invincibility and fearlessness, and is also an international symbol of eternity and love.
May (emerald). May babies are assigned the birthstone emerald. Emerald was mined in Egypt as far back as three centuries before the birth of Christ. Emerald is a member of the beryl family and a cousin of aquamarine. Cleopatra was a great collector of emeralds, the symbol of rebirth, youth, fertility and life. Those who wear emeralds are said to enjoy love, fortune, and joy.
June (pearl). The pearl is a symbol of innocence and purity, and is the birthstone of those born in June. Pearls are grown organically in mollusks, and are the only gem that does not need to be polished. Pearls were favorites in the Roman Empire and were said to be tears of the gods in Persian mythological lore. A natural pearl was so rare at the time that only the richest people could afford to own them. Pearl remains the emblem of beauty, peace, nobility and modesty.
July (ruby). The ruby is a brilliant red gem that is the birthstone for those born in July. This birthstone is crafted from corundum and is in the same family with sapphires. Rubies are thought to block misfortune and bring passion to the wearer, and are seen a symbol of devotion, integrity and success. The ruby is said to protect and provide strength to the wearer, and can be given to a lover as a symbol of love.
August (peridot). Peridot is the official birthstone of the month of August, and is said to be the tears of the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes and fire, Pele. The peridot comes from deep within the earth and is brought from there when a volcano erupts. There are several colors of peridot, including an olive green and lime green that is most common. Peridot is a symbol of peace, success, and friendship and is said to chase away fear, nightmares, envy and depression.
September (sapphire). The official birthstone for September babies is the sapphire. This stone is made from corundum and is the most valuable when it is a deep blue hue. People living in medieval times associated sapphires with heaven, and thought that the stone would protect loved ones from sickness, envy and harm. It is thought that the sapphire promotes truth, relaxation, and a clear mind.
October (opal). Opal, the birthstone for the month of October, is a word that is derived from the Greek Opallos, meaning “to see color change”. Ancient Romans referred to the opal as the queen of the gems because of its rainbow flashes and its unique color makeup. An opal can be a variety of colors, although white is the most usual and black the rarest. Opal is crafted from non-crystalline silica gel and symbolizes hope, purity and fidelity and is said to promote a sharp mind, health and confidence. Notably, people in the Middle Ages wore rings made from opal to stave off the plague, and the stone is said to lose its power of protection once the owner passes away.
November (citrine). Citrine is November’s birthstone, and is quartz that is readily found in many places around the world. Citrine is French for “lemon” and the color of the gem can range from brownish orange to light yellow, although the most sought after color is a yellowish orange. The citrine is known as a healing stone, and is said to support vitality, mental clarity, hope, confidence and success while making the wearer relaxed and lighthearted.
December (blue topaz). December babies are born under the birthstone of blue topaz, which is a stone that is actually colorless, but that turns blue when it is treated with heat. Blue topaz is formed from fluorine and aluminum, and is symbolic of fidelity and love when it is offered as a gift. This stone is thought to provide the wearer with pleasantness and patience.