CANVASES, CARATS AND CURIOSITIES

Birthstone Guide: The Lore and History Behind Your Birthstone

Birthstones are personalized and specific to your birth month, meaning finding your birthstone is as simple as knowing your birthday. Birthstones are said to have positive effects on the wearer, although the intended result differs for each stone and month. Some also believe that wearing a birthstone during its associated month can have positive outcomes for anyone regardless of birth month.
 
Whether you’re curious to learn about which stones suit you best or shopping for a personalized gift for a loved one, this birthstone guide can provide a useful quick glimpse into the meaning behind these treasured gemstones.
 

History of Birthstones

The history of birthstones dates back many centuries, although the stones we use today are not necessarily the same due to new discoveries of previously unknown gemstones. For this reason, some months are given multiple birthstones, although many still only have one.
 
One early record of birthstones was a poem published by Tiffany & Co. in 1870, which detailed the correct stone for those born in each month and its possible effects on the wearer. The birthstones mentioned in this early document have largely remained the same, with a few notable exceptions.
 

January: Garnet


Mandarin Garnet Pendant, 15.01 Carats

 
For those born in the first month of the year, garnet is said to bring goodwill and purpose. This stone is named for the Latin word for pomegranate in honor of its traditional red color. Although most garnet used in jewelry is a crimson hue, other rarer varieties of the gem exhibit sunny orange or rich green colors, making it a versatile stone. Garnets were incredibly popular in Victorian jewelry but have been desired since the time of the Ancient Egyptians.
 
Mandarin garnet is known for its bright orange color and was first mined in Namibia in 1991, making this stone a relatively new discovery. The vivid orange shade seen in this pendant is rare even among mandarin garnets, which range from yellowish-orange to reddish-orange. Garnet is also known for its high refractive rating, meaning these gems will glow even in low lighting.
 

February: Amethyst

Retro Amethyst Bracelet

 

 

Amethyst is the February birthstone and is recognized for its signature purple hue, as well as its ability to bring peace of mind to the wearer. Both the Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Greeks used amethyst in jewelry and considered the gemstone to be highly valuable. The Egyptians often carved amethyst into pendants, and the Greeks associated its purple hue with wine and believed wearing it could cure drunkenness. Amethyst also has royal associations, and it was a favorite stone of Catherine the Great.

 

March: Aquamarine and Bloodstone


David Webb Aquamarine Bangle, 400.00 Carats
 
For those born in March, wearing aquamarine is said to bring happiness to their marriages. Aquamarine is named after the clear seawater that it resembles, and the cool blue-colored stone replicates the ocean waves in a wearable way. Appropriately, ancient Roman sailors wore aquamarines to combat illness and for protection when sailing long distances. Aquamarine can display a wide variety of shades of blue, so an intense color and clarity are highly valued.
 
An additional birthstone for March is bloodstone, and it is said to encourage creativity. Bloodstone is not often used in jewelry today, although its dark color with red inclusions makes this stone both fascinating and beautiful. This stone was named for its red flecks thought to be blood, and tales of its different magical properties have endured since the 1st century.
 

April: Diamond



Golconda Diamond Ring by Harry Winston, 5.56 Carats

 
April-born individuals are lucky enough to have the classic diamond as their birthstone. April babies can delight in a wide range of fancy-colored diamonds beyond the traditional colorless white gemstone we all know and love. Formed from carbon, diamonds are known as the world’s hardest natural material and are rated a ten on the Moss hardness scale, making the legend of their ability to provide strength to its wearer entirely fitting. Diamonds are valued for their color or lack thereof, as well as their cut and clarity. This emerald-cut diamond is a D color and Type IIa, meaning it is entirely free of the nitrogen which colors diamonds. This stone is also internally flawless, making it a stunning example of the lovely April birthstone.
 

May: Emerald



Pear-Shaped Colombian Emerald Drop Earrings

 
The classic and timeless emerald is perfect for those born in May, with a rich green color to evoke memories of springtime. Some believe that emeralds may even bring happiness and love to their wearer. Emeralds can display a range of green hues and are judged by their clarity, just like diamonds. The vibrant green color of these emerald earrings is a signature sign that the stone hail from the Colombian emerald mines. These famed mines have been in use for over 500 years, and the emeralds produced there are considered to be among the highest quality gemstones.
 

June: Pearl, Moonstone & Alexandrite


Moonstone Necklace by Raymond Yard, 10.08 Carats

 

 

Color Changing Alexandrite Ring, 6.94 Carats

 

 


Multi-Colored Pearl and Sapphire Bracelet

 

 

June is one of only two months with three different birthstones. The first June birthstone is moonstone, which glows from within and often suits ethereal, delicately designed jewelry. The lightly colored stone will display a blue or purplish sheen and is considered a sign of good luck.

 

The second birthstone, Alexandrite, is a gemstone with an incredibly unique look. This stone displays a color-changing appearance under natural lighting. First discovered in Russia, the stone was named for Alexander II and displays green and red hues. The jewel became a symbol of national pride for the country as it mirrored the military colors of imperial Russia. Because it was found close to the Tsar apparent’s birthday, he claimed all subsequent findings of the stone.

 

The final birthstone for June is the pearl, a timeless and elegant inclusion in any jewelry collection. Pearls are believed to represent purity and balance. Unlike any other birthstone, these organic and lustrous gems grow inside oysters and mussels. Pearls can come in a variety of shapes and sizes beyond the traditional round, white gems, although the elegance of a simple strand of classic pearls never fails.

 

July: Ruby


Burma Ruby and Diamond Bracelet by Harry Winston

 
The ruby is part of the corundum mineral species, which also includes the sapphire. Yet, while a sapphire can come in a range of colors, a ruby can only be red. These stunning red gems are said to bring love to the wearer, making them a thoughtful, romantic gift. Burma rubies are among the most coveted types of these stones, displaying what is often referred to as a “pigeon blood” red color. This dark, almost purple-tinted red is highly valued by collectors, and their value is only enhanced by the rarity of Burma rubies. Due to increasing political unrest, Burma closed itself to the world in 1962, further restricting trade and increasing the rarity of these magnificent stones. Though trade restrictions have since waned, the Burmese mines are all but depleted, and Burma rubies remain among the rarest and most sought-after colored gemstones on the market.
 

August: Peridot, Spinel & Sardonyx


Orange Spinel Ring

 

 


Raymond Yard Peridot Ring, 17.27 Carats

 

 

Peridot has a yellowish-green color and was called the “emerald of the evening” by the Ancient Romans and the “gem of the sun” by the Egyptians, both alluding to the remarkable color and brilliance of this stone. This stone is believed to promote mental clarity and prosperity.

 

Spinel is a mysterious birthstone, only added to August’s birthstones in 2016, making it the most recent change to the birthstone list. This stone for centuries has flown under the radar of gem collectors, who were unable to distinguish between the often red-hued spinel and ruby. Spinel comes in various colors beyond red, and it is a durable stone believed to promote harmony.

 

Unlikely to be seen in most jewelry stores today, sardonyx is last on the list of August birthstones. It was popular in Ancient Rome and often used to create signet rings worn by soldiers into battle. This warmly colored stone is said to bring protection to the wearer. Sardonyx’s inclusion shows the historic origins of birthstones, even without being as easily wearable as August’s other two options.

 

September: Sapphire



Unheated Kashmir Sapphire Ring, 3.32 Carats

 
Immensely popular and exhibiting a wide array of colors, sapphires are an incredibly versatile stone suitable for any setting or jewelry design. Whether you prefer rose, white or yellow gold, these stunning “fancy color” stones come in virtually every color, although their most recognizable hue is a deep cornflower blue. In fact, the only color missing from the array of sapphire colors is red because corundum with a red hue is classified as a ruby instead.
 
Said to inspire loyalty and protect the wearer from harm, sapphires have been popular since the Middle Ages when Medieval Europeans believed the stone could prevent illnesses. The most desired sapphires come from the Kashmir mines and exhibit a rich, velvety blue color unlike those mined in any other location.
 

October: Opal and Tourmaline



Black Opal Necklace by Oscar Heyman, 65.53 Carats

 

 


Paraiba Tourmaline Cabochon Ring by Oscar Heyman, 5.17 Carats

 

 

Opals are fascinating stones containing a rainbow of colors and can come in different varieties, including black, white and fire opals. These stones are valued for their play of color and the fire that radiates from each opal, something you truly have to see in person to appreciate. Black opals are especially precious, primarily mined in Australia and often displaying a more vibrant rainbow of hues enhanced by their darker background. These stunning stones are said to bring positive energy to the wearer.

 

Tourmaline is another stone with a wide array of colors, although, unlike opals, each stone sticks to one shade. With a believed result of good luck and happiness, wearing tourmaline is an excellent choice for anyone born in October or otherwise. One rare variety of tourmaline is the Paraiba. These neon blue stones are coveted by many collectors for their unusual, electrifying hue.

 

November: Topaz and Citrine

Edwardian Pink Topaz Necklace, 13.50 Carats

 

 


Tiffany & Co. Citrine Earrings by Paloma Picasso

 

 

Believed to encourage a calm state of mind in the wearer, topaz is the first of two birthstones for the month of November. Topaz demonstrates many different hues, like the sparkling pink seen above. Two of the rarest types of this gemstone are blue topaz and Imperial topaz, which exhibits a reddish-pink color.

 

The second stone chosen for November, citrine, presents a warm yellow hue perfect for autumn. Citrine’s similar color to some varieties of topaz led to a case of mistaken identity for this stone in ancient times, but today its yellow color is recognized for its own individual beauty. This stone is also said to inspire self-improvement.

 

December: Turquoise & Tanzanite


Tanzanite and Diamond Drop Earrings

 

 


Victorian Turquoise Snake Necklace

 

 

The two wintery blue stones associated with the month of December are each unique, presenting a range of hues. Turquoise has been said to protect one’s health and fortune, making this bright blue stone an excellent choice for anyone born in December. The electric blue stone is known for its color and can have veins of dark rock running through it. The turquoise snake necklace above takes advantage of the lightness of this stone to create an easily wearable yet completely stunning design.

 

Tanzanite has a rich blue color and can only be found in the mines within the hills of Tanzania. This stone is believed to inspire creativity and bring awareness. Only recently discovered in 1967, tanzanite quickly grew in popularity thanks in part to the efforts of Tiffany & Co., who were early supporters of this stunning gemstone. The almost velvety-colored stones are ideal for platinum or white gold jewelry, with a richness perfectly complemented by colorless diamonds.

 

Whether you believe in the mystical powers of gemstones or not, birthstone jewelry makes a great personalized gift for a loved one or a unique addition to your own jewelry collection. You can browse M.S. Rau’s entire collection of precious gemstones on our website.

 

Sources:

Farmington, Oliver C. Gems and gem minerals. Chicago: A. W. Mumford, 1903.

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