It’s probably safe to say that we have all heard of birthstones, and you might even know what your birthstone is. If you don’t, do not fear: we are going to discuss birthstones and their history, and we will tell you what your birthstone is.
Basically, a birthstone is a gemstone associated with the month that you were born. There is a birthstone chart associated with the months of the year, which is the most popular one. But there is also one associated with the zodiac calendar. The two charts are quite similar but, due to the way the zodiac calendar is set up, are not identical in every way.
The most popular definition of a birthstone is the gemstone associated with one’s birthday. There are a few different birthstone charts that people follow. We will not be discussing them all here, only the most popular two; zodiac and modern.
The most recent birthstone chart is the modern chart. Any changes to these charts tend to originate when the popularity of gemstones change. A recent change that was observed in birthstones was for the month of August, when spinel was changed to peridot. The chart is maintained by the American Gem Society/American Gem Trade Association and the Jewelers of America.
Before continuing, we need to clarify that it is not uncommon for birthstones to vary widely between different cultures and countries. This article focuses specifically on the US birthstone chart. The modern US version has attempted to create a standard among different cultures. Across the world, throughout history, civilizations and cultures have attributed powers and meanings to minerals, rocks, and crystals.
In a modern context, the concept of a birthstone doesn’t necessarily suggest that a gemstone has healing properties. However, birthstone jewelry is usually associated with prosperity, health, and luck. Birthstone jewelry is so popular today that it even features in the royal family. Prince William gifted Kate Middleton a pearl and garnet ring that represents their birthstones – William’s is a pearl and Kate’s is a garnet.
The first evidence of gemstones being associated with birthstones was recorded in the first century AD. This recording was made by a Roman Jewish historian named Yosef Ben Matityahu. About 300 years later, the gemstones were associated with the zodiac and placed in the breastplate of the biblical high priest. However, birthstones were not used or worn by the general population until the eighteenth century in Poland.
In early texts, birthstones were associated with the zodiac and stones appear in the same order as they appear in Revelations. That is no longer the case. The modern birthstone chart differs significantly from what might have been in biblical times. Especially as stones like diamonds and tourmaline were not recognized at the time. However, as birthstones spread throughout different religions people became more and more fascinated by them. People who could afford them started to carry their own.
Officially, birthstones were first recognized by the American National Association of Jewelers in 1912. Another list was created in 1937 by the National Association of Goldsmiths in Britain. Let’s compare the zodiac chart to the modern birthstone chart:
The garnet is quite a unique birthstone and kicks off the birthstone chart on a high note. It is found in Australia, Spain, India, and North and South America. While we know garnets as having a pure red color, they can also be found in black or a dark green color. In some cases, it may even be colorless. The stone is rich in manganese, aluminum, and iron, lending to its brilliant colors.
When we think about semi-precious gemstones, the amethyst is often at the top of the list of fan favorites. Many people the world over cherish the amethyst for its brilliant purple color. As a member of the quartz family, the amethyst can easily be cut as preferred and, due to its popularity, it will not be difficult to find birthstone jewelry featuring amethyst.
While the purple variety is the most common, you can also find a green amethyst gemstone and two-tone varieties. Unlike most other gemstones on the birthstone list, a large quantity of amethyst sold today is made in a lab, even though some is still mined naturally.
The official birthstone for March is aquamarine, but in some instances you might also see the bloodstone listed. In this article we will focus on aquamarine, as it is by far the more popular of the two. Aquamarine stones pay homage to the colors of the sea and can range between light green and a deep blue color. These stones are clear and the color will be determined by specific qualities related to minerals within the gemstone.
There are few gems as luxurious and opulent as the diamond. And people born in April have the honor of having this precious stone as their birthstone. The diamond is the most popular stone for an engagement ring. It is also one of only four gemstones that are considered precious stones (the others being ruby, sapphire, and emerald).
Diamond jewelry is often advertised with clear diamonds. But if you are familiar with these stones you might already know that they come in every color under the sun. Pink undertones are popular, Swiss blue or London blue diamonds are associated with royalty, and many other color varieties have significant meanings to individual people. That being said, the clear and colorless variety is the most expensive and sought-after among these precious gems.
The emerald is also one of only a handful of truly precious stones. Aquamarine and emerald are both members of the beryl family. But the emerald gets its amazing deep green color from the chromium in its makeup. While emeralds are highly sought after, they often contain several imperfections, making a relatively pure emerald extremely valuable.
The moonstone and pearl are older birthstones associated with the month of June. Today, however, alexandrite is the more common June birthstone. Alexandrite is quite a rare gemstone, while pearl is an opaque gem that is naturally grown in the ocean.
Alexandrite can change color under incandescent light, but might commonly exhibit a greenish-blue hue. It is quite a recognizable and eye-catching gemstone to include in birthstone jewelry. Most pearls available today come from designated farms across the globe. They make for unique birthstone jewelry options, especially with different color pearls.
The ruby is arguably the most perfect birthstone on the list. It represents passion and love and makes for a truly spectacular birthstone gift. Professionally speaking, ruby gemstones are defined by the amount of purple hue deep within the stone. This hue is referred to as ‘pigeon’s blood’ and is caused by the concentration of chromium in the gem.
Peridot is one of the oldest-known gems on the birthstone chart, but it still manages to remain low-key among gemstone enthusiasts. The peridot was revered by ancient Egyptians and is mostly found in Hawaii’s volcanic lava fields today. Many believe peridot has healing powers and some might equate it with divine nature. While the peridot is associated with the color green, it is much lighter than emerald.
Blue sapphires are extremely popular and sought-after gemstones. The sapphire and ruby are often pitted against each other as they take up opposite sides of the color spectrum. That being said, the blue variety is the most popular in jewelry, but you can also find a clear sapphire here and there. They are not as popular as a diamond though, as a clear sapphire does not sparkle nearly as much as a diamond. Much like peridot, many ancient civilizations believed that the sapphire had healing powers, and this is attributed to all its hues, from light purple to green.
Although opal is fiercely associated with the month of October it does not have the durability that is required for everyday wear and is not a popular jewelry option. That being said, many believe it is bad luck to wear it outside of October. So, you might be able to get away with wearing opal jewelry for one month of the year without causing much damage to the stone. The alternative option for the October birthstone is pink tourmaline.
Citrine and topaz are associated with the month of November but, despite being commonly confused with each other, these gems are not related at all. Citrine is a type of quartz and topaz is part of the silicate mineral family. Due to the availability of quartz, topaz is the more popular and more expensive of the two. It is available in a full spectrum of colors while citrine only occurs in orange and yellow hues. Blue topaz is also quite popular, although it is often associated with December. Some rare varieties including mystic topaz, which is clear topaz that has been treated with a fine mist of titanium.
December has quite a few options when it comes to birthstones, including blue topaz as discussed above. All of these gems come in a variety of colors, but specifically various blue colors which pair well with white sapphire and similar stones. A bonus is that these gems are all quite affordable, so it is not difficult to build a jewelry collection featuring these gems.
As a child, you were probably fascinated by your mother’s rings and perhaps dreamed of owning your very own ruby or diamond someday. And when you were a little older, you learned about birthstones and eagerly looked up your own. Maybe you were delighted by your birthstone, or maybe you were a little disappointed. Nevertheless, it probably grew on you over time.
In this breakdown of the birthstones by month, we discussed everything from ruby to citrine, and which month and zodiac sign these belong to. Hopefully, you have learned something from this article, but perhaps it has also resulted in a sense of nostalgia and even some pride after uncovering the secrets of your birthstone.
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