The idea of the birthstone can be traced back all the way to ancient times. While most historians make a connection between the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve gemstones of the breastplate of Aaron, others like St. Jerome and Josephus, also from ancient times, believe that these gemstones are linked to the signs of the zodiac.
This was followed, much later, around 17th century Poland, shortly after the middle ages, by the practice of wearing a specific stone corresponding with a specific month. It was only in 1912 that the National Association of Jewelers made public the list of modern birthstones that are commonplace today.
Despite the modern birthstone list being released, most enthusiasts will choose their favored stone between the two lists, and the two are thus still interconnected. The biggest difference between the two lists, though, is that the modern birthstone list only includes transparent gems.
There seems to be some variation between lists provided on the internet, but the differences are not major as far as we could find, and there is generally some overlap. We have tried to include the most general version of the lists in this article, but a few people might find sources that give an alternative gem here and there.
Both the traditional and modern birthstone for January is the garnet. This is a popular gem that is often used in jewelry pieces. They go very well with a clear gem like a diamond.
The most common color for a garnet is a deep dark red. They were named for their similarity in appearance to a pomegranate seed. The garnet is often associated with feelings of trust, protection, love, and commitment.
The traditional and modern lists also agree on February as the amethyst. This gem is slightly less popular in jewelry but is more affordable than other stones on this list, so that they might be a good option for daily wear pieces.
Amethysts are most often a very light purple or pinkish color. It is associated with the purity of spirit, specifically because of its color. Furthermore, it also helps with wound healing, is associated with peace, and brings forward feelings of calm, understanding, and trust, and enhances one’s grace.
For March, the modern birthstone is the aquamarine, and the traditional is the bloodstone, which is not transparent. This is the first month to involve a choice of two birthstones. The bloodstone gem is not as popular in jewelry as other gems on this list, but it still makes for some beautiful pieces.
The aquamarine is a characteristic blue-green color that carries strong associations of harmony, serenity, and tranquility but also conjures up images of clarity.
The bloodstone tends to be a very dark green color that is pricked with bright red. It symbolizes vitality and helps to rid you of negative energy. It is also associated with courage, good fortune, and justice.
Both modern and traditional lists agree that the stone for April is a diamond. This gemstone is the most expensive one on the list and is most often used in jewelry pieces. A diamond is the hardest and most well-known gemstone in circulation, perhaps rivaled only by the pearl.
Diamonds come in a variety of colors, but the most common is the well-known clear diamond. It is associated with invincibility and strength but also conjures ideas of beauty and companionship.
Furthermore, a diamond is naturally seen by society as a sign of wealth and prosperity. While pearls are known to be expensive, they are more associated with older generations, where a diamond is more readily worn by anyone at any time. They are often not purchased a birthstone but are more often associated with engagements and marriage.
Purchasing a diamond jewelry piece as a birthstone gift is relatively rare comparatively, simply because the gem is so widely popular in jewelry pieces.
The traditional and modern lists both identify the emerald for May.
Emeralds are a distinctive green color while being associated with wisdom, wit, true love, eloquence, and foresight. This birthstone has the strongest association with its color, and most people who have little knowledge about jewelry will be able to tell you that the emerald gem is green.
June has the modern listed gemstone as alexandrite and the traditional as a pearl.
Alexandrite is an interesting type of gemstone that changes color depending on the light. It ranges from a rich blue-green to red with a purple tint as light diminishes. Alexandrite is strongly associated with balance, prosperity, and a high intellect. There are also associations with luck and overall mental clarity and success.
Alexandrite was named after the Russian Tsar that was in power when it was found. It is popular as a birthstone because of its color-changing quality, but pearls are more popular in jewelry overall.
Pearls come in different colors, but most often, a creamy white. This color, along with its round shape, has drawn associations with the moon. Socially they are associated with wealth, purity, and innocence, but also to an extent with spiritual awareness and wisdom.
Natural pearls are becoming exceedingly rare, which has increased the value of a pearl exponentially. It is also the only gem that cannot be called a gemstone because it is made by a living thing. Society associates a pearl with old-world beauty, and it is not a common gift for the younger generation. This might affect your choice of birthstone jewelry depending on the age of the person you are purchasing it for.
Both lists indicate the ruby for July.
The ruby is usually a deep red and is associated with passion and love. Some other associations include success and high energy levels while still promoting harmony. Rubies are popular gems in the jewelry industry.
The modern list provides both peridot and spinel for August, while the traditional list suggests sardonyx. This is the first month to involve a choice of three birthstones. Your choice of birthstone here might be led by the color preference of the person born in August.
Peridot can vary between yellow and light green and is often believed to aid in calming an angry person. It also promotes peace and restful sleep while enhancing good health and harmony.
Spinel comes in many colors, but in context of a birthstone is most often a dark pinkish-red. It is believed to revitalize the weary, is called the stone of love, and carries strong associations with devotion, passion, and longevity.
Sardonyx is a milky orangey earthy tone that is streaked with shades of white. It is associated with happiness, confidence, and optimism.
September sees the sapphire suggested by both lists. Sapphires are very popular gemstones in this industry. They are also popular gemstones for engagement rings, both the blue variety and the clear variety due to their close resemblance to the more expensive gemstones: diamonds.
A sapphire is most often a rich blue color and is associated with innocence, prosperity, joy, and fulfillment. It promotes good health, preserves chastity, and enhances inner peace and inner beauty.
October has tourmaline on the modern gem list and opal on the traditional list.
Tourmaline comes in a wide variety of colors, but in the context of a birthstone is most often found in pink. Pink tourmaline is associated with a gentleness of spirit, compassion, and humanitarianism.
An opal is a striking stone that is predominantly white but features an array of incandescent colors visible in certain light angles on the surface of the white stone. While it has some bad connotations, it is traditionally associated with luck, purity, hope, and innocence. It promotes happiness, confidence, and loyalty. This is perhaps the most underrated gemstone on the list.
The opal, in its own way, resembles a pearl but has more luster due to the shimmering rainbow spectrum of colors on its surface. A pearl, in comparison, can look dull. When making a birthstone purchase, be sure not to confuse the two if you are unfamiliar with gemstones.
November also has two stones on the modern list, namely golden topaz, and citrine, where the traditional list suggests topaz in general.
A golden topaz is a golden yellow color that carries strong associations of self-expression and promotes independent life according to individual values.
Citrine is an equally vibrant yellow golden color that is associated with mental clarity, freshness, happiness, and positivity.
December features the blue topaz and tanzanite on the modern list, while the traditional list provides turquoise and lapis lazuli. December has the broadest range of gems to choose from, and if you are feeling adventurous, you can choose more than one of these gems to be included in your jewelry. Most of these gems are blue, so it makes the month of December distinctly blue in color.
The blue topaz is associated with relaxation and harmony. It encourages communication understanding and has some associations with learning.
Tanzanite is also blue in color. It is believed to be able to turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts and can help to promote self-awareness. Furthermore, it is associated with magic and mystery. The value of tanzanite goes up as the color gets darker.
Turquoise is believed to be associated with hope, good fortune, peace, wisdom, and protection.
Lapis Lazuli promotes good judgment, healing, love, and wisdom while being associated with protection and harmony.
Birthstone jewelry is a common gift for a loved one if you know that person’s birth month. Some of these stones are relatively affordable, but there are other gemstones on the above list that are quite expensive. For example, pearls, sapphires, and diamonds can be fairly pricy. Other stones like tanzanite, alexandrite and turquoise are less expensive.
You will also be faced with some months that involve two birthstones while others still involve three birthstones. In cases like this, it can be difficult to decide which stone to go with.
When deciding on what jewelry piece to buy for your loved one’s birthstone, you should be aware of the vast majority of options and designs available out there. Check whether the color of a stone changes between a natural and incandescent light, as there are a few gems that do change.
Also, make sure that you get the appropriate distinct color for the birthstone context. Some stones come in several rich colors, but only one or two of those colors are readily associated with the birthstone. Some stones are even available in a rainbow spectrum. You should also consider whether you want to buy a ring or a different kind of jewelry. Whatever you decide on, birthstone jewelry can be an excellent gift for any loved one.
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