An individual’s birthstone is the gemstone (or gemstones) that represents the month in which they were born. Due to their sentimental meaning and extensive history, these gems make for excellent pieces of jewelry.
The History of Birthstones
Although they’re currency on-trend, birthstones date back to biblical times. The Book of Exodus describes a special breastplate that was adorned with 12 different stones that held special powers for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Similar mentions are also found in ancient Hindu texts.
Five hundred years later, the biblical historian Joseph claimed there was a connection between these gems and the 12 months of the year, and people began to collect and make extravagant jewelry out of each one. In the 8th and 9th centuries, it became custom to wear jewelry that featured the stone of the current month.
The modern tradition of getting pieces featuring the stone for your particular birth month didn’t arise until the 16th century.
What’s the Difference Between Modern and Traditional Birthstones?
According to the International Gem Society, the birthstones that are considered “traditional” or “ancient” originated in Poland sometime between the 16th and 18th centuries. In 1912, the National Association of Jewelers released a modified list they categorized as “modern birthstones.”
The most notable difference between the traditional and modern birthstones is that the latter includes only transparent gems, which is thought to be a marketing move. These stones were a better fit for “mother’s rings,” a fad that features the birthstones of each child born to a mother.
However, because several of the traditional stones are cheaper than their modern counterparts, both lists remain popular.
Birthstones By Month
The premier month of the year is associated with one of the most complex and diverse gems in the world. In contrast to many other gems, garnet consists of more than one species and variety.
Moreover, these stones are found in nearly every color you can think of, which makes them a popular choice for numerous types of jewelry. Most people, however, associate garnet with deep red.
Garnets are also associated with The Root Chakra, which denotes strength, passion, and balance.
The birthstone for the most romantic month of the year is a kind of crystalline quartz that comes in colors ranging from a pale lilac hue to a deep reddish-purple. Its high hardness rating makes it quite scratch-resistant. Additionally, purple amethyst is said by some belief systems to contain healing properties such as enhancing the immune system, regulating hormones, and promoting calm. As such, it’s been used by ayurvedic and natural health practitioners stretching all the way back to the ancient Romans.
Jewelry experts suggest choosing pieces with settings that surround the stone to protect it, such as small diamonds.
March: Bloodstone or Aquamarine
The traditional stone for March is a lesser-known gem called bloodstone, which has a dark green body with striking red or orange spots that look similar to tiny droplets of blood, hence its name. The color and amount of spots play the primary role in determining a bloodstone’s value. Bloodstones have come to symbolize bravery and martyrdom. They make for excellent jewelry, as they’re tough and require no special care.
The modern option for March is aquamarine, named after the blue-green color of the sea. This gemstone remains popular because it’s both moderately priced and readily available.
Those born in April are lucky enough to have the most popular ring stone choice on the planet. Diamonds — which are prized for their classic and timeless beauty, unmatched hardness, and striking clarity — have become quite the status symbol.
Though typically colorless, this precious stone also comes in shades of yellow, green, pink, orange, lavender, blue and black. Diamonds are most commonly set in gold rings and stud earrings, but their neutral color makes them the most versatile jewelry to wear. No matter the piece, you’ll want to find a diamond with good clarity.
When you think of May’s birthstone, your mind likely goes straight to elegance and luxury. This deep to medium- or bluish-green gem is not only a member of the beryl family, but it is one of the traditional “Big Four” gems, alongside diamond, ruby, and sapphire.
Emeralds are commonly treated with oil or heat to bring out their rich color, which makes them susceptible to chipping. Opting for emerald earrings or necklaces ensures less wear and tear than rings or other pieces. The price of emerald jewelry varies widely.
June: Pearl, Alexandrite or Moonstone
Pearls are truly one of a kind. For one thing, they’re the only gems found inside living creatures: the salt and freshwater mollusks. Because they rarely occur in nature, most pearls currently on the market are cultivated or cultured. Although they require special care, these lustrous white, pink, gray or black gems have a delicate and classy appeal. They work particularly well in understated designs such as string earrings.
On the more modern side, alexandrite is sometimes called “emerald by day, ruby by night,” due to its remarkable color changes depending on the light. It’s so rare and expensive that few people have come across a natural one. However, even artificial alexandrite is pricey. Then there is moonstone: a rare type of gem that looks like moonlight reflected in blue water. They’re all the rave in Germany and some Scandinavian countries, where they’re highly preferred over June’s other birthstones.
Another one of the “Big Four” gems, ruby is extremely desired and durable. Its vivid red hues reach high levels of saturation, ranging from fuchsia to deep scarlet. Therefore, this gem will always stand out, so it’s best to opt for dainty and minimalist pieces.
These gems are also linked to love, wisdom and health. The highest quality rubies are priced at more than a million dollars per carat.
August: Sardonyx, Peridot or Spinel
August has not one, not two, but three different birthstones associated with it, so people born in this summer month have multiple options to work with.
Sardonyx, which is the traditional stone, has a history that dates back more than 4,000 years. It’s actually a combination of two types of chalcedony and contains bands of red, brown, or dark orange that alternate with layers of white or black onyx. It’s a popular material to carve cameos and intaglios. Peridot, which comes in various shades of green, also stretches back to ancient times. However, it’s much more prevalent. In jewelry, it beautifully complements pearl. Lastly, spinel is an excellent ruby alternative. In addition to red, it comes in pink, orange, purple, blue, and blueish green. It’s famously featured on Great Britain’s Imperial State Crown.
September only has one birthstone option: the pure and durable gem of sapphire. Although blue sapphires are the most sought-after, they also come in a wide variety of shades, including:
- Golden amber
With so many options to choose from, some customers with this birthstone combine several colors of sapphire into one bold statement piece. Others opt for more subtle accent pieces.
October: Opal or Tourmaline
October’s traditional birthstone, opal, is in its own unique class. Although they all feature luminescent swirling patterns, each opal gem is entirely unique. They’re also the most delicate gems in the jewelry world, so they require special care.
But no other gem comes in as many colors as October’s modern gem, tourmaline. Some tourmaline gems even have multiple colors in one. For both stones, opt for settings and pieces where the delicate gems will have maximum protection.
November: Topaz or Citrine
Those born in November can have their pick between topaz (the traditional stone) and citrine (the modern stone).
Prior to the 20th century, all yellow gems were considered to be topaz. Now, topaz is considered its own species that can occur in numerous other earth tones, but golden topaz is the most desired. Citrine tends to be more affordable, although it’s actually a more durable ring stone.
December: Turquoise, Lapis Lazuli, Blue Zircon, Blue Topaz and Tanzanite
Lastly, a whopping five different gemstones compete for the December birthstone title. While turquoise and lapis lazuli are the traditional choices, blue zircon is the most popular modern choice, while blue topaz and tanzanite are additional options. They all have one thing in common: the color blue.
Even though these stones come in other colors, most jewelry features the blue varieties. They’re also all associated with creative self-expression. For jewelry, these stones work well in sleek, sculptural ring designs or in decadent diamond necklaces.