Birthstone jewelry can be a great conversation starter, and they’re popular gifts too. Because of the rich history, folklore, and even legends surrounding birthstones – it’s worth taking a deeper look at the background, symbolism, special properties, and more in a 3-part series:
In Part 1 (this article), the focus is on the historical background and introducing both traditionally and commonly recognized gemstones – plus the beautiful gemstone alternatives many choose. For example, consider the alternative for November’s Golden Topaz – Citrine. It’s golden color is just as majestic and powerful as Topaz.
Part 2 will dig deeper into the symbolism and special properties of some of the gemstones – which will also help explain the suggested pairings of certain stones with the Zodiac signs. For example, some Gemini people tend to appear detached from their love interests. The Moonstone opens up the heart chakra and allows the person wearing it to be more in tune with their emotions.
Part 3 will offer tips for choosing birthstone jewelry for yourself or choosing gifts for others. For example, if you have a Taurus friend with health issues (e.g., poor eyesight, fertility problems, headaches, or spinal issues), choosing the Emerald might help ease their discomfort.
In the first century, the historian Joseph linked the origins of birthstones back to biblical times. In the book of Exodus, the first high priest (Aaron) had a breastplate that contained 12 gemstones – each representing one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Joseph believed there was a connection between the 12 stones, 12 months of the year, and the 12 zodiac signs.
By the 8th and 9th centuries, the influence of eastern traditions (exposed during trading) reinforced the belief that birthstones had mystical powers. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, a more traditional list of birthstones originated in either Germany or Poland and was adopted by the United States.
Then in 1912, the National Association of Jewelers published a list of modern birthstones, influenced by practical considerations for selling and promoting jewelry at that time – such as commercial availability. Later, the Jewelry Industry Council of America made more changes:
- 1952 – added Alexandrite/June, Citrine/November, Tourmaline/October, and Zircon/December
- 2002 – added Tanzanite/December
- 2016 – added Spinel/August
The following table summarizes the commonly accepted birthstones. More alternatives could be added if we consider the beliefs of other cultures, mythologies, or astrology – or even the color of the gemstones.
The good news is we aren’t limited to one birthstone – we can have fun choosing the best match for us!
Commonly Accepted Birthstones by Month & Zodiac
*Additional alternatives may be available
JANUARY | Garnet
Garnet is named from the combination of a Middle English word that means ‘dark red’ and a Latin word that translates to ‘seed like.’ It has been found most abundantly in Australia, North America, Germany, India, and China.
Fun Fact: There are seven main varieties of Garnet with these different colors:
- Purple to orange to red to brownish red
- Deep red
- Fiery orange to reddish brown
- Colorless to vivid green
- Beautiful black to yellowish-green
- Deep purplish-red to rose-red
FEBRUARY | Amethyst
Amethyst comes from an ancient Greek word that means ‘not intoxicated’ and it’s found most abundantly in Brazil and Uruguay. Its color ranges from violet to reddish-purple.
Fun Fact: Like many of the gemstones in our table, Amethyst is a type of Quartz (in the silica group of minerals). Others include Rose Quartz, Citrine, Smoky Quartz, Opal, Carnelian, etc.
MARCH | Aquamarine
Aquamarine appropriately named after Seawater – due to its blue, greenish-blue color. It’s found most abundantly in North America (New England, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada) and the Soviet Union.
Fun Fact: Both Aquamarine and Emerald are gemstone-quality varieties of the mineral Beryl (a source of beryllium).
APRIL | Diamond
Diamonds are named from a Greek word meaning “invincible”. Colors range from clear, white, pale shades of yellow-red, orange, blue, green, brown, and black. They’re found most abundantly in South Africa, Brazil, India, and North America (California and Arkansas).
Fun Fact: Diamonds are the hardest naturally occurring substance known to date.
MAY | Emerald
Emeralds, known for their vibrant deep green, transparent green to slightly bluish green, are named from an ancient Greek word meaning ‘green.’ They’re found most abundantly in North America (New England, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada) and the Soviet Union.
Fun Fact: Both Emerald and Aquamarine are gemstone-quality varieties of the mineral Beryl (a source of beryllium).
JUNE | Pearl
Pearls are found within fresh and saltwater mollusks, and are often cultivated or cultured. They have a bright milky white exterior, and are likely the softest and most vulnerable birthstone.
Fun Fact: Pearls are the only birthstone made by a living creature and require no polishing.
JULY | Ruby
The deep red color of Rubies is familiar to many, but they can have a pink color too. The name comes from the Latin word for red. Some of the loveliest gems come from Burma, and they’re also found abundantly in Thailand and Cambodia.
Fun Fact: Both Ruby and Sapphire are a gemstone-quality variety of the mineral corundum (aluminum oxide).
AUGUST | Peridot
The cherished Peridot gemstone has colors ranging from yellowish green to bright green to olive green. Its name comes from an Arabic word that means “gem.” It’s found most abundantly in Burma, the Red Sea, Norway, Germany, New Zealand, and North America (New Mexico, Arizona, North Carolina).
Fun Fact: Peridot is a transparent gemstone-quality variety of the mineral olivine.
SEPTEMBER | Sapphire
The name Sapphire comes from an ancient Greek word for precious stone or gem. Most people are familiar with the blue color, but it comes in many colors (except for red) - such as yellow, black, white, green, pink, Purple, grey, orange, and brown. Sapphires are found in Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Australia, and North America.
Fun Fact: Both Sapphire and Ruby are a gemstone-quality variety of the mineral corundum (aluminum oxide).
OCTOBER | Opal
Opals have been mined extensively in Australia, and are also found abundantly in Hungary, Mexico, and North America (Nevada and Idaho). The name comes from a combination of a Greek work meaning to see a color change and a Sanskrit word for precious stone. Colors range from colorless, milky white, milky blue, yellow, white opalescent, transparent, translucent, and even black.
Fun Fact: Like many of the gemstones in our table, Opal is a type of Quartz (in the silica group of minerals). Others include Rose Quartz, Citrine, Smoky Quartz, Opal, Amethyst, Carnelian, etc.
NOVEMBER | Topaz
Golden Topaz has warm yellow/orange hues. Its name comes from a Greek word that’s the name of a small island in the Red Sea (though the island never produced it). Its found most abundantly in North America (Utah, Texas, California, Virginia, South Carolina, New Hampshire) and the Soviet Union.
Fun Fact: Topaz is available in nearly every color in the rainbow.
DECEMBER | Tanzanite
Named after the country where it was discovered by Tiffany & Co., Tanzanite gemstones are only found in Tanzania. It can be made to look similar to blue sapphires. Though tanzanite sells for much less, its treatment requires a protective coating.
Fun Fact: Tanzanite is a gemstone-quality variety of the mineral Zoisite with a blue to blue-violet color.
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Remember, we’ve identified lovely pieces of Birthstone jewelry to make it easy for you. Take a look here!