Birthstones are something we get asked about a lot in our shop. They make such a special gift for people’s birthdays, we’re often asked to order special items or make special items featuring people’s birthstones. Would you believe the tradition of birthstones actually has a Biblical origin? In the book of Exodus, Aaron is described as having a breastplate adorned with 12 different gemstones representing the 12 tribes of Israel and early scholars believed they corresponded to the signs of the Zodiac. 18th century jewellers in Poland modified this idea slightly so each stone corresponded to each month with this practice being solidified in 1912 by the National Association of Jewelers in the USA. It has been a tradition to buy people gems that correspond with the month they were born in ever since. So, what are the birthstones for each month, what are they like and what do they represent?
January – Garnet
Rich red garnets are actually a collection of minerals clumped together rather than just one and they get their name from the Latin word ‘granatum’ which means seed but refers to a pomegranate seed in this case. They are often seen as a symbol of lasting friendship.
February – Amethyst
Purple amethysts are a form of quartz which take on their purple colour due to a type of impurity in the quartz. Its name is derived from the Greek word ‘methustos’ which means ‘drunk’ and was once worn to ward off the chance of getting drunk. We don’t recommend trying that out on a Friday night. The colour also signifies royalty so it’s found on many crowns and royal jewellery.
March – Aquamarine
It doesn’t take too much thought to work out the name ‘aquamarine’ means water and sea or that it was given this name for its colour being similar to the sea. This is why it was often worn by sailors to bring them good fortune on their sea voyages. This stone is a type of beryl which is a rare silicate mineral found in igneous and metamorphic rocks.
April – Diamond
Did you know that diamonds are 58 times harder than any other mineral on Earth? Being so tough makes them a perfect birthstone to symbolise everlasting love. It’s also quite exciting to know that they are creating from carbon subjected to extreme heat and pressure in the depths of the Earth before being brought to the surface by volcanic magma pipes called kimberlite pipes.
May – Emerald
Emeralds are part of the same family of stones as aquamarine because they are another type of beryl with a slightly different impurity giving them a deep green colour. Many emeralds are actually heat treated to deepen their colour as high quality ones are very rare. The deep green colour of emeralds mean they have symbolised many different things over the years including: fertility, love, wisdom, good fortune, growth, patience and youth.
June – Pearl or Alexandrite
Pearls are formed inside molluscs as a way to reduce irritation when a tiny irritant like a grain of sand gets into their shell. The mollusc wraps the irritant in layers of calcium carbonate to form a pearl. Pearls were once believed to be Aphrodite’s tears of joy so are often associated with love. The other June birthstone, Alexandrite, is a very rare stone that changes colour depending on the light. It appears green during the day and red in lamplight at night.
July – Ruby
Rubies are a type of corundum which get their rich red colour from chromium as an impurity in the mineral. The name comes from the Latin word for red, ‘rubeus’. It’s unsurprising that rubies often symbolise love but they have also been believed to give courage with Burmese warriors once implanting rubies into their skin before battle to make them brave and offer protection. We don’t recommend trying this out either.
August – Peridot
Peridot is an olive green colour as it is actually the gem quality version of olivine which is a common mineral found in mafic igneous rocks such as basalt, gabbro and peridotite. This gem quality olivine isn’t nearly so common though. Traditionally, it has been seen as a symbol of strength and some believed it protects the wearer from nightmares.
September – Sapphire
Sapphires are made of the same stuff as rubies, corundum. This time, the impurities which gives it its deep blue colour are titanium and iron. Like diamonds, sapphires are also a very hard mineral but not nearly as tough as diamonds. As they were associated with wisdom and heavenly blessings, they were often favoured by kings and holy men.
October – Opal or Tourmaline
Like garnet, tourmaline isn’t one mineral but lots all clumped together. The difference is that the minerals which make up tourmaline are different colours. According to the ancient Egyptians, it gained its many colours from passing through a rainbow on its way up from the centre of the Earth. We aren’t sure how they worked that one out! Opals apparently symbolise faithfulness and confidence and are formed when water picks up silica dioxide and deposits it in cavities along with trace impurities. The water then evaporates and leaves the silica dioxide.
November – Topaz or Citrine
These yellow and orange colour stones are similar in colour and citrine is often mistaken for topaz. Citrine is actually a type of quartz which gets its yellow to orange colour through traces of iron in the quartz. Topaz is a nesosilicate mineral which was named after the Greek name for an island in the Red Sea, Topazios. Oddly enough, although the gem takes its name from this island where they one mined yellow coloured gems, it’s unlikely they were actually topaz. Topaz was traditionally used to give the wearer strength and intelligence and citrine is used as a healing crystal.
December – Tanzanite, Zircon or Turquoise
All three of these stones are various blue shades. Tanzanite is an interesting one as it was only discovered recently in 1967 and can only be found in Tanzania. Although it was discovered by Maasai herders, it was actually named by Tiffany and Co who became its main distributers and wanted to highlight the rare geographical source for the stone. A more traditional stone, turquoise, was used as a love charm and is said to relax the mind and protect the wearer from harm.
If you would like to a buy a piece of jewellery with a birthstone for your loved one or for yourself, speak to us and we can either source a piece for you or make it. Call us on 01273 239763 or email email@example.com