The History, Myths & Healing Powers of the 12 Birthday Gemstones
For every month of the year there is a corresponding birthstone steeped in history and mysticism dating back to biblical times.
Nowadays, birthstones appear in many cultures and traditions, and feature in engagement rings
, wedding bands
, earrings, bracelets and pendants, gifted for any occasion irrespective of race, religion, age or gender.
The History of Birthstones
The origin of birthstones can be found in the Book of Exodus, in which the High Priest of the Israelites wore the Breastplate of Aaron in order to communicate with God; this breastplate was adorned with 12 gemstones mounted in gold filigree settings believed to represent the 12 tribes of Israel.
Historians have since drawn connections between the 12 twelve stones and the zodiac signs, however modern day birthstones are assigned according to birth month and have been defined by the Gemological Institute of America as below.
Birthstone for January - Garnet
The January birthstone, garnet, is commonly red, but can be found in an extraordinary selection of colours, including green, purple, yellow and orange.
According to Indian astrology, wearing garnets can neutralise negative feelings of depression and guilt, and promote greater self-confidence and mental clarity to boost creative thinking.
In medieval times, ancient healers placed garnet in wounds to expedite healing, and used it to treat skin diseases caused by blood impurities.
Warriors used it as a talisman for protection, others believed it could ward off pestilence and plague, and Egyptians referred to it as the symbol of life, laying their pharaohs to rest in lavish garnet-encrusted necklaces.
Whichever folklore takes your fancy, this widely admired January birthstone is believed to bring health, wealth and happiness to all those in its possession.
Birthstone for February - Amethyst
The February birthstone, amethyst, is a purple quartz ranging in colour from lilac to deep purple.
Derived from the Greek word amethystos, meaning “a remedy against drunkenness”, this wine-coloured gemstone was once associated with the God of Wine, Bacchus, and worn to keep wearers clear headed and quick-witted in both battle and business.
Discovered in the collections of royal families across Asia and Europe, Renaissance Europeans believed amethyst had calming qualities for lovers overrun by passion.
Whether worn as a symbol of inner-strength and personal empowerment, or to take the edge off too many vinos, this now widely available gemstone makes an ideal gift for those born in February.
Birthstones for March - Aquamarine & Bloodstone
Derived from the Latin word aqua (water) and marina (sea) the first March birthstone, aquamarine, is the blue-green member of the Beryl gemstone family, revered by ancient mariners to calm waves and keep sailors safe at sea.
Roman physicians used it to treat overeating and bloating, while others wore it for protection in battle and legal proceedings thanks to Beryl’s perceived ability to quicken intellect and make their wearer unconquerable.
Most importantly, the March birthstone was thought to bring happiness to a marriage, however it is not commonly used in modern wedding bands and more likely to appear in dress jewellery.
The second March birthstone, bloodstone, belongs to the chalcedony family and is typically semi-translucent to opaque dark green jasper with vivid red inclusions of iron oxides.
In ancient times, bloodstone was believed to turn the sun red when placed in water, and possess powers of invisibility, increased strength and preservation of youth.
Nowadays, the March birthstone is used as a lucky charm by athletes and those wanting to boost their strength, including people in India, who crush bloodstones into powder to produce an aphrodisiac.
Birthstone for April - Diamond
While they may be the April birthstone, diamonds are celebrated year-round by Melbourne jewellers and diamond devotees regardless of birth month.
Their unparalleled beauty, durability and rarity make diamond earrings ideal gifts under $2000
for April birthdays, and diamond dress rings
are a popular choice for 10th, 60th and 75th wedding anniversaries - milestones traditionally celebrated by gifting diamonds.
In ancient times, diamond jewellery
was thought to be an antidote to poison and protection against the plague. It was a symbol of longevity, strength, beauty and happiness.
Birthstone for May - Emerald
The May birthstone, emerald, has been worshipped by royalty for millennia; from Egyptian pharaohs to Incan emperors, emerald jewellery was a mark of power, prestige and beauty.
Legend tells of the deep green gemstone’s ability to cure diseases like cholera and malaria, and grant its owner good fortune, youth and foresight; by placing an emerald under the tongue, it was believed one was able to see into the future.
Symbolic of rebirth, renewal and security, emerald earrings
and dress rings make an excellent milestone gift for those born in May.
Birthstones for June - Alexandrite, Pearl & Moonstone
Often described as “emerald by day, ruby by night”, the first June birthstone, alexandrite, is a rare variety of the mineral chrysoberyl, which changes colour under different light.
This colour shift is a result of an uncommon chemical composition that includes traces of chromium (the colouring agent present in emerald). The rarity of these elements combining under strict conditions makes alexandrite one of the most expensive gemstones available.
The second June birthstone, pearl, is more readily available in Melbourne jewellery stores
and traditionally given as a wedding gift.
Organically, pearls originate from oceans, lakes and rivers around the world, and are the only gemstones made by living creatures (mollusks). Mystically, ancients from the Middle East thought pearls were teardrops from heaven, and Chinese believed pearls came from the brains of dragons.
Long associated with purity, humility and innocence, pearl earrings make for a classic June birthday gift that can be passed down for generations to come.
The third June birthstone, moonstone, is famed for its adularescence: the special glow created by light billowing across the gemstone.
Moonstone has been associated with both the Roman and Greek lunar deities, and Hindu mythology claims the June birthstone is made from solidified moonbeams.
Associated with love, passion and fertility, moonstone is believed to bring great luck and is best crafted into brooches and pendants rather than rings or bangles
for long-term durability due to its relatively low score of 6 on the Mohs Scale.
Birthstone for July - Ruby
The July birthstone, ruby, is most sought in a deep red colour with a hint of purple. Belonging to the mineral family corundum, ruby owes its colour to traces of the element chromium; the more chromium, the stronger the red.
Medieval Europeans wore ruby jewellery to ensure great health, wealth, wisdom and love, and early warriors of Burma believed ruby made them invincible in battle.
In ancient Sanskrit, ruby translated to ratnaraj, which meant “king of precious stones”, representing its rarity and hardness, trumped only by diamonds.
Used to symbolise power and youthful energy in Indian jewellery, the blood-red fluorescent stone is also known for its ability to predict misfortune or danger, with other cultures claiming it can cure inflammatory disease and soothe anger.
An enduring symbol of passion, love and success, ruby earrings
and ruby dress rings
make for a timeless gift for those born in July, and to celebrate 15th or 40th wedding anniversaries.
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Birthstones for August - Peridot, Spinel & Sardonyx
August babies are spoiled for choice, with peridot, spinel and sardonyx all celebrated as August birthstones.
Born in lava deep inside the Earth’s mantle and brought to the surface by volcanoes, the August birthstone peridot is inherently mysterious, and has even been found inside meteorites.
Egyptians knew it as the “gem of the sun”, and it has been used for centuries as a protective talisman, shielding wearers from evil spirits and “terrors of the night.”
The August birthstone, Spinel, comes in an array of colours ranging from intense red, vibrant pink, orange, purple, violet, blue and bluish green.
Due to its wealth of colours, spinel has been mistaken for other gemstones through the centuries, with some of history’s most notable rubies turning out to be spinel.
Vivid red - the most desired spinel colour - was historically believed to remedy blood loss and inflammatory diseases, ease anger and promote harmony.
The August birthstone, sardonyx, combines two types of layered chalcedony mineral (cryptocrystalline quartz): sard and onyx, making it ideal for carved cameos, intaglios and brooches to showcase the colour contrast between the layers.
In ancient times, sardonyx was a popular gemstone for Roman signet rings and seals, as it would not stick to hot wax. Roman soldiers also wore sardonyx rings carved with the image of Mars (Roman God of War) to protect them in battle.
Today, sardonyx is associated with courage, happiness and clear communication, and is celebrated for its ability to bring stability to marriage and partnerships.
Birthstone for September - Sapphire
Featured in what is arguably the world’s most famous sapphire engagement ring
- formerly belonging to Princess Diana and now Kate Middleton - the September birthstone is synonymous with royalty and romance.
Symbolic of truth, sincerity and fidelity, sapphires come in every colour of the rainbow except red, and alongside their red ruby corundum sister, score second hardest on the Mohs Scale only after diamonds.
Ancient Greek and Roman elites believed blue sapphires protected wearers from envy and harm, while clerics of the Middle Ages wore sapphires as a symbol of heaven.
Others believed the September birthstone to be an antidote to poison, but perhaps the most romantic folklore belonged to Ancient Persians, who believed Earth rested on a giant blue sapphire, giving the sky its colour.
Birthstones for October - Tourmaline & Opal
The name of the newer October birthstone "tourmaline" comes from the Sinhalese words toramalli, meaning "stone of mixed colours”.
Found in rich reds, pastel pinks, peachy hues, vivid greens, vibrant yellows and intense blues, tourmaline offers a rainbow of colours, and was believed by ancient mystics to inspire artistic expression.
Opals, considered the traditional October birthstone, are famous for their kaleidoscopic colours in rainbow hues (an occurrence known as “play-of-colour”), which writers have compared to fireworks, galaxies and volcanoes.
Ancient Greeks believed opals carried the gift of prophesy and protection from disease, while Europeans considered opals a symbol of purity, truth and hope, once thought to embody the virtues and powers of all coloured gemstones.
Since opals were discovered in Australia around 1850, we’ve produced 95% of the world’s supply, making it an affordable, widely available gift for those born in October.
Birthstones for November - Topaz or Citrine
Known for their calming energies, the abundantly available November birthstones topaz and citrine make for affordable birthday and commemorative gifts believed to bring good fortune and warmth to the wearer.
Ancient Greeks believed topaz gave them strength, while for centuries people in India believed that worn above the heart, topaz ensured a long life, beauty and intelligence.
The rise of “earth tone” fashions have made the November birthstone citrine a popular gemstone in recent years, and with a hardness score of 7 on the Mohs Scale it provides a durable, vibrant accent suitable for everyday wear.
Birthstones for December - Tanzanite, Zircon & Turquoise
The three December birthstones are most famous for their rich shades of blue.
Tanzanite is a relatively recent discovery first unearthed in 1967 and found only in Africa. Since then, its vivid colours, high clarity and potential for large cut stones have carried its popularity around the world.
Zircon is the oldest mineral on Earth, renowned for its brilliance and flashes of fire (dispersion of multicoloured light). Throughout the Middle Ages, zircon was used to lull one into a deep sleep and ward off evil spirits.
The December birthstone turquoise is a semi-translucent to opaque gem found in Ancient Egyptian tombs, where it adorned some of the world’s oldest jewellery dating back to 4,000 BC.
According to Hindu mystics, seeing a turquoise after witnessing a new moon ensures fantastic wealth.
Birthstone Jewellery: We’re Here to Help
If you need help finding the perfect birthday gift featuring diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds or pearls, our Jewellery Specialists are here to help.