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
Birthstone for January - Garnet
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
Birthstone for May - Emerald
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.
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.
Moonstone has been associated with both the Roman and Greek lunar deities, and Hindu mythology claims the June birthstone is made from solidified moonbeams.
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.
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.
Birthstones for August - Peridot, Spinel & Sardonyx
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.
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
Birthstones for October - Tourmaline & Opal
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.