The significance of different precious stones to birth dates
Almost everyone has been given a piece of jewelry with their birthstone in it. The idea of birthstones originally arose from ancient astrological traditions, where certain gemstones were said to be fortunate or have healing power for those born in certain months. By the fifteenth century people started wearing birthstones for luck.
Most people don't believe in astrology, but the idea of a birthstone is fun, and thus remains popular. Jewellers also love the idea of birthstones as they get to promote unusual gems and coloured stones (otherwise all jewellery would be diamonds and pearls!).
For those who enjoy the idea of a birthstone for their month of birth, here's a list:
January's Birthstone: Garnet
Garnets are said to bring successful friendships and popularity.
Most garnets are a deep red, but you can also find them in greens, yellows and oranges.
Garnets tend to have a luminous quality, and ancient travellers used to carry them as a talisman, as it was believed to protect its bearer from disaster and evil, and light up the night. They are an ideal birthstone for January with it's dark nights.
February's Birthstone: Amethyst
Originally Amethyst was meant to be protection against drunkenness - the Greek word "amethystos" means "not intoxicated". Pliny thought it protected you from snakebite, and others thought it protected against insect bites.
In the Christian era it symbolised piety and trust, and was used in the rings of bishops and popes.
March's Birthstone: Aquamarine
This is an incredibly lovely light blue stone (great for blue-eyed people as it closely matches the eye-colour). The name is derived from Latin (aqua - water, mare - sea), which makes perfect sense. The gemstone belongs to the beryl family and is related to emeralds (which also belong to the beryl family).
Aquamarine is supposed symbolise peace, harmony and serenity. Women who wear it are supposed to end up in wealthy and happy marriages, making this a lucky birthstone for love.
April's Birthstone: Diamonds
The name diamond is derived from the Greek word "adamas", which means "hardest stone" - which is perfectly true - diamonds are the hardest substances known to man and tools with a diamond edge can cut through pretty much anything. Of course they arn't just used for industrial purposes, when flawless, they capture the light and make beautiful jewelry.
The idea that diamonds should be given as an engagement ring is a modern development. Until the 19th century, diamonds were rare, only found in India. But then in 1870 massive new diamond mines were found in South Africa. In order to ensure the price didn't drop with the surge in supply, the De Beers company, formed a cartel to control the diamond trading industry worldwide, and thus controlled the supply of the stone on the market, which they limited. They also embarked on a massive advertising campaign to ensure that diamonds were associated with love and courtship. The campaign was aimed at women, to condition them to believe that unless they got a diamond, they weren't loved. The rest is history.
Diamonds are supposed to bring clarity to the wearer.
May's Birthstone: Emerald
Emeralds, like Aquamarines, are from the beryl family of stones. The name comes from the Greek, smaragdos, which became esmeralde in the romance languages, and then emerald in English (the s was taken out) and simply means green gemstone.
The best modern emeralds are found in South America, and the Aztecs and Incas thought emeralds were a holy stone. The ancient Indian Vedic epics, written some 4000 years ago, refer to emeralds as a healing stone, therefore some of the finest emeralds in the world are found in museums showing pieces of ancient Indian, Iranian and Turkish jewelry.
The best quality emeralds are more expensive than diamonds, making this one of the more valuable birthstones.
June's Birthstone: Moonstone
Moonstones have a shimmering pearlescent quality.
The best ones are bluish, but these are rare - you mainly see them in white or grey. They are a soft stone and need to be handled with care.
Because of the association with the moon, they are supposed to regulate menstrual cycles.
July's Birthstone: Ruby
Rubies are supposed to signify passion and sexual love. The name comes from the Latin word rubens which means red. They come from the corundum family of gemstones. Red corundums are called rubies, blue corundums are called sapphires.
They've been prized for thousands of years due to the colour and hardness of the stone. The best rubies are found in Asia (north Burma, Thailand and Vietnam).
Like the birthstones for April and May, this birthstone is one of the more expensive ones.
August's Birthstone: Peridot
Peridot is an unusual green-gold stone. The ancients loved it - it's found in ancient Egyptian jewellery as well as in Roman jewellery.
Most modern deposits are found in Pakistan, but Peridot from Arizona turns up in Native American jewellery.
Peridots are supposed to protect against negative feelings and they make for a lovely and unique birthstone for those born in August.
September's Birthstone: Sapphires
Sapphires, like rubies belong to the corundum family, which means the stone is extremely hard (nearly as hard as diamonds).
Sapphires are supposed to signify loyalty.
The best sapphires come from Kashmir, and are rare and expensive, making this a valuable birthstone.
October's Birthstone: Opals
The name Opal comes from Sanscrit, upala, meaning precious jewel. They are unusual gemstones of various colours, which change appearance depending on how the light strikes them.
Opals are actually made from silica gel, with water in it. As a result, opals look best when they are worn often, near the skin, where they absorb moisture from the wearer. Place opals in a box for too long and they dry and develop fissures.
Most Opals come from Australia, and they are said to soothe the spirit, making a beautiful and serene birthstone for October.
November's Birthstone: Citrine
Citrine is yellow quartz, and is said to have been used as a talisman against plague and evil thoughts.
Modern citrine is mainly found in Brazil and Sri Lanka. This unusual gem makes a stunningly birthstone for those born in November
December's Birthstone: Tanzanite
Originally the birthstone for December was turquoise, but then in the 1960's Tanzanite was discovered, and as it is so much more beautiful (and rarer) than turquoise, it immediately displaced turquoise as the gemstone for December. It's popularity is mainly based on the marketing efforts of the Tiffany company.
It has a clear purply-blue colour and is found in just one place on earth: Tanzania, and as it is found in small deposits, it is not certain whether stocks of the stone will run out..
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Related page: Green amethyst rings