The idea of birthstones dates back to ancient times when the Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Persians and Indians all assigned different gemstones to each month of the year. According to the stories behind birthstones, legend has it that wearing a gemstone during its assigned month boosts its healing and therapeutic powers. For the full effect, individuals needed to own all twelve and alternate them monthly. The birthstone system we use today is believed to originate from the biblical system created around 40 AD. Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus declared that the 12 stones in Aaron’s breastplate had a special connection to the months of the year and the signs of the Zodiac. In 1912, the National Association of Jewellers in America drew up a list that is still in use today, although there have been a few modifications along the way, most notably in 2002 with the addition of tanzanite as a birthstone for December.
Birthstones are a fantastic way to add a special meaning to jewellery and make great gifts to mark a birthday, anniversary, graduation or other memorable occasion. They can be incorporated into rings, necklaces, pendants, bracelets and more. Paired with diamonds, they can add a splash of colour and variety to your jewellery piece.
This guide will be separated into four parts, each giving an overview of three birthstones:
January – Garnet
Birthstone for January, the word “garnet” comes from the 14th Century Middle English word “gernet” meaning dark red. The word is derived from Latin “granatum” which means seed, and is called so because of the gemstone’s resemblance to the beautifully red seeds of the pomegranate. Garnet is actually the name of a group of minerals that comes in a rainbow of colours. Some rare garnets are even blue, colorless, or—most rare of all—change colors in different lights. But the most common colour is a beautiful range of reds, from rust coloured to deep violet-red. The folklore on garnet is extensive. Legend has it that the garnet can bring peace, prosperity and good health to the home. Some even called it the “Gem of Faith,” and it’s believed that to those who wear it and do good, more good will come. (Conversely, it was also said to bring very bad fortune to those who commit bad acts while wearing it.)
The garnet is a very durable gemstone (6.5-7.5 on the Mohs scale) found all over the world and thus is a firm favourite throughout the ages. In particular, the Victorians made garnets very popular during that time period and so is common amongst vintage jewellery pieces. Some of the loveliest garnet jewellery from that era mimics its pomegranate namesake, with clusters of tiny red gems forming a larger statement piece. Today, the garnet can be found in a range of jewellery pieces and styles, from beautiful rings to stunning tiaras. Since the garnet can come in a range of colours, rare garnets in green or blue make breathtaking pieces, especially in pendants or drop earrings.
When buying garnets, it should be noted that some garnets have inclusions that are part of the beauty of the overall stone (like “horsetails” in Demantoid garnets, or Hessonite garnets which sometimes have a “turbulent” look). So you may discover that you like the unique look these inclusions bring to the piece. No matter why or how you wear garnet, this beautiful gemstone is perfect for those who share January birthdays and get to start each New Year with a sense of goodwill, happiness, and purpose.
February – Amethyst
Often associated with qualities of peace, courage and stability, Amethyst is purple quartz and is a beautiful blend of violet and red that can be found in every corner of the earth. The name comes from the Ancient Greek, derived from the word “methustos,” which means “intoxicated.” Ancient wearers believed the gemstone could protect them from drunkenness. For many years, amethyst was held to be one of the most precious gemstones, often favoured by royalty or exclusively by the clergy as a symbol for the deity of Christ. It was even held for many years in the same regard as the diamond. It wasn’t until the discovery of more abundant supplies of amethyst that it became a gemstone enjoyed by more than just the wealthiest buyers.
It is a crystalline quartz that sits at a relatively hard 7-8 on the (1-10) Mohs scale and as such it is a fairly easy stone to look after. Higher grade examples can be facetted into a jewellery gem, whereas lower-end material tends to be carved into beads and ornamental pieces. when buying, check the colour of the stone. Amethyst often has “stripes” or layers of colour from how and when it was formed, so it takes a skilled gemologist to cut and polish the stone to show the overall colour of the stone evenly. Avoid brownish or rust coloured tints to the stone and be careful the colour is not too deep or it can appear black in some lights. So, whether you’re purchasing an amethyst for yourself or a loved one, you’re making an investment in beauty that will stand the test of time. Amethyst makes a great gift for individuals born in February, or as a celebratory milestone for a 6th or 17th wedding anniversary.
March – Aquamarine and Bloodstone
Not only is aquamarine one of the March birthstones, it’s also used to celebrate 19th wedding anniversaries. It’s a beautiful stone with little or no yellow in it, so it looks great in many settings with different coloured metals and gemstones. The colour ranges from nearly clear to a strong dark blue and is a perfect way to communicate affection, tranquility, and peace. The second birthstone for March is bloodstone, a dark-green stone flecked with vivid red spots of iron oxide. Generally found embedded in rocks or in riverbeds as pebbles, primary sources for this stone are India, Brazil, and Australia.
For those looking for a good quality bloodstone, it is generally considered that a solid green colour with visible veins of red is best. It also comes in many shapes and cuts including traditional cuts like emerald, oval, and cushion. In regards to Aquamarine, it’s generally accepted that lighter coloured aquamarines are less valuable than the stronger, deeper hues of blue or blue green. However, both stones make for a lovely purchase for any occasion, but especially for someone with a March birthday or to celebrate or re-kindle romantic love.