Birthstones by Month - Discover your Birthstone and its History

Birthstones by Month - Discover your Birthstone and its History

by Mary Grace Tacderas

Do you know your birthstone? Much like a zodiac, there are designated gemstone based on our birth months. These are generally called birthstones. There are more than 12 birthstones for some months would have more than one gem. Some just adore these fabulous gems that they even follow their designated birthstone based on that day of the week. What is the history behind them, and who established the list? What are the different properties of these magnificent gemstones, and how were they used in the ancient time. Did you know that they were based on a religious aspect precisely from the stones encrusted on Aaron's breastplate?

Breastplate of Judgement

 

By Dr. Avishai Teicher Pikiwiki Israel, CC BY 2.5

Birthstones, as the word denotes, are gemstones assigned to each month of the year. It was in the first century that a Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, who associated the twelve stones he had seen in on Aaron's breastplate located in the second breastplate of Aaron. The breastplate of Aaron or the breastplate of judgment was a holy object worn by the high minister of Israelite. It is composed of twelve different minerals that represent a tribe inscribed on each gemstone.

Sardios / Odem

located on the first row that refers to Adam. The stone has a red shade, believed to be made out of sard, a darker and harder version of carnelian, which was a common stone in ancient times. The word, also referred to as carnelian or jasper, previously prized and used as a charm to prevent bleeding in Babylon and Assyria.

Topazios / Ptidah

Referring to Topazios Island, where Topaz was previously mined. The word means to seek for the yellow gemstone was had to find. Some historians believe that the gem was peridot that was also found on the island. Chrysolite was another gem that might have been used for its greenish-yellow color and its availability.

Smaragdos / Bereket

A Septuagint word that translates to a lightning flash. The name is linked to the emerald gemstone. The term was utilized by the Greeks to describe brilliant crystals located on their columns, which by that time was supposed to be of green beryl. Hebrews named the gemstone Bereket, which translates to onyx. The gem was described to be black, white and, red parallel veins that were believed to be agate or onyx. There was a beautiful red onyx exhibiting white and black color with parallel lines mined in the Yemen region that perfectly matches the description.

Anthrax / Nofekh

Initially translated as coal, however, in the late fourth century, the Latin translation of the bible, it was referred to a red gem carbuncle. However, the Hebrew Aramaic word Nofekh was later discovered to be of Egyptian origin, which means turquoise or malachite. The type and color of the gem vary depending on its source.

Sapphiros / Sapir

Believe to be a mineral similar to sapphire as a hyacinth to jacinth for sapphire was not common prior to the Roman Era. Scholars believe that the gem is lapis lazuli described with a deep-blue shade for Theophrastus described sapphiros with a dark verdigris gem with specks of gold. Verdigris is a green tint resulting from an acid-treated copper plate.

Laspis / Yahalom

Yahalom is associated with the meaning strike hard, and the word halamish that translates to flint. Scholars proposed that the gem was a diamond for the name hallamish is linked to another term, which is elmeshu that means hard precious stone. Putting all of these together points to a diamond for the color was not mentioned. However, this seems impossible for the technique to cut the hardest gemstone was not yet established during those times. Some suggested that the stone was honey-colored, while another says its turquoise.

Liguios / Lesem

Theophrastus described this gemstone as lyngurium. Lyngurium is a mythical stone formed for a solid lynx urine. Theophrastus described the stone with unusual power, hard and carved into a seal. Amber was believed to be this gemstone for its electrical property that is comparable to the mythical gem. On the other hand, Luther seems to think that the rock is jacinth.

Achates / Sevo

Achartes translates to the word agate. Used by the Egyptians as a talisman. Based on the Arabic translation, the gem is believed to be obsidian.

Amethytos / Ahlamah

A purple gemstone used by the Egyptian to protect them from getting intoxicated. The word comes from the Ahlamu, which is the place where Amethyst is found. The Midrash rabba describes the gem as comparable to clear wine.

Chrysolithos / Tarsis

Chrysolitos trasnlates to the word gold-stone. Many gemstones were assumed to be a chrysolitos. Lapis Lazuli, for its distinct golden specks, Topaz for the gem was also described to have the color of the sea. Amber, referring to the golden hue. Serpentine and jasper were also mentioned for the gold color that may be have been produced by a translucent yellow gem.

Beryllios / Soham

Beryllios presently means beryl due to its blue-green hue. However, a variety of gems was believed to have been used depending on its origin. Onychion /  onyx, smaragdos for its leek green color. Soham translates to dark when derived from an Assyrian term, while the word means pale when derived from an Arabic origin. Heliodor, a form of beryl, fits the light green leek shade described. Onyx comes to mind if the word comes from an Arabic term, mussaham, for its striped property. Scholars also considered malachite for its green color. Epiphanius described the stone with a white-like cloud. When traced back from its Sanskrit origin, vaidurya refers to a stone named cat's eye beryl.

Iaspis / YasfehIaspis

Iaspisis a vibrant green gemstone that scholars believe was supposed to be jasper coming from the word Yasepheh instead of yasfeh. The Babylonian Talmud describes the gem as al-larkahan or the Baghdad onyx, Josephus considered it was beryl, while Midrash Tabba describes a varicolored rock, which fits jasper.

Birthstones

Due to the varied belief on what gemstones were used on the breastplate of Aaron, the American National Association of jewelers has established a standardized list of birthstones in the year 1912. In 1952, Alexandrite (June), Citrine (November), and pink tourmaline (October) were added, while zircon replaced lapis lazuli for December and was later set as the birthstone for March. The American Gem Trade Association supplemented tanzanite as the gemstone for December, while spinel was added for August.

Consequently, in 1937, the British National Association of goldsmith created his or her own birthstone list.

Modern US Birthstone list

January

  • Garnet
 
By Lina Jakaitė - https://strike-dip.com/, CC BY 4.0

The word originated in the 14th-century term gernet translating to dark red or from the Latin word Garantus that means seed like seen in pomegranate fruit. Available in various shades, though, exhibit the same core characteristics. Garnet can have a vitreous, glass-like luster that allows light to pass through. The Garnet group is relatively available, found in igneous rock formations. The type of garnet gives the geologist a gauge on the amount of pressure and temperature it has to endure. These have a six to seven and a half rank based on the Mohs scale. Its hardness makes it an ideal stone for jewelry.

Garnet was believed to be the gemstone in Noah's lantern that steered his ark through the darkness of the night. It was also utilized as a talisman to defend travelers from evil spirits and misadventures. The Greeks believe that the stone protects their children from drowning and toxins. Red garnets are believed to cleanse and rejuvenate passion. Represents love that invigorates deep affection that brings understanding, devotion, loyalty, and sincerity.

The most common type of garnet is its red variation; there are many gemstones belonging to this category. These are:

Pyralspite Garnet

The term pyrope came from the Greek word Pyropos, which means fire-like for its red hue ranging from dark red to black. Some pieces from North Carolina exhibit a purple-red color, more commonly known as rhodolite.

  • Almandine

 

CC BY-SA 2.0 br

The most common variety of garnet exhibiting a dark brown to purple red color. Discovered in the 1880's in Benewah County, Idaho. Affordable for its abundance, used as a general term for most red-colored gemstones. From the term carbuncle, which was translated as coal. The name was inspired by a place called Alabanda, where it was initially found. Consisting or Iron and aluminum,

Star Garnet

Mostly found in India and in Idaho. A rare type of garnet forming star effect. Star garnet may occur in almandine and a mixture of pyrope and almandine garnet. Characterized by an opaque deep red, deep brown, to reddish black color. The star effect is formed by the inclusion of rutile. Commonly

  • Spessartine

 

CC BY-SA 2.0 br

A rare orange garnet with a distinct vivid orange shade. Its color ranges from yellow-orange, to orange-red. Its high refraction index makes it one of the most brilliant colored gemstones in the world. Mandarin orange garnet is only mined mainly in Nigeria and in other parts of African countries. Iron-free orange spessartine was found in Namibia in 1991.  In the US, spessartine garnets were found in Arizona, Arizona, and the finest quality was mined in San Diego County.

Ugrandite Garnet

  • Grossularite
 
By Stephencdickson - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

A calcium –aluminum type of garnet with its name originating from a plant called gooseberry pertaining it its hue. Found in Siberia, it is dubbed by the Greeks as hessonite due it its inferior properties when compared to zircon. Its color arrays from yellow to red to brown. Tsavorite is a highly valued type of grossularite garnet found in Tsavo, Kenya. 

  • Uravorite

 

A rare type of grossularite garnet displaying a bright green color. Found in Ural mountains and Outokumpu.

  • Andradite

 

Didier Descouens / CC BY-SA

Composed of calcium and Iron, characterized by a range of colors from yellow, red, green, brown, or black. Located in the deep portions of igneous rocks,

Topazolite

Found in Drammen, Norway, and Buskerud, it was characterized by a yellow or green hue. Rare variety exhibiting high dispersion and an adamantine sheen. 

Demantoid

Uralian emerald, Green in color commonly known as the emerald of Urals, pertaining to its origin. This type is one of the most valued garnet variety where its magnificent green hue comes from its chromium content.

Melanite

Also known as titanian andradite, characterized by black color. Its black color is thanks to its on to five percent titanium oxide content.

February

  • Amethyst

 

Its name comes from the Greek term Amythos translating to drunkenness or intoxication. Worn as a talisman and carved on drinking vessels to prevent the user from the state of inebriation. Exhibiting a purple shade caused by irradiation and iron content. Its color ranges from light purple to deep violet color. Mined in the countries of Brazil. Siberia, Sri Lanka, and Uruguay. The premium-grade for Amethyst is the Deep Siberian, where the purple hue ranges from seventy-five to eighty percent combined with about fifteen to twenty percent of blue color.

A delicate lilac or a lavender-colored gem that was once considered low quality characterizes Rose de France; however, it has become more popular these days. Mined on Brazil inside the volcanic rocks. The most massive Amethyst likewise came from Brazil and is currently displayed in a museum in India. Amethyst is also found in other countries such as Korea, India, and Zambia. The most enormous Amethyst is currently displayed in a museum in India. The inherent hardness of Amethyst makes it an excellent gemstone for everyday use.  Aside from being the designated birthstone for February, it is also the gemstone to be gifted for a couple's sixth, seventeenth, and thirty-third anniversary that is perceived to produce a healthy and happy marriage.

Used as a piece of jewelry by the Egyptians as a talisman. Soldiers from Europe wore this wonderful gemstone as an amulet to protect them from harm and heal them when injured. Amethyst beads are sacred to the Tibetans, for they use this gem in making payer objects.  One of the cardinal gems in ancient times was an emblem of the royals during the middle ages. At present, this beautiful gemstone is believed to solve conflicts that it is commonly seen in an office and in homes to promote open communication. It is also thought to help with wakefulness, blood circulation, and other mental diseases.

Amethyst has lost its considerable value upon learning of its abundance in Brazil. Its purple color is affected by radiation from infrared, IV, visible light, and gamma rays. Reddish or blue-violet hue lightens to a yellow-orange to dark brown that is similar to citrine. Both gems are found at the same location and belong in the same quartz family. 

March

  • Aquamarine
 
By Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0

The term aquamarine came from the Latin words of the aqua marina, which, when translated, means seawater. Characterized by cyan or blue shade, found in Brazil, Russia, Columbia, and the US. Aquamarine from Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina was said to be of the highest quality. Aquamarine's hardness rank 7.5 to 8 in the Mohs scale, which is a good level for stones used in jewelry. We should note that this lovely gemstone should not come in contact with hydrofluoric acids, such as rust removers.

Ancient Romans believed that the stone originated for the treasure chests of the seas mystical creatures to lure seamen to their end. It was also the gemstone for Neptune, the Roman God of freshwater, making it a holy stone, particularly for sailors, to protect them from the monsters lurking under the depth of the seas.

An artifact assumed to date back from 300 to 400BC displays an engraving of the Greek God Poseidon was found in Greece, which is the oldest recorded use of Amethyst.However, Amethyst being used on Aaron's breastplate is still; up in the air.

Aquamarine is a gemstone for long-lasting love, unity, and the dedicated gemstone for the couple's nineteenth anniversary. The largest aquamarine is around ten thousand three hundred and sixty-three carats, fourteen inches in height, weighing a hefty 4.65 pounds. This is currently displayed in the Smithsonian Institute.

Peace, tranquility, and calmness are brought about by the March birthstone. Being the same color of the sky and water, it is also linked to eternal life. In ancient periods, it was also used in treating eye, throat, liver, and mental diseases.

  • Bloodstone

 

By Ra'ike (see also: de:Benutzer:Ra'ike) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Another birthstone for the month of March, bloodstone, or heliotrope was popular in the olden times used on religious sculptures seen in the 1524 carvings of the descent from the cross representing the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The statue maximized the red dots of bloodstone depicting the drop of blood coming from Jesus.

Mined in Brazil, Australia, and India, exhibiting a dark green color with specks of red. A mixture of quartz and chalcedony may occur with an opaque or in fine form. The red dots are hematite inclusions that resemble blood.

Heliotrope was also known as the stone of Babylon, believed to have magical powers such as invisibility, to call upon rain and solar eclipse.  Due to its similarity in color of the blood, it was thought to heal blood-related diseases, mixing powdered stones with honey in Europe during the middle age. At the same time, ancient healers used these to stop bleeding and treat blood deficiency. Roman soldiers use bloodstones to slow down the bleeding. It was also utilized as an amulet to promote long life, courage, and prevent extreme sadness. 

April

  • Diamond

 

The designated birthstone for April. Made up of entirely carbon crystals. Ranks the first spot when it comes to hardness with a score of 10 on the Mohs scale. It takes about 1 billion years and up to form a diamond in a natural setting requiring extreme temperature 92,700 degrees (Fahrenheit) and pressure (65,000). Included in the mantle portion of the Earth's crust, pushed up to the surface due to volcanic eruptions and movement of the Earth.

Characterized by a sparkling appearance that can only be cut by another diamond. The colorless diamond is a rare find for even the most prized gemstone that has inclusions. Nitrogen inclusion gives a yellowing and brownish tint. Boron inclusions create a bluish color. Diamonds are likewise colored with the use of irradiation and plastic deformation that may produce a brown, pink, or red-hued diamonds. 

It was initially mined in India in the 4th century BC. Based on Hindu astrology, diamonds are linked to the planet Venus. The planet Venus, represents relationships, beauty, and wealth. This may be why diamonds are still the preferred gemstone when it comes to wedding and engagement rings. The Romans believe that the gem is linked to Mars. Mars represents war, anger, and passion. This may also be the motivation why the Roman warriors wore them during the war.

Diamonds were also believed to possess healing properties such as detoxification for its connection with the brain and the pituitary gland.

Previously a symbol of wealth, often seen on royals and monarchs but are now available to the masses, well those who can afford to purchase one. Being dubbed as the king of birthstones and a woman's best friend. It is becoming the ultimate gemstone that people long to wear and possess.

May

  • Emerald

Smaragdos, the birthstone for the month of May, a green colored variety of beryl. Its green shade is due to its chromium or vanadium content. It exhibit a hardness of 7.5 to 8 based on the Mohs scale. Premium grade emeralds must have a pure verdant green shade combined with a high amount of transparency.

Ancient Indian scriptures state that emerald promotes wellbeing and invites good fortune, making the gemstone highly valued by the members of the royal family. Other cultures that love the green hue of emerald are the Aztecs, Romans, and Egyptians. Emeralds are sometimes classified based on the country of origin.

Columbian emeralds are considered the most valuable due to its high quality of color and transparency. Almost seventy-eight percent of emeralds come from Columbia, particularly in Muzo, Chivor, and Coscuez. A specific variety called the trapiche emerald also comes from this country characterized by rays of dark impurities.

Brazilian emeralds exhibit a lighter green color compared to their Columbian counterpart.

Zambian emeralds exhibit a deep green color with a bluish overtone. It used to be disregarded by the jewelry industry, but thanks to the company Tiffany and Co, it is not well accepted and recognized for its distinct appearance and properties. It is now the second-largest producer of emerald in the areas of Kafubu river and Southwest of Kitwe.

The Romans associated emeralds with the goddess of love and fertility Venus. It is also believed to provide foresight and wisdom used by psychics to predict the future. It was likewise believed to fight against aging and treat weakened internal organs such as the hearts, lungs, kidneys, and pancreas. The water where an emerald gem was soaked was used to treat and restore eyesight. In Chinese culture, powdered emerald was used as medicine to counter poison and treat various illnesses.

June

  • Pearl
 
By Brocken Inaglory - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Pearls are a delicate type of gems that are not mined under the Earth. It is produced by a mollusk infected by a parasite. It is a part of the oyster's defense mechanism to coat this irritant. Layers of hardened nacre form a beautiful iridescent pearl. The most valued type of pearl is produced by the silver or golden lipped pearl oyster naturally found in the eastern sector of the Indian ocean and also in the South Pacific Ocean.

In the ancient time where cultured pearls did not exist, a hazardous act of pearl diving was practiced to harvest pearls deep down the Indian Ocean near the Persian Gulf and the red sea. The kings of Malabar used to wear a prayer necklace made of 108 pieces of rubies and pearls, which they used on their morning and evening prayer. Powdered pearls were also used to promote digestion and mental illnesses. At present, pearls used on pieces of jewelry comes from pearl farms, which are also considered as authentic pearls.

  • Moonstone
 
By Didier Descouens - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Belonging to the feldspar family, it exhibits ad pearl-like opalescent sheen.  This may occur as a semitransparent colorless to bluish-white color, a cat's eye effect, or asterism. These are usually fashioned in cabochons highlighting its distinct properties. The term moonstone originates from the Greek word selene that meaning moon. Adularescent is specific to a moonstone, which is an optical spectacle displaying a metallic sheen resulting in a milky bluish tint (schiller).

In ancient times, Hindus believed that moonstones could give the ability of foresight and psychic power when placed inside the mouth. Furthermore, it is supposed to contain moonbeams and was a sacred gem believed to be the gem embedded on the forehead of Ganesh.

Similar to the Hindus, Romans, and Greeks associated moonstones to their Moon Gods. It was used as an amulet to defend travelers at night, for the moon is the only natural source of a light guiding them to the right path.

Moonstones embody a woman for its association with the moon. Believed to bring a state of calmness and inner balance.

July

  • Ruby

 

One of the cardinal gems that exhibit a pink to blood-red hues. Ruber, the Latin word where ruby was originated, contains chromium, which gives it its red shade. Ranking high on the Mohs scale with a grade of nine, it is an excellent gem for daily wear. The highest quality among the rubies exhibits a pigeon's blood color found in Burma. Rubies exhibit a three or six-point asterism often cut into cabochons to maximize its effect.

It was believed to contain powers used on armors and harnesses in Asia. It was also supposed to bring good fortune and are buried together with the structure's foundation. This may root from its ability to absorb light. The glow from a ruby was considered a bad omen and danger.

August

  • Peridot

 

Peridot is a magnesium-rich olivine where its green shade is due to its iron content. It has a distinct olive green color, but may also occur in yellow to brownish green shades. A rare gem found in the mafic rocks and meteorite.

In ancient times, it was believed to cast away nightmares and bring inner peace and self-awareness. Egyptians believed that the gem was sent to Earth to provide its healing property to humans. Due to their high regard to peridot, it was dubbed by the locals as the gem of the sun and is the national gem of Egypt. 

  • Spinel

 

Named after a Latin word spina, when translated, means spine rooting form its spiky crystal appearance. It may occur in various shades such as pink, red, yellow, green, blue, brown, and black. Mainly found in mafic igneous rock together with ruby. Mined in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Tanzania, and Tsavo. Pink and blue spinel was found in Mogok, mahenge plateau, and luc yen district in 2000, where the blue shade was due to its cobalt content.

Commonly mistaken with ruby, it was used on various royal crowns such as the British imperial state crown containing a 170-carat spinel, previously thought to be a ruby. The largest spinel ever found was a 521 carat from Teheran, Iran.

Pink spinel represents positivity, promoting self-confidence and motivation. It cleanses the body of negative energy, leaning a focused and hopeful inner being.

September

  • Sapphire

 

Most famous for its blue color, however, it is also available in yellow, green, orange, and purple from the Greek word sappheiros that translates to the precious stone. Sapphires are commonly found in the same location as the rubies. The difference is the geological formation they were found. Mable for rubies, while corundum or granitic pegmatites for sapphires.

Fancy sapphires refer to sapphires with other colors except for blue. Particolored sapphire displays more than one color that is getting more attention these days. Pink sapphires exhibit a deep pink color due to its chromium content. Padparadsha sapphire is the rarest and most coveted type of sapphire for its unique orange-pink to orange, red tone. These are found in Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and the eastern portion of Africa.

Believed to bring inner peace and joy to its wearer that mainly influence positivity to promote mental health. Best for individuals with depression and anxiety, giving a hopeful feeling to the wearer.

October

  • Opal
 
By Dpulitzer - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Common opal

These are single-colored opals, usually white, green, and gray.

Precious opal

Displays a play of colors not found on common opals. The optical effect is called pseudo chromatic, giving off flashes of colors. These are water opals with a transparent to semitransparent appearance displaying its various hues.

Black opal is the scarcest form of opal.  Opals promote a person's creativity. Formerly used as an amulet against danger.

November

  • Topaz
 
By Michelle Jo - Own work, CC BY 3.0

Topaz naturally occurs in yellow and golden brown color, commonly mistaken for citrine. Impurities result in the various shades of Topaz. Chromium impurities result from pink to reddish color. Rare Topaz comes in yellow to pink shades known as Imperial Topaz. Precious topaz exhibits an orange color. Blue topaz, the national gem for Texas, is rare and displays colorless to blue shades, which, when irradiated, results in a rich blue hue.

Believed to cure mental illnesses, was used by the Romans as a protection stone to cast away the outcomes  of the evil eye, and promotes a safe journey.

December

  • Turquoise

 

Turquoise is found in many locations such as Iran, Sinai, USA, Arizona, and other countries. Mined by the Egyptians in 3000 BC in the Sinai Peninsula. Compared to turquoise mined in Iran, Egyptian turquoise exhibit a greenish color Worn by the royals in ancient Egypt, China, India, Japan, and other countries led by a monarch.

Associated with the goddess Hathor. Artifacts from ancient Egypt, such as the burial mask of Tutankhamun's grave was encrusted with turquoise and other jewelry such as rings and necklaces.

Famous for its healing property and rejuvenation.

In essence, birthstones are just a guide that was established by humans. It is still up to us to choose to follow our designated gems and believe some of its claimed therapeutic property. What is essential in determining your gemstone is if the gem speaks to you in a way that it may represent your personality, your color preference, or just how it makes you look and feel good. One thing is for indisputable, the influence of the mind is genuinely miraculous that sometimes if you genuinely believe that a stone can give you inner peace, you will consequently achieve this result.

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