An Overview of Birthstones

By: Ian Maher

Although a connection between gemstones and the months of the year has been traced back as far as the first century, evolving interpretations have prompted the association of multiple birthstones with each month of the year. Jewelry incorporating a person's birthstone is a highly personalized and cherished gift. Here we examine the birthstone associated with each month of the year based on commonly accepted modern birthstone interpretations:

January: Best recognized for their rich reddish brown color, Garnets actually span a range of colors including orange, violet, green and yellow. It is perhaps due to the deep red color common to this coveted gem that it was long associated with healing powers for blood related ailments.

February: February's birthstone, Amethyst, gets its name from the Greek term 'amethystos,' which means not drunk. Historically associated with sobriety, the amethyst is a type of quartz occurring naturally in rocks and appearing in various shades of purple.

March: March's birthstone, the Aquamarine, has been associated with courage and happiness. With hues ranging from pastel blue to teal to deep blue, it is apparent why the Aquamarine's name is derived from the Latin terms meaning 'sea' and 'water.' The bloodstone is another commonly accepted birthstone for March.

April: April boasts possibly the most desirable birthstone, the diamond. Highly regarded worldwide for its unmatched beauty, strength and historical significance, April's birthstone is also given as a symbol of love and impending marriage today.

May: Vibrant green characterizes May's birthstone, the emerald. Emeralds comprise the green variety of the mineral beryl, while March's birthstone Aquamarine is beryl's blue variety. Emeralds have historically been associated with good luck and long life and have been thought to aid in eye health.

June: The modern June birthstone is the pearl. Pearls are the only birthstones that are created by a living organism, the oyster. An oyster will secrete nacre, an iridescent, lustrous substance, onto a foreign object as a natural defense mechanism, a process that can eventually form a pearl. Today, most pearls are cultured pearls, or pearls that are created after humans introduce irritants to prompt oysters to secrete nacre in a controlled environment.

July: Though July's birthstone, the Ruby, is associated with a deep red, the natural Ruby can range from pink to brown. The Ruby was in ancient times considered to possess magical powers and was believed to change colors to warn its owner of danger. Ruby's vibrant color, hardness second only to diamonds and rarity make it one of the most valuable gemstones.

August: Peridot, the modern August birthstone, ranges in color from light yellow-green to bright green to olive green, depending on its iron content. The Peridot is an extremely old gem, though it has seen fluctuations in popularity over time. A mid 90s discovery of a massive Peridot deposit prompted a modern day surge in Peridot availability and popularity.

September: September's birthstone, the sapphire, can span many colors but is most well-known for its rich blue variety.

October: The birthstone of October is the Opal, a highly regarded stone emitting a rainbow of colors. The Opal is admired for its iridescence and, unlike other gemstones, is not characterized by a crystalline structure.

November: The modern birthstone of November is Topaz. Topaz, occurring in a variety of colors but most commonly yellow, has been incorporated into striking jewelry for hundreds of years. Derived from a Sanskrit term meaning 'fire,' the term Topaz was at one time used to describe any yellow gem.

December: Turquoise may be the most commonly accepted birthstone for December today, though blue topaz and tanzanite are also associated with the month of December. Like many stones, turquoise has historically been linked to desirable virtues. This non-transparent stone has been said to promote mental clarity as well as trust and kindness.

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