A birthstone is a precious or semi-precious stone associated with a particular month. Some people believe that the gems have certain qualities – and at the very least, shopping by birthstone can narrow down tricky birthday present buying!
The idea of associating gems with particular times of year goes back to ancient civilisations, when people thought that stones had healing and magical powers which were heightened during certain periods. Over the centuries these became birthstones, which some believe bring luck and happiness to the recipients.
There are also variations between countries (the American list differs slightly to ours), and there can even be differences from jeweller to jeweller! Some people prefer to use astrological birthstones, where gems are associated with by horoscopes rather than calendar months.
We’ve stuck to the typical British monthly birthstone calendar; and if there’s any debate over one stone or other, we’ve simply listed them all, or chosen the one we like the best! Here’s our month-by-month guide to birthstones.
Birthstone – garnet
Garnets come in a beautiful range of shades. We usually see garnets in a variety of warm, autumnal-coloured shades, from the best-known deep red of the Pyrope garnet to beautiful browny-orange colours. However, there’s also the more obscure green Tsavorite garnet which looks more like an emerald.
In legend garnets ward off nightmares and protect travellers – an alternative gift to a St Christopher pendant, perhaps? It also represents friendship, so makes a lovely present for a friend with a January birthday.
Birthstone – amethyst
Amethyst is a Quartz stone that comes in a myriad of different purple colours, from pale pinky gems to really deep tones. Pretty and popular, amethysts look wonderful set in silver – have a look at the amethyst jewellery in our collection.
Like many gems, it was said to bring the wearer good luck; and according to the ancient Greeks, protected against drunkenness and kept your mind sharp, no matter how much retsina you’d consumed...
Birthstone – aquamarine
Meaning “sea water”, aquamarines are the beautiful, sparkling blue of the Med in the sunshine. Aquamarines are usually pale; however you may see a rare, darker blue variety. It’s the perfect springtime gemstone.
As well as birthdays, it’s sometimes given as an anniversary gift, as it represents fidelity and understanding, ideal traits in a marriage!
Birthstone – diamond
Lucky you if you were born in April, as hopefully people will shower you with diamonds on your birthday! The traditional “rock” for engagement and eternity rings, diamonds come in a range of grades and colours, and look stunning in all settings.
Diamonds are naturally the gemstone of love. They also stand for eternity - and not just because we’ve been told that they’re forever! Formed over a billion years ago, diamonds have a real ancient beauty. 60 years of marriage is celebrated with a “diamond anniversary”, again associating the gem with longevity.
Birthstone – emerald
Emerald is the perfect birthstone for this time of year, when everything is lush and green and full of life. They come in beautiful, rich green colours, with some rarer stones having a blueish tinge.
Emeralds represent the heart, love and fertility – both Venus and Cleopatra were said to be fans! As it’s given to commemorate 55 years of marriage, it also stands for long-lasting love.
Birthstone – pearl
We move away from sparkles in June, and instead look at the luscious creaminess of pearls. Pearls are loved for their natural look, and they have a more subtle and gentle sheen than gemstones. Have a look at the freshwater pearls in our current collection.
There’s an old wives’ tale that pearls mean tears. We much prefer the alternative meanings of peace and beauty. It’s also the stone associated with 30th wedding anniversaries.
Birthstone – ruby
The jewel of kings, this beautifully vivid stone is rare and expensive. It comes in gorgeous bright and deep red shades, including the extremely valuable “Burmese red”.
The ruby was believed to bestow health, luck, power and love on its wearer - so it’s no surprise that kings prized it so greatly! It’s sometimes given as a gift to mark a 40th wedding anniversary.
Birthstone – peridot
A peridot may not be as famous as a ruby or pearl – but it’s absolutely exquisite. Peridot is a lovely green colour, similar to lime and brighter than emeralds. Peridot’s almost acid shade makes it a superb jewel for a contemporary setting.
In legend, the peridot gives its wearer wisdom – and magical powers... Like the garnet, it’s also said to protect against nightmares.
Birthstone – sapphire
From the Greek word for “blue”, this rich, dark gemstone is elegant and sophisticated. It’s surprising to learn that sapphires actually come in all colours, including pink and orange!
Because it traditionally stands for honesty and trust, it’s a popular stone for engagement rings as well as September birthstone presents. Like several other gems, it was also believed to protect the wearer from harm.
Birthstone – opal and tourmaline
October’s birthstone is the gorgeous opal. Each opal is unique, with its own deep patterns. The colours in an opal are never still, changing with the light; absolutely beautiful. It really is a case of finding the one which “speaks” to you: do you prefer your opal to have rich seams of blue or vivid reds and oranges?
If you prefer a sparkly birthstone, October has an alternative gem, the lively tourmaline. This is available in many different colours, including multi-coloured gems. Tourmalines were associated with love and calm, opals purity and health.
Birthstone – yellow topaz and citrine
November also has two birthstones, yellow topaz and citrine. Topaz comes in various colours; however for this autumnal month, we’re looking specifically at the yellow gem. The Ancient Egyptians believed it came from the Sun God. Many cultures have given it healing properties over the years; medieval mystic Hildegard of Bingen suggested steeping it in wine and rubbing it on your eyes to help with eyesight problems! These days, we tend to prefer it in earrings...
Citrine gets its name from the French for lemon; so as you can imagine, it comes in a range of yellow shades. Look out for the beautiful leafy golden-brown shades for gift for a November birthday. Citrine was carried to protect against snake venom, and also signifies wealth.
Birthstone – topaz and tanzanite
Not to be outdone, December has three birthstones: topaz again (not necessarily yellow this time), turquoise, and tanzanite, found in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, hence its name. Tanzanite comes in shades of purply blue, with a bias towards one or the other of these two colours. It was believed to have healing qualities.
The better-known turquoise comes in shades of blue and green with darker veins. It’s had all sorts of mystical purposes associated with it, from appeasing water gods to preventing you falling off your horse! It’s been popular in jewellery for thousands of years, yet still has a really contemporary feel to it.
Using birthstones as a guide can be a fun and interesting way of choosing a piece of jewellery, and it’s always nice to give a gift that has some extra meaning behind it.
However, in the end, nothing is as significant as personal preference. If you have blue eyes, or green is your favourite colour, go for sapphires or emeralds, even if you should be sporting a June pearl! The same goes when you’re buying a gift: if the birthday girl loves amethysts, that’s probably what she’d like the best.
If you need any help choosing the perfect piece of jewellery, or to find out more about any of the birthstones we’ve discussed here, please get in touch with us at Bonds.