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Every calendar month has a birth gemstone connected with it; some may have more than one birthstone linked. It’s thought that the idea of birthstones can be traced back to a breastplate that Moses made for Aaron, the High Priest of the Hebrews, which was studded with twelve precious gemstones to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Also linked to the twelve signs of the Zodiac, these gemstones became known as monthly birthstones; however, some cultures have different beliefs as to which these stones are, leaving some months with more than one stone. Birthstone jewellery is always a popular birthday gift.
The January birthstone is garnet with gemstones ranging from opaque to translucent stones and found as pebble or crystals. Garnet is most often used in jewellery as a red birthstone, with a rich deep hue and crimson tones, but garnets can also be orange, yellow, brown, blue, black, pink or purple. Some garnets are totally colourless, but a blue garnet is a rarity to be cherished.
As a birthstone, garnet is associated with love and friendship. Its red colour connects with both heart and blood, suggesting an inner fire and life force. A dynamic and energetic stone, it brings warmth and colour to the coldest part of the year.
Most closely connected with a deep red colour, garnet takes its name from the Latin granatus, or pomegranate. Garnets have been used in many different ways through the centuries, from trade in the first century to a cure for depression and as protection against bad dreams in the Middle Ages. Beloved by clergy and nobility, garnet became more easily available with the discovery of huge deposits in Bohemia, around 1500.
February’s stone, Amethyst, is a purple birthstone that’s widely accepted as the world’s most popular purple gemstone. Part of the quartz family, Amethyst comes in a range of purple shades, from lilac to deep violet, depending on the amount of aluminium or iron in February’s gemstone. Used for over 2 millennia, Amethyst is a durable gemstone with a Mohs hardness of 7, making it a hardy gemstone for everyday wear. Amethyst is frequently found in large deposits in South America and Africa.
Amethyst is said to carry both spiritual and metaphysical power, with ancient beliefs still being held today. Linked to St. Valentine, the patron saint of love wore an amethyst ring with a Cupid-like carving to show young soldiers that he would perform secret weddings, as marriage was forbidden to encourage young men into the Roman army. Amethyst is also considered to protect against drunkenness and connect the wearer to the divine.
The February birthstone is used in Tibet to make prayer beads, which are deeply spiritual. However, amethyst hasn’t always been a symbol of humility and was, at one point, considered to be the ultimate symbol of power and more valuable than diamonds. This was attributed to the cost of purple dye only accessible to people of great wealth.
The birthstone of March is Aquamarine, which is the name for gemstone-quality samples of the mineral, beryl. Aquamarine’s colour ranges from greenish blue to blue, with the strength of the colour impacting value of the stone. The colour in aquamarine is caused by the levels of iron in the gemstone with errous iron responsible for blue and ferric iron for yellow, which combines to create a greenish blue. Most natural aquamarine has a greenish blue colour.
Aquamarine is linked with happiness, hope and long-lasting youth. Used to maintain balance and order, Aquamarine is worn for its energy and harmony.
The name of March’s gemstone, Aquamarine, comes from a combination of two Latin words - aqua, or water, and marina, the sea. It’s fitting that, in ancient times, Aquamarine was believed to protect those at sea, making sailors fearless and safe from harm on open waters. Noted as far back as 480 BC, Aquamarine was known as mermaids’ treasure as its ability to protect increased when immersed in water.
The hardest of all the gemstones, rating a 10 on the Moh Scale, April is Diamond birthstone month. While the colours of birthstones are more vibrant in other months, the most well-known of the colourless stones, Diamond also comes in a rainbow of hues, from pink and yellow to chocolate and black. Diamonds are measured by the 4 Cs of Cut, Clarity, Colour and Carat. The carat determines the weight and combines with the other three values to indicate the rarity and, therefore, value of the Diamond.
Perhaps rooted in its reputation for durability, with April’s birthstone connected with health, strength and love. Worn throughout history as a symbol of power, Diamonds are also associated with good heart health and long life.
A symbol of everlasting love often used in engagement rings, diamonds are tough stuff. The Earth’s hardest natural substance, Diamonds are created around 100 miles underground and brought to the surface by volcanic activity. The only gemstones made of one element, carbon, the only mineral that can scratch a Diamond is another Diamond.
The birthstone for May is the Emerald. Sought-after for thousands of years, Emerald mining has been evidenced as far back as 330 BC, with Cleopatra believed to have an affinity with the stone. Named after the Old French for green stone, ‘esmeraude’, Emerald mines have been found as far apart as India, Egypt, Austria, Spain and Afghanistan. However, the biggest source of Emeralds in the world is Colombia, with over half of the world’s supply found there, and a further fifth found in Zambia.
Linked with royalty, emerald is known as the ‘Jewel of Kings’. Symbolising wit, eloquence and foresight, Aristotle described how owning an emerald would increase the owner's importance in speech during business, give victory in trials and help settle litigation. Emerald was also worn by the children of noblemen to ward off epilepsy.
You may have an Emerald as a birthstone for May, but these green gems are also given as both 20th and 35th anniversary gifts. Unlike other precious stones, it can be the flaws in the stones – known as inclusions – that create the stone’s value.
When considering what is the birthstone for June, there is more than one answer. June has three birthstones: Pearl, Alexandrite and Moonstone. We’ll take a look at one of the most intriguing stones used in jewellery, the Pearl. The origin of the Pearl is far from glamorous. Made by both marine oysters and freshwater mussels, the oyster or mussel creates the Pearl when it slowly secrets layers of aragonite and conchiolin – which are the same materials that make up their shells. They do this to protect themselves against irritants, such as a grain of sand, entering their shell and, in doing so, they create the birthstone for June. What this process makes is a stunning stone that is measured in five ways: shape, size, colour, surface, nacre quality and lustre.
A popular month for weddings, it’s no wonder that June’s birthstone is often given as a wedding present. Connected with purity, humility and innocence, Pearls are said to symbolise ‘sweet simplicity’.
Natural Pearls are very rare and don’t have the perfect spherical shape that Pearls are so often known for. While Pearls are often accessible, the most expensive Pearl is valued at $100million. Most often thought of as a luminescent white, Pearls come in several different colours including grey, green and black.
The birthstone for the month of July, the Ruby sets itself aside from other red stones by its bright red colour. A variety of the mineral Corundum, Rubies are hard, durable, full of lustre and rare, with large Rubies considered as even rarer than Diamonds. In the main, Rubies have a pure, vibrant red colour, moving to a purplish red tone, with the purer reds securing the greatest valuations. Rubies that evidence orange and purple tones tend to be worth less.
Rubies have been prized down the centuries, but were especially treasured during medieval times in Europe. People wore Rubies to secure their health, wealth and wisdom. Rubies are also held to bring success in love. The red in Rubies set it aside as a particular symbol of passion, with its fiery crimson hues.
Rubies have been celebrated for thousands of years, with the earliest cultures naming them ‘perpetually burning fires’. Believing that Rubies held magical power in ancient times, Rubies are still considered to support regeneration of the physical or spiritual heart and enhance circulation. While typically different colours, Rubies and Sapphires both come from the same mineral, Corundum.
Mined in many different countries, from China to Norway and Pakistan, Peridot is August’s birthstone. Coming from the olivine mineral, this birthstone is known for its yellowy green colour. With a chemical composition that includes iron and magnesium, iron that gives this birthstone for August its colour.
The colour of money, green Peridot has often been linked with prosperity and good fortune. Known by the Ancient Egyptians as the ‘gem of the Sun’, it was worn to protect the wearer from night terrors. Peridot is considered to be beneficial for asthma and sinus and Peridot is often worn to alleviate feelings such as anger, fear, anxiety and jealousy
Although the word Peridot is French, August’s birthstone takes its name from the Arabic word, ‘faridat’, which means ‘gem’. While other gemstones are best known as one colour but found in a variety of hues, Peridot only comes in one colour – green. Associated with light, Peridot does not darken as light falls and continue to glisten in the evening light. Found at the site of meteorite crashes, it is believed that August’s birthstone exists in space.
The most precious and valuable blue gemstone, the birthstone for September, Sapphire, is known for its colour, its durability and lustre. A variety of the mineral Corundum, the word Sapphire is used without any colour prefix when the stone is blue. A pink sapphire will have its colour noted, as will a yellow sapphire and these are known as fancies.
September’s birthstone has long been known as a stone of wisdom, royalty and prophecy. A symbol of power and strength, Sapphires also stones of kindness and wise judgement. If you are gifted a Sapphire because it is the birthstone for September, it is a gift of fulfilment, joy, prosperity, inner peace and beauty. Used to ward of illnesses, September’s birthstone, Sapphire, is also worn for protection while travelling and was used in the Middle Ages to suppress negative thoughts.
While Sapphires come in a rainbow of colours, from violet to orange, a red Sapphire is actually a ruby. Much treasured by the Ancient Greeks and Persians, the Ancient Hebrews thought that the Ten Commandments were engraved on Sapphire tablets. The inclusions found in Sapphires can sometimes create a fabulous effect known as the ‘star effect’. Highly prized by gemstone collectors, the star effect sees inclusions come together to create a star pattern of light on the top of the gemstone.
October is another month with two birthstones – Opal and Tourmaline. For tourmaline, October’s birthstone is pink tourmaline in particular. However, Opals are alive with colour and flash many different colours all at once. While some opals can be colourless, even opaque or transparent, October’s birthstone sits around the middle of the Mohs Hardness Scale. This means that Opals are relatively soft and so are very rarely faceted.
While the birthstone of October, they are also the gift traditionally given on the 14th wedding anniversary. Symbolising hope, purity and truth, Opals were used for assurance and worn within an amulet to inspire faithfulness and loyalty.
The greatest deposits of precious opals are found in Australia, where it is the national stone. The two most common varieties of opal are the common and precious, with the difference found between the optical effect they produce. In Middle Ages, opals were valuable and considered to good luck, but Sir Walter Scott changed all of this with his 1829 novel, Anne of Geierstein, when an opal talisman with supernatural powers was transformed into a common stone with a drop of holy water. With the character dying soon after, opals became associated with death and bad luck. This prevailed until the early 1900s, when opals exploded onto the Art Deco scene and came back into favour for their colourful nature.
November is another month that can count on two birthstones – citrine and topaz. Topaz is an interesting gemstone for November as it scores an 8 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, however it is a very fragile gemstone. While Blue Topaz is an alternative birth stone for December, pure Topaz can be colourless and has even been mistaken for Diamond when brilliant-cut. Topaz is also found in shades of yellow or brown, but their colour can be unstable. Brown topazes, found in Siberia, are liable to having their colour bleached by sunlight.
Topaz is worn to support creative energies and promote concentration. Topaz rings have long been used to keep premature death at bay and treat insomnia. Well-known German mystic, St Hildegard of Bingen, claimed in 1255 that failing eyesight could be remedied by lightly rubbing topaz that had been steeped in wine for three days over the eyes.
The origins of the name of November’s birthstone are thought to include the Greek word topazion, from the Sanskrit ‘tapas’ meaning ‘fire’. The Egyptian island of Topazos (now St Johns Island) in the Red Sea is considered as another option, when Latin writer, Pliny the Elder, used the name for a yellowish green stone found there.
December is a busy month for birthstones with three staking their claim. Alongside Turquoise and Blue Topaz, the fascinating Tanzanite takes its place as a birthstone of December. Part of the zoisite mineral family, December's birthstone Tanzanite runs from velvety blue in appearance to rich, warm purple. December’s birthstone is only found in a small area of Tanzania, near Kilimanjaro. With the circumstances leading to its formation 585 million years ago are so exceptional that the chances of discovering Tanzanite anywhere else on the planet is one in a million. A thousand times rarer than diamonds, Tanzanite is in short supply and could be depleted in a few decades.
Associated with generosity and friendship, Tanzanite is said to help wearers deal with change. December’s birthstone is also commonly believed to stimulate intuition and perception while enabling a higher consciousness. It’s believed to improve vitality while detoxifying the body. Considered to be a gemstone to be worn at times when you need a soothing presence.
December’s birthstone does not have a long history of use, having only been discovered in 1967. It is also one of the rarest gemstones in the world. With a unique colour, Tanzanite is given to signify new life and fresh beginnings. One of the largest and most famous Tanzanite stones was gifted to Beyonce by her husband, Jay-Z, on the birth of her first child. The ring features diamonds and a central cushion-cut Tanzanite of around 8 to 10 carats. A tradition among the Maasai people, the traditional warrior herders of Tanzania, blue is often gifted to new mothers making it the perfect gift to mark a new birth.
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