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Top 12 Birthstones and Their Historical Meaning

By Edited Feb 5, 2015 5 10

Colored Gemstones

Semi Precious and Precious Stones

Although we have only had an official birthstone jewelry list for about 100 years, colored stones have long been revered through history as good luck charms, amulets or talismans.  According to the American National Association of Jewelers there are 12 specific gemstones that have been selected and listed as birthstones for each month of the year. This list was officially adopted in 1912, although tanzanite was added to the list in October, 2002.

 There is evidence that early humans valued these stones as long as 10,000 years ago. Often people used them in an attempt to predict the future or as aids to healing. They were also used in religious ceremonies.  Today, most of us enjoy owning gemstone jewelry for purely decorative reasons.  Knowing your birthstone color is the perfect reason to enjoy these gorgeous colored stones.

See the full line of birthstone jewelry on Amazon.com.

There are actually a variety of gemstones for each month, including both precious and semi-precious stones. However, here is a list of the 12 birthstones most commonly associated with each month of the calendar, as well as the meanings associated with those stones. Underneath each primary birthstone, you will also see some types of stones that are sometimes used as alternates.


Assorted Birthstones

Monthly Birthstones and Their Meaning

January: Garnet

The January Birthstone, the garnet, stands for perseverance, consistency, patience and truth. According to the Old Farmers Almanac, wearing a garnet was once thought to keep you safe when you travel.

(Alternate January gemstones include agates and garnets.)

February: Amethyst

The February Birthstone, the amethyst, is associated with health, sincerity and peace of mind. Ancient Greeks thought that wearing an amethyst would keep you from getting drunk. In fact, the word amethyst comes from a Greek word that means "sober!" I wouldn't rely on wearing an amethyst to avoid a ticket for DUI, however.

(Alternate February gemstones include opals, topaz, bloodstones, and garnets.)

March: Aquamarine

Aquamarines, the March Birthstone, symbolize honesty, creativity, beauty and loyalty. At one time, people would soak aquamarines in water and then drink the water in order to cure heart, liver and stomach disorders! Don't try it, however. There is no medical evidence that it has any effect at all!

(Alternate March gemstones include sapphires, opals and amethyst.)

April: Diamond

The April Birthstone, the diamond, is known for eternity, courage, purity and innocence. The diamond is actually thought to symbolize everlasting love which, of course, is one reason that it is a popular stone in engagement rings.

(Alternate April gemstones include opals, bloodstones, and topaz.)

May: Emerald

The emerald stands for happiness, faith and goodness. The emerald was one of Cleopatra's favorite gemstones. Ancient Romans dedicated the emerald to Venus, who was the goddess of love and beauty.

(Alternate May gemstones include turquoise, agates, sapphires and amber.)

June: Pearl

Pearls are associated with health, faith, peace and longevity. Pearls are also thought to be a symbol of purity. Ancient Greeks thought that pearls were the hardened tears of joy from Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

(Alternate June gemstones include agates and moonstones.)

July: Ruby

Rubies stand for integrity, contentment, success, nobility and passion. Ancient Hindus believed that rubies protected the wearer from evil.

(Alternate July gemstones include onyx, moonstones, emeralds, sapphires and pearls.)

August: Peridot

The Peridot symbolizes dignity, fame, strength and happiness in marriage. South Pacific Islanders used to believe that the green peridot crystals that they found in volcanic ashes were the tears of the volcano goddess, Pele. When placed in a gold setting, people once believed the peridot would protect you from having nightmares.

(Alternate August gemstones include agates, diamonds, sapphires, and carnelian)

September: Sapphire

The Sapphire is known for wisdom, purity, love and victory. The sapphire has some especially fascinating fables connected with it. It was once believed that if you put a venomous snake in a container made of sapphire, it would die! Wearing sapphires was also thought to protect you against poison. I wouldn't rely on it, however!

(Alternate September gemstones include zircon, agates, moonstone, citrine and carnelian.)

October: Opal

Opals stand for hope, truth, happiness and innocence. Opals were once worn to protect the wearer from evil, and to protect their eyesight, too.

(Alternate October gemstones include aquamarine, agates, tourmaline, and coral.)

November: Topaz

The topaz is associated with courage, fidelity and good luck. Some people also thought you would have greater strength and intelligence if you wore topaz.

(Alternate November birthstones include pearls, beryl, citrine, garnets and amethyst.)

December: Turquoise

Turquoise symbolizes prosperity, success, courage and love. Turquoise rings are thought to keep away evil spirits! In addition, wearing turquoise was supposed to work as a love charm. This is one idea that it wouldn't hurt to try!

(Alternate December gemstones include topaz, zircon, sapphires and beryl.)

Choosing Birthstone Jewelry

As you can see, there is no reason to limit yourself too closely when you select an item of birthstone jewelry. I have a July birthday and my birthstone is typically considered the ruby. When we were first married, my husband bought me a pearl ring that was accented with tiny rubies. It is the perfect ring for me!

You can also select other combinations to create a unique piece of birthstone jewelry that fits with your personal taste. There is no reason to settle for an item of jewelry in a color you rarely wear, simply because it is your traditional birthstone color. Use a variety of combinations to find pieces that are uniquely your own!

Where to Buy Birthstone Jewelry

While you can find a lovely selection of birthstone jewelry in virtually all fine jewelry stores, you do not have to spend a fortune in order to acquire a lovely and symbolic piece of jewelry. I have purchased birthstone jewelry for family members at Macy's, and there is also a very wide ranging selection available online at Amazon.

Family Birthstone Jewelry

Many women who are mothers or grandmothers enjoy having jewelry that contains the birthstones of their children or grandchildren. This is a charming way to let your offspring know that you are thinking of them, and carrying a symbol of their birth close to you! Family birthstone jewelry usually needs to be specially ordered, since you will be combining several different types of colored stones. However, there are many websites where you can order the desired combination.

Source for information about specific stones: wikipedia.com

Source for information about birthstones: bernardine.com/birthstone

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Feb 19, 2012 4:32pm
I didn't know rubies were believed to offer protection from evil. Maybe I should wear my birthstone jewelry when the (evil)gas company wants a payment? Seriously, some interesting tidbits here.
Feb 19, 2012 4:57pm
Interesting article Deborah - It seems like the opal and rubies share a common use in warding off evil...Deb, if it works for the gas company let me know. I'll try it on my student (otherwise known as Satan) loan company.
Feb 19, 2012 8:35pm
Thank you both for your comments about using rubies and opals to ward off evil. Who knows? Perhaps ancient people knew more than we realize! Let's all wear our gemstones to pay our bills. It couldn't hurt anything, and at least it might make us feel like we're having a bit of fun!
Mar 10, 2012 8:56pm
Congrats an another great feature article. I am a Sept baby so my birthstone is a sapphire! Did not know the tale about snakes and sapphires.
Mar 11, 2012 1:59am
Thanks for writing about it. My birth stone is emerald. :)
Mar 11, 2012 11:10pm
Enjoyed reading about the 'Top 12 Birthstones and Their Historical Meaning.' I'm very lucky, my birthday is in June, and I love pearls. Congratulations on being featured. Tweeted, +1, and liked.
Mar 15, 2012 7:13pm
Fascinating details about these stones! Congratulations on the feature.
Mar 19, 2012 1:58pm
Hi.First I was scared about how can I get a diamond.(I am an april baby).But , fortune , there are another options!
Mar 29, 2012 10:33pm
Amazing info. My birthstone is sapphire. Thanks. Now I know more.
Feb 5, 2015 8:29am
Birthstone jewelry is appropriate for so many special occasions ... birthdays, Christmas, Valentine's Day, or even to commemorate the birth of a child or grandchild.
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