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Birthstones

History of Birthstones

Since the first time, lost to us in the mist of prehistory, which a man bent down to pick up a pretty colored stone, mankind has been fascinated with gemstones. The beauty of gemstones has so captivated mans imagination that throughout the ages, in all societies, gemstones where thought to have special mystical powers. As time went on certain colors of gems became associated with the twelve signs of the zodiac, which approximate the months of the year. The book of Exodus, in the Old Testament, also tells of the Breastplate of Aaron which was set with twelve gems representing the twelve tribes of Israel. At what point in time the belief that each month had a specific gem, with specific powers, dedicated to it is not known. What is known is that the writings of Josephus, in the first century and St. Jerome in the early fifth century, both clearly talk about the relationship between the high priest’s breastplate, the twelve months of the year and the twelve signs of the zodiac. Despite these early writings, the wearing one’s birthstone did not become popular until the eighteenth century. The reason for the delay seems to be that the magical properties, especially the therapeutic ones, of any gemstone required its being proscribed for the cure of a particular ailment or to fulfill some dearly held wish. A person’s birthstone would not always have the proper powers one was seeking. It is important to note that the belief in the mystical and curative powers of gemstones was absolute. The custom of wearing one’s birthstone seems to have originated in Poland, influenced by Jewish settlers who where long familiar with the relationship between gemstones, the twelve tribes, the zodiac and the months of the year. There is evidence that the early tradition was to have “the whole set” of birthstones. Each gem would be worn at the ascendancy of its zodiacal sign, when its magical properties where at their peak. This tradition, at the very least, strikes one as fairly ponderous and probably excluded all but the very rich. At some point, the idea of a birthstone for each month of the year, with virtues associated with one’s individual personality took root and is as popular as ever today. Over the centuries the list of birthstones has changed and evolved. The list below is a more modern one, based on the 1912 American National Retail Jewelers Association list, with recent alternative gemstones added. In 1912, the National Association of Jewelers, known today as Jewelers of America, created a standard list of birthstones. The original list has been updated throughout the years to include additional gemstones. 


Birthstones are a fantastic way to personalize a jewelry gift for a loved one and memorialize significant events in our lives.



January

Most people think of garnet as red, but actually garnet refers to a group of silicate minerals diverse in color. It can be found in shades of red, orange, yellow, green, purple, brown, blue, black, pink, colorless and even shades of blue. Typically untreated, the garnet is popular because of its beauty, durability and relatively low price point. 


BirthstoneGarnet
MineralA group of rock forming minerals
ColorAll colors
CareDo not steam, but ultrasonic soaking is usually safe. At home, gently scrub with lukewarm soapy water and a soft toothbrush.
Moh’s scale of hardness6.5 - 7.5
Refractory Index1.7 - 1.8
Garnet

Garnet is found all over the world. In addition to its attractive characteristics of brilliance and beautiful colors, some garnets color change when viewed under different light sources. Rich in history, there are countless beliefs about the benefits of wearing garnet. Some popular varieties of garnet are Mozambique (deep reddish-brown), rhodolite (red with a hint of purple) and spessartite (deep orange).

February

When most people think purple gem, they think amethyst. This rich purple gemstone packs a punch of color with a modest price. Amethyst often forms in hexagonal six-sided crystals when trace amounts of iron are incorporated and irradiated. The finest material has a consistent purple hue, without visible color zoning.


BirthstoneAmethyst
MineralQuartz
ColorViolet purple
CareDo not steam, but ultrasonic soaking is usually safe. At home, gently scrub with lukewarm soapy water and a soft toothbrush.
Moh’s scale of hardness7 (or lower depending on impurities)
Refractory Index1.54 - 1.55
Amethyst

Thought to have healing powers by many cultures, amethyst has deep ties to the ancient world. From Latin amethystus (Greek amethystos), amethyst, means ‘not drunken’. The Greeks adorned themselves with amethyst for its promotion of clear thought.

March

From Latin aqua marina, meaning sea water, aquamarines beautiful color is reminiscent of a glimpse into  the clearest of oceans. Aquamarine is pastel blue, or greenish blue and the highest-quality aquamarine is blue to slightly blue-green with no visible inclusions. Aquamarine is scratch resistant; however, this gemstone can be brittle and can suffer cleavage breaks. 


BirthstoneAquamarine
MineralBeryl
ColorGreeninsh-blue to blue
CareUsually safe to steam and ultrasonic unless there are risky inclusions. At home, gently scrub with lukewarm soapy water and a soft toothbrush.
Moh’s scale of hardness7.5 to 8 (brittle)
Refractory Index1.57 - 1.58
Aquamarine

The largest faceted aquamarine, the Dom Pedro Aquamarine, is on display at the Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History.  The portion of the beryl crystal from which the Dom Pedro was cut weighed almost 60 pounds and was about 2 feet in length. 

April

Diamond is a brilliant gemstone that radiates light to its viewer and represents love, beauty and commitment. A diamond’s cut, color, clarity and carat weight are the four attributes that determine its cost and overall value.  Known as the four Cs these qualities are used by gemologists to grade a diamonds and are important considerations when purchasing. 


BirthstoneDiamond
MineralCarbon
ColorColorless, gray, blue, yellow, orange, red, green, pink, purple, brown and black. 
CareClean using steam and ultrasonic. At home, gently scrub with lukewarm soapy water and a soft toothbrush.
Moh’s scale of hardness10
Refractory Index2.42
Diamond

Diamond is the hardest known substance in the world. The largest diamond ever discovered was found in South Africa and weighed 1.33 lbs (3,106.75 carats).

May

Renowned for its stunningly lush, bluish green to green color, an emeralds hue must be very rich.  A weaker, less saturated variety is known as green beryl.  Eight on the Mohs scale of hardness, emerald is scratch resistant; however, it can be brittle and suffer cleavage breaks. An emeralds hue makes it a natural choice for jewelry, but consider a setting that will protect this beautiful gemstone.


BirthstoneEmerald
MineralBeryl
ColorGreen to bluish green
CareGently scrub with lukewarm soapy water and a soft toothbrush or untreated cloth.
Moh’s scale of hardness7.5 to 8 (Brittle) depending on impurities
Refractory Index1.57 - 1.58
Emerald

Emerald was the favorite gem of Cleopatra, the Queen of Eqypt. The earliest known emerald mine is located in Eqypt’s Eastern Desert region and dates back as early as 330 BC. 

June

Need an instant wardrobe change? Alexandrite, a pleochroic gem, changes colors depending on the viewing direction and the type of environmental light. This fine gemstone is extremely rare and changes from bluish-green tones to reddish-purple depending on the light source. 


BirthstoneAlexandrite
MineralChrysoberyl
ColorColor change, green to purplish red
CareClean using steam and ultrasonic. At home, gently scrub with lukewarm soapy water and a soft toothbrush.
Moh’s scale of hardness8.5
Refractory Index1.739 to 1.770+
Alexandrite

The finest color alexandrite is extremely rare and therefore can have high price tag. High quality material can be more expensive than diamond.

July

Ruby is a tantalizing gemstone that carries the highest price per carat of any of the colored gemstones due to its rarity, hardness, and most notable, its lovely rich color. Ruby and sapphire are both corundum, but when this mineral is exposed to chromium, it manifest its beautiful red color. A minimum level of color saturation must be met to be called a ruby, otherwise, the gem is considered a pink sapphire.


BirthstoneRuby
MineralCorrundum
ColorPink to blood red
CareClean using steam and ultrasonic. At home, gently scrub with lukewarm soapy water and a soft toothbrush.
Moh’s scale of hardness9
Refractory Index1.76-1.77
Ruby

In Sanskrit, ruby was called ratnaraj which literally means, ’jewel-king’ and loosely translated to ’king of jewels’.

August

For lovers of the color green, peridot is a great choice because of its beautiful color and modest price tag. Peridot is primarily formed deep below the surface of the earth in igneous rocks and is brought to the surface by volcanoes. The intensity and color hue of this beautiful green gemstone is dependant upon the amount of iron that is present in its crystal structure as it forms.


BirthstonePeridot
MineralOlivine (Chrysolite)
ColorYellow-green to olive green.
CareGently scrub with lukewarm soapy water and a soft toothbrush or untreated cloth.
Moh’s scale of hardness6.5-7
Refractory Index1.65  - 1.69
Peridot

Ancient Eqytians referred to peridot as the ‘Gem of the Sun’ but peridot crystals have actually been found in meteorites. 

September

Rich blue is the most desirable color of sapphire, but it comes in almost every hue except red. When the mineral corundum is red, it is called a ruby. Cornflower (blue) and Padparadscha (orangish-pink) are just two names used to describe a specific color range of sapphire.


BirthstoneSapphire
MineralCorrundum
ColorA wide variety of colors including blue, yellow, green, orange, pink, purple and white.
CareClean using steam and ultrasonic. At home, gently scrub with lukewarm soapy water and a soft toothbrush.
Moh’s scale of hardness9
Refractory Index1.76 - 1.77
Sapphire

Some sapphire exhibits color change in different types of light.  If cut as a cabochon,  sapphire can display a lovely six pointed star known as an asterism.

October

Lucky October babies can choose from either opal or tourmaline as their birthstone.

Opal is a mesmerizing gem that excites the eye and draws you deep into its inner beauty. An opal can display as a single color, or a firestorm of iridescent whites, yellows, reds, oranges, greens, browns, blacks, blues and pinks. Opal is a softer gemstone, which requires more skill to work with and may not be ideal for daily wear.


BirthstoneOpal
MineralHydrated Silica
ColorInterplay of colors
CareGently scrub with lukewarm soapy water and a soft toothbrush or untreated cloth.
Moh’s scale of hardness5.5 - 6
Refractory Index1.54 - 1.55
Opal

Opal is formed as water trapped in the crevices in silica evaporates.  Opal is occasionally cut and polished to exhibit different color on each side.

Every jewelry lover can find a tourmaline they adore because this gem has the widest variety of color options. Many of the different color options have their own name like rubelite (pink), chrome (green), watermelon (pink core surrounded by green) to name a few. Tourmaline is often cut in long rectangles, parallel to the rough crystals to reduce waste. 


BirthstoneTourmaline
MineralTourmaline
ColorA wide variety of colors, black, pink, green, red, blue, orange, yellow violet, brown.  Sometimes, bi colored or tri-colored
CareGently scrub with lukewarm soapy water and a soft toothbrush or untreated cloth.
Moh’s scale of hardness7 - 7.5
Refractory Index1.62 - 1.64
Tourmaline

The largest tourmaline is roughly 192 carats and is valued over $25 million. Tourmaline can form and be cut into bi and tri-colored gemstones.

November

If you are born in November, choose from either citrine or topaz as your birthstone.

Transcending fall colors, citrine can be pale yellow, orangish or brownish orange. Natural citrine is quite rare. Most citrine on the market is amethyst or smoky quartz that has been heat-treated to enhance its beautiful earthy hues. Available in a wide variety of sizes, the highest quality citrine has no brownish hue and no visible color zoning or inclusions.


BirthstoneCitrine
MineralQuartz
ColorPale yellow to brownish orange
CareDo not steam, but ultrasonic soaking is usually safe. At home, gently scrub with lukewarm soapy water and a soft toothbrush.
Moh’s scale of hardness
Refractory Index1.54 - 1.55
Citrine

When citrine and amethyst are found in the same crystal it’s referred to as ‘ametrine’. Superstition says that wearing citrine will bring prosperity.

A wonderful choice for jewelry, topaz is relatively hard, comes in a variety of desirable colors, and is readily available and affordable. Topaz can be found in large flawless crystal. Although blue topaz does occur in nature, topaz is commonly irradiated and heat treated to enhance and create the blue color.


BirthstoneTopaz
MineralTopaz
ColorColorless, blue, brown, orange, gray, yellow, green, pink and reddish pink
CareGently scrub with lukewarm soapy water and a soft toothbrush or untreated cloth.
Moh’s scale of hardness8
Refractory Index1.61 - 1.638
Topaz

The name topaz comes from the Sanskrit and means fire. Imperial Topaz (golden in color) is the most valuable color of topaz.

December

People born in December choose from tanzanite or zircon as their birthstone.

Tanzanites stunning colors can range from deep blues and violets to paler shades of lavender. This lovely gemstone is plethoric which means it can show different colors depending on the viewing direction. Most often tanzanite is heat treated to enhance the color and remove unwanted color tints.


BirthstoneTanzanite
MineralZoisite
ColorBlue to violet
CareGently scrub with lukewarm soapy water and a soft toothbrush or untreated cloth.
Moh’s scale of hardness6.5
Refractory Index1.69 - 1.7
Tanzanite

Tanzanite was discovered in 1967 and is only found in Tanzania, near Mount Kilmanjaro.  It is more rare than diamond.

Zircon’s brilliance and luster make it a beautiful choice for jewelry.  It is often cut with a brilliant cut to enhance its natural fire and maximize its sparkle. Due to the similarity in name, zircon is commonly confused with cubic zirconia, a synthetic diamond substitute. This has greatly impacted its popularity in jewelry. 


BirthstoneBlue Zircon
MineralZirconium Silicate
ColorColor range including white, blue, yellow, orange, brown, pink and green. Greenish blue is the most common. 
CareGently scrub with lukewarm soapy water and a soft toothbrush or untreated cloth.
Moh’s scale of hardness6 to 7.5
Refractory Index1.92 - 1.96
bluezircon

Relative to other gemstones, zircons specific gravity is high, making it a heavier stone. Other gemstone varieties of equal shape and size will weigh less than zircon.