Birthstones: Their Stories and Meanings (Part 1)

From the racks of a tourist gift shop to behind the glass at a jewelry store, birthstones hold a significant place in the jewelry world. More than likely, you’ve seen the charts before. You’ve probably found your birth month and the stone that goes with it. Maybe you even own birthstone jewelry--earrings, necklaces, or a special ring bearing your gem. 

Birthstones are a multicultural phenomenon. Some believe that the idea of birthstones originated with Israel. The breastplate of Aaron, an Old Testament high priest, was decorated with twelve significant gemstones.

Over centuries, the association of gemstones and lunar phases took hold, and the practice of birthstones was adopted by many different cultures. Nowadays, people may wear their birthstone for luck or for fancy.

Whether you view the stones as lucky or not, keep reading to learn more about their origins and symbolism. 


Garnets are gems which possess a deep red color. Their name originates from the red stone’s resemblance to the seeds of a pomegranate. They are said to represent happiness, health, and wealth. They can symbolize enduring friendship, and they make an excellent gift. With such a rich meaning, garnets are the perfect stone to start off the new year.


The stone for the second month is the amethyst, the enchanting purple variety of quartz. Amethysts contain red and violet hues, and the most valuable of these stones possess a deep purple color. “Amethyst” comes from the greek word meaning “not drunk.” Greeks would drink alcohol out of amethyst cups to keep their minds clear. Amethysts are said to give the wearer courage and strength. 


As winter gives way to spring, March’s birthstone brings to mind crystal-clear skies and the hope of warmer weather. Aquamarine, literally translated, means “sea water.” Its name refers to its pale blue-green color. Aquamarine represents peace and serenity. 


Perhaps the most dazzling gemstone of all, the diamond is the birthstone of those born in April. While diamonds naturally occur in the full spectrum of colors, a perfectly clear diamond is the most prized. Diamond is made of pure carbon, and its atomic structure makes it the hardest substance on earth--a 10 on the Mohs scale. Its structure is also responsible for its shine. Diamonds reflect more light than any other gemstones, another part of their allure.


Stunningly green, the emerald is May’s birthstone. It brings to mind new leaves and verdant meadows. Stones of the deepest green, with hints of blue, are the most valuable. Emeralds boast a glowing reputation, and they are symbolic of foresight, good luck, and youth. 


One of the rarest and most mysterious gems in the world, alexandrite holds the unique power of changing colors. In daylight, the stone sparkles a deep blue-green. Under a candle or incandescent bulb, the color changes to mauve or pink. Its rarity makes it one of the most valuable stones on earth. It is said to enhance intuition and creativity.

Years of traditions and beliefs are involved in birthstone lore, and these are only the first six! If you’re curious to learn how to wear birthstone jewelry, read some styling tips here. For more about the final six birthstones, check next week’s post!

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