The early concept of the birthstone, or as they were known, the twelve foundation stones, is a nearly universal reference to what has now become the modern tradition of assigning a gemstone to our birth month.
This practice saw its beginning in the work of early historian Titus Flavius Josephus, who was inspired by the foundation stones and included them in his 8th-century writing.
Further connecting the twelve calendar months with the twelve months of the zodiac, people of the 8th century were inspired to collect the twelve foundation stones, and wear them, one-by-one, in coordination with the month, matching the particular stone to the corresponding month of the zodiac.
Those following the practice would wear one stone for each of the succeeding twelve months of the zodiac before exchanging the stone for the next month and, in turn, wearing the next stone for the new month in order to amplify its particular power for each of the twelve months.
Ten centuries later, 18th-century Polish gem dealers shifted the custom to call for a single stone to be worn through the entire year. This meant that each wearer would have their own stone based on the date of their birth – and the official concept of the birthstone was born.
Through the years, the stones and their relationships to their respective months changed and evolved, with the designated stones transitioning from Josephus’s list to one cited by mineralogist George Fredrick Kunz, and then, in the early 1900s, to the birthstones listed by the National Association of Jewelers’.
What’s your birthstone… and why?
Today we’ve come to know the stones as symbols of affection we present to the ones we love. The symbolism lies in the qualities we recognize in the stones, but also in connection to the birthday – not to forget, the celebration on the occasion of our offering itself.
Often, it was easier to remember the birthday corresponding to a loved-one than it was to remember the stone that was attributed to their zodiac birth month. As a result, there have been a variety of poetic contributions designed to help us, steering us toward the appropriate stone for every month.
One such document considered to be one of the original American publications was issued in 1870 by the owners of a “stationery and fancy goods” store owned by Charles Lewis Tiffany and John B. Young – a company we know today as Tiffany and Co. Their helping hand for birthstone shoppers took the form a leaflet, complete with rhymes that sang the virtues of each stone, along with its corresponding birth month, and the qualities for which both would be known.
By her who in [January] is born
No gem save garnets should be worn;
They will ensure her constancy,
True friendship, and fidelity.
The February-born shall find
Sincerity and peace of mind,
Freedom from passion and from care,
If they an amethyst will wear.
Who in this world of ours their eyes
In March first open shall be wise,
In days of peril firm and brave,
And wear a bloodstone to their grave.
She who from April dates her years,
Diamonds shall wear, lest bitter tears
For vain repentance flow; this stone,
Emblem of innocence, is known.
Who first beholds the light of day
In spring’s sweet flowery month of May
And wears an emerald all her life
Shall be a loved and happy wife
Who comes with summer to this earth,
And owes to June her hour of birth,
With ring of agate on her hand
Can health, wealth, and long life command.
The glowing ruby shall adorn,
Those who in July are born;
Then they’ll be exempt and free
From love’s doubts and anxiety.
Wear a sardonyx or for thee,
No conjugal felicity;
The August-born without this stone,
`Tis said, must live unloved and lone.
A maiden born when September leaves
Are rustling in September’s breeze,
A sapphire on her brow should bind
`Twill cure diseases of the mind.
October’s child is born for woe,
And life’s vicissitudes must know,
But lay an opal on her breast,
And hope will lull those woes to rest.
Who first comes to this world below
With drear November’s fog and snow,
Should prize the topaz’s amber hue,
Emblem of friends and lovers true.
If cold December gave you birth,
The month of snow and ice and mirth,
Place on your hand a turquoise blue;
Success will bless whate’er you do.
|Tiffany & Co., 1870|
Birth Month Gemstones
The true beauty of each birthstone is reflected in its color. Each alluring color is a result of its ingredients and their combination.
Garnet – The January Birthstone, for example, is from the silicate (or silicon) group of minerals. Its name, derived from early-century Middle English, is translated as dark red. Beloved for this same characteristic, it is also considered a strong revitalizing force. They were popularly used by warriors in the religious crusades, and considered to instill safety and courage in them.
Amethyst – The February Birthstone is the beloved hearty violet quartz stone, whose name originates from the Greek term for “not” for its reputation of protecting its owner from intoxication, is also known for bringing good luck, as well as warmth and clarity.
Aquamarine – The March Birthstone, known as “water of the sea,” possesses a rich history. It is in the beryl family and is primarily found in granite. Commonly used to assist with meditation, it is prized for its ability to bring tranquility.
Diamond – The April Birthstone is from the Greek word “adamas” meaning unconquerable, is known for its hardness as well as its luster. Born in the high-pressure environment found 100 miles below the earth, this carbon stone has been prized across centuries and civilizations. Also popularly prized for its symbolic link to love and healing powers to some, the diamond is one of the most popular stones.
Emerald – The May Birthstone, also of the beryl family, owes its color to trace amounts of chromium and sometimes vanadium. Termed from the Greek “smaragdos” or “green gem” the emerald rivals the diamond in terms of its sheer popularity. It is considered to bring good luck and stability to its owner.
Pearl – The June Birthstone is a product of the living mollusk, the coveted pearl is composed of calcium carbonate, which is grown, and often manually cultured within the mollusk’s shell. Valued as highly as gemstones on some occasions when the resulting pearl is classified on the high end of the grading scale, the pearl, originally known as the Latin “perna” or leg, based on the bivalve freshwater mollusk. Although the pearl shares its June birthstone distinction with alexandrite and moonstone, it is the most popular – with the moonstone steadily gaining in this regard. It is prized as a symbol of purity and perfection and considered to promote peacefulness.
Ruby – The July Birthstone for hundreds of years was a product of the Burmese Mogok valley. With its name derived from the Latin ruber or red, the stone owes its color to chromium (the main additive to stainless steel). Its color spans a spectrum from the most valuable hue, blood-red, to near colorless. It is considered a passion stone and is highly regarded as a symbol of passion and success.
Peridot – The August Birthstone, also known as chrysolite, is a silicate-rich in magnesium. Originally sourced from a tiny island in the Red Sea, the stone is now found in Burma (Myanmar), China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Its name, derived from the Latin Paederot, for a type of opal, it is one of the few gem types that can be found in its singular color: green. Interestingly, along with its land-bound discovery, it is also occasionally found in meteorites. Along with its distinction of wealth and good luck, it is also considered a healing stone.
Sapphire – The September Birthstone, as a result of its mineral composition of corundum (aluminum oxide), can be red (as well as occurrences of yellows and purples as well as oranges and greens), but typical prized blue sapphire is a result of the presence of both titanium and iron, which yields the deep blue color. Its name is derived from the Sanskrit “padma ranga” or lotus color. It is the most valuable blue gemstone. It is linked to integrity and power and is particularly favored among royalty.
Opal – The October Birthstone, with a name originating from the Sanskrit upala, or precious stone, can contain water within this silica stone can range of up to 20 percent by weight. Sought for the iridescence of its rich play of colors, the precious variety is treasured for its colors in the diffraction of light gleaming from it. Known as a symbol of loyalty and faithfulness, it is also considered for its bad luck if worn by someone who does not share an October birthdate.
Topaz – The November Birthstone is prized for its transparency, and is rich in aluminum and fluorine, making it one of the hardest of any in the silicate family. Its name, from the Greek word “topazion” (derived from the Sanskrit) translates as fire. Orange topaz is considered the most traditional color for the November birthstone. It is a symbol of love and passion.
Turquoise – The December Birthstone, with its blue-green color owes its unique appearance to its copper and aluminum composition. Turquoise as a gemstone dates back to the 17th century when it was referred to by its French name “turquois,” or Turkish, due to its original source from Persia through Turkey. Although the most valuable turquoise was previously found in Iran, today’s most valuable turquoise is sourced from the southwest United States. It is considered a grounded stone, and a direct counter to negative energy. It is also believed to exemplify confidence and strength.
The influence of colors rising from our birthday gemstones maintains a strong influence concerning the way we regard jewelry. The allure of these stones is found in many of the designs from HerMJ.
Our necklaces and bracelets reveal the time-honored magic of the birthstone while embodying the fresh originality of unique statement pieces. You’re invited to explore the dazzling range of colors in the crystals, gemstones, and freshwater pearl elements we hand-jewel into our designs. Have a look at HerMJ collection – including our exceptional birthstone alternatives – and find something that speaks to you.
See our Happy Birthday Jewelry suggestions – we may have something special just for you!
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