Birthstones: Learn Something New About Your Gem
The exact history of how gemstones came to be associated with specific months of the calendar year is about as clear as trying to stare through the multifaceted minerals themselves. Still, the most popular theory can be traced back to the Bible, specifically to a well-known passage in Exodus in which very specific directions for the design of a breastplate to be worn by Aaron, the high priest, are described by Moses. A different stone is assigned to represent each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Another theory cites the influence of the zodiac and early astrological calendars in ancient Egypt, Babylonia and Greece as primary contributors to the existence of birthstones. Today, there are a few discrepancies about which stones represent each month, but there is also a general consensus about each gem's geological history, meaning and modern day symbolism.
Though by definition garnets are simply a name for an abrasive mineral found in many different kinds of rocks, the garnet stone for the month of January is depicted as sharp red to align with its exact etymology. Garnet derives from a Latin word once used to describe the pomegranate seed. Garnet has been used in jewelry for thousands of years, from the Greeks who associated it with love and an eternal bond to the Egyptians who coveted the stones and thought them a gem fit for pharaohs; a trend in nobility that continued into the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages.
For many centuries, amethyst was as rare, expensive and sought-after as diamonds are today. It has an interesting history that primarily revolves around the theme of purity, or more accurately, sobriety. The name itself, referring to the core of the Greek myth in which amethyst plays a major role, means "sober." Because of this, the stone was used to keep one's wits about them as they drank, and is now known as a symbol of strong, serious, incorruptible minds. In the myth, a young woman is turned into a stone to protect herself against the wrath of Dionysus. Realizing his folly, a mix of his tears and wine trickled into this clear stone, changing it into amethyst's deep purple.
Aquamarine is one variety of a more diverse mineral known as beryl, and has been found all over the world in different colors, most notably the calm, refreshing sky blue tone. A vivid reminder of serene skies and peaceful tropical waters, aquamarine has unsurprisingly been long associated with tranquility of the mind, reconciliation in broken relationships and spirituality in general. Its ability to summon images of calm waters was probably the reason why it was highly regarded by seafarers hoping for safe passage and smooth sailing during their journeys, which happens to make aquamarine a great gem to give to someone who is embarking on a new phase in their life.
If you're lucky enough to be born in April, the iconic diamond is your birthstone. The diamond is well known for its unmatched resilience and strength. Early discoverers prized diamonds for their beauty, as well as their practical use to cut and engrave. Because of their brilliance and rarity, they were regarded for a variety of misdirected practical uses, such as a cure for painful toxins in the body and mind. Most diamonds on the market are clear, but are found all over the world in many different colors. Above all, the diamond represents uncommon strength and invincibility, and is the perfect gemstone for those who possess either visible confidence or inner courage.
The stunning green emerald is the embodiment of spring, fertility, youth and rebirth. In ancient Egypt, the emerald is most famously known as being the gem most sought after by Cleopatra, who had emerald mines to collect as much of the precious stone as she could. Aristotle was also fond of the beautiful gem, and had theories about its practical application if worn by lawmakers and businessmen, or as protection for children. The mysterious gem has entranced civilizations for thousands of years, and is also associated with cherished traits like creativity and self-control.
The pearl is one of the most unique birthstones because it's found in oysters, mussels and clams rather than in the earth. Natural pearls have always been quite rare, and thus, symbols of wealth and esteem throughout history. Their luminous white coloring is consistently linked to purity and innocence. Pearls have also been described in various times throughout history as tears of gods, or of Biblical characters like Eve, and have since been weaved into superstitions. For instance, some think brides shouldn't wear pearls on their wedding day because they prophecy tears, while others agree pearls should be worn because they'll help brides avoid tearing up at the ceremony.
Rubies have long been considered the gem of protection and prosperity. Prized by royalty for its wealthy look, the ruby's blood red color was also cherished by soldiers in Eastern and Western cultures, believed to help thwart enemies and allow the soldier to avoid wounds, making many of the soldiers who wore them even more fierce and intimidating in battle. The ruby's deep red or sometimes pink color also made it the perfect candidate for symbolizing love and passion, and happens to be a popular stone used today in jewelry for Valentine's Day, anniversaries and other celebrations of romantic love.
Historically, peridot has been confused over and over again for emeralds. It's said that the mine that Cleopatra coveted for its emerald production might have been a peridot mine instead. Yet, the peridot gem has its own unique history. Like most gems, peridot was used in various moments throughout history as a talisman with supposed mystical properties, and was commonly used to assist with medical remedies or to ward off evil spirits. Today, peridot is associated with luck and good fortune. Optimistically, the gem also foretells healthy relationships and promising futures.
The beautiful blue shade of sapphires has long been connected to the sky, and because of that, the heavens. Much of its symbolic history is rooted in this connection to the heavens, and there are even possible references to sapphire as being the surface on which the Ten Commandments were written. Although the sapphire has become a symbol of faith, wisdom and repentance, it's also known to represent those who possess a calm spirit, peaceful temperament and sharp mind.
Tourmaline, as well as the other common October stone, Opal, can both be found in a rainbow of colors from ruby red to emerald green to deep black. Given its wide variety of possible colors, tourmaline has been confused for many different kinds of precious stones, and has only for the last few centuries been identified as a unique mineral. Due to its many variations and its diverse history, tourmaline is now known as a symbol of versatility, representing those who possess bold, self-reassured strengths in character, as well as many possible talents and avenues for success.
Like diamonds, pure topaz is typically transparent, but because of distinct influences from the environment from which it is found, can bear colors that range from the common red and yellow to the fiery orange usually used for this autumn gemstone. The connection to heat and warmth is used to describe those who are born in this month on the brink of winter. It's also meant to represent the spiritual warmth and comforting disposition present in those who are born in the month of November, in turn being connected to the harvest season, abundance and prosperity.
The traditional birthstone for December, Zircon is said to have the closest resemblance to the diamond than any other precious stone. It's unfairly viewed as a cheaper alternative to diamonds, but it has a fascinating history all its own. Zircon is widely accepted as the oldest found mineral on Earth, with certain deposits said to be over four billion years old (which puts it in rare company as this means rare Zircon deposits may be older than the moon or predate the presence of life on Earth). With its rich history, Zircon is no longer just an alternative birthstone for December.