Birthdays are always special days since each one marks a specific stage in a man or woman's journey through life. And traditional birthstone gems are a perfect way to mark that special day.
Colorful birthstone gems have centuries of history behind them as well as a tradition of offering legendary powers and revealing unique personality traits for those born in each calendar month.
This belief goes back to the writings of Flavius Josephus a Roman historian in the First Century AD. But the history of birthstones actually goes back 3,300 years to the twelve precious gems on the breastplate of Aaron, high priest of the Israelites.
In the middle ages, birthstones, along with their traditional virtues, became connected to the twelve signs of the zodiac. And in the 1700's specific gems were linked to the 12 months of the year. The official list of birthstone gems used in America today was adopted in 1912 and has remained virtually unchanged for over 90 years.
Birthstone jewelry has always been popular with both men and women and comes in many exciting forms. For women, there are elegant birthstone necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, pins, and pendants. For men, birthstone cufflinks, tie bars, money clips, and shirt studs are welcome gifts.
Here are the official birthstones and their significance for each month of the year.
JANUARY – GARNET
Garnet is traditionally regarded as the gem offering constancy, faith, and truth for those of January birth. It is usually thought of as a ruby look-alike. But garnet comes in a wide variety of brilliant colors…every color but blue.
FEBRUARY – AMETHYST
For those born in February, sincerity is the personal trait usually associated with this beautiful form of precious quartz. Sparkling and transparent amethyst comes in rich colors ranging from pale lilac to deep purple.
MARCH – AQUAMARINE and BLOODSTONE
Courage is the personal virtue represented by these two ancient and very different birthstones for those born in March. Beautiful blue aquamarine is transparent like the sea. Ancient mariners treasured it as a talisman on long ocean voyages. Venerable, opaque, dark green bloodstone is named for the vivid red flashes that dot its surface and has been a favorite for men's rings since the Middle Ages.
APRIL – DIAMOND
The brilliantly clear, hard, and pure white diamond has long been a symbol of innocence and invincibility for those of April birth. And because of its durability, diamond was also believed to strengthen love and bring marital happiness. This has made it the world's most popular gem for wedding and engagement rings.
MAY – EMERALD
For centuries, the beautiful grass-green emerald has symbolized love, success, and new life for those of May birth. Precious emerald has the color of springtime and was prized for centuries by kings and queens. It was a favorite of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt and Alexander the Great.
JUNE – PEARL and ALEXANDRITE
Good health, a happy marriage, and good luck are virtues offered to these two precious gems to those born in June. The lustrous white pearl has been a symbol of love and happiness since ancient times. And the sparkling alexandrite, named for Czar Alexander II of Russia, can change from green to red and was believed to bring good luck to those wearing it.
JULY – RUBY
Passion and power have long been believed to be personal attributes offered by the fiery red ruby to those of July birth. Long prized for its hot, glowing color since earliest times, ruby is hard and durable with a lively sparkle that is bright and dazzling.
AUGUST – PERIDOT and SARDONYX
Courage and happiness are the primary attributes offered by these two ancient gems to those with August birthdays. Lovely, transparent, yellow-green peridot was once known as "the gem of the sun." And the red-brown sardonyx has been a favorite for men's signet rings since Egyptian times.
SEPTEMBER – SAPPHIRE
Wisdom and clear thinking are the personal traits traditionally given to the September born by the beautiful blue sapphire ever since wise King Solomon adopted it for his royal seal. In addition to blue, sapphire also comes in every color except red. So those born in September can choose almost any color they like.
OCTOBER – OPAL and TOURMALINE
Hope and harmony are the special characteristics of those born in October, which have long been symbolized by these two vividly colored birthstones. Opal flashes with all the fiery iridescent colors of the rainbow. Clear and sparkling tourmaline is famous for its incredible range of brilliant colors. Both lively gems give a cheerful lift to those of October birth.
NOVEMBER – TOPAZ and CITRINE
Long life and fidelity are the traditional virtues offered to the November born by these two sunny yellow gems. Both topaz and citrine are bright, sparkling, and beautifully transparent. And each comes in a cheerful lemony color. But topaz also occurs in red, pink, and peach tones as well.
DECEMBER – TURQUOISE, BLUE ZIRCON, and TANZANITE
Prosperity is the customary promise made to those born in December by these three lustrous blue birthstone gems. They range in color from the bright sky-blue of ancient turquoise, to the glittering icy-blue hue of Biblical zircon, to the deep, rich purple-blue of tanzanite, a new birthstone only discovered in 1967 and now one of the world's most popular gems.