The History of Birthstones

I wear my bracelets everyday showcasing the birthstones of my children, and it started me thinking about how birthstones came about.

Perhaps the earliest mention of birthstones is in the book of Exodus which describes the Breastplate of Aaron, the High Priest of Hebrews. The breastplate was set with twelve gemstones, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, including emerald, diamond, sapphire, topaz, amethyst, onyx and jasper. All these stones feature in the modern ideas of birthstones.


In the 1st Century, Flavius Josephus made the connection between the stones featured in the Breastplate of Aaron and the twelve signs of the zodiac. Four hundred years later, St Jerome furthered that connection with the addition of the twelve calendar months. The theory was that the gemstones had mystical powers and would bestow luck, fortune and health on the wearer. It was thought that wearing the gemstone during its associated month helped to enhance its abilities, the idea being that you should own all 12 and wear each one depending on the time of year. This logic continued until the 18th century when the modern perception of birthstones became truly accepted.


Month Birthstone
January Garnet
February Amethyst
March Aquamarine, Bloodstone
April Diamond
May Emerald
June Pearl, Moonstone
July Ruby
August Peridot, Spinel
September Sapphire, Lapis Lazuli
October Opal, Tourmaline
November Topaz, Citrine
December Turquoise, Zircon, Tanzanite


Birthstone Colour Range
Garnet Often fiery red, but can come in a myriad of different colours
Amethyst Predominantly an opulent purple, but can also come in pastel shades of green and purple
Aquamarine, Bloodstone Aquamarine: Light to deep shades of blue with a hint of green. Bloodstone: dark green with flecks of red
Diamond Predominantly colourless, but can come in a host of fancy colours
Emerald Clear green to a bluish green
Pearl, Moonstone Pearl: white, pink, grey and green/black are the main colours. Moonstone: Opalescent with a green or blue hint
Ruby A stunning range of red, from purplish red through to orangy red
Peridot, Spinel Peridot: A vibrant green. Spinel: Multicoloured from vibrant red to deepest black
Sapphire, Lapis Lazuli Sapphire: all the colours of the rainbow and more. Lapis Lazuli: Royal blue with gold and white specks
Opal, Tourmaline Opal: A rainbow like display of iridescent colours. Tourmaline: A wide variety of colours from blues, pinks, yellows and green
Topaz, Citrine Topaz: Predominantly blues through to brown.   Citrine: Yellow
Turquoise, Zircon, Tanzanite Turquoise: An opaque turquoise with black and white flecks. Zircon: An array of colours which sparkle like diamonds. Tanzanite: Royal blue to inky purple