Birthstones are the gemstones associated with each month of the calendar. It's a concept that goes back some centuries. There has been symbolism, religious connotations, mysticism, and more. The birthstones have varied over time and over the world. The list below shows the current British gemstones. You'll notice that some months have 2 associated gems; the first is always the dominant one.
A silicate mineral, it has been used in as gemstone since the bronze age. The word garnet comes from the 14th century middle English word gernet, meaning 'dark red'. The stone It comes in a range of red hues, from earthy brownish reds to deep pinks.
Diamond needs no introduction. Carbon-based, extremely hard, it comes in a broad spectrum of clarity and has its own grade for it. Although mostly known for the colourless variety, it can also be found in other colours like blues, golden, pink, purple and red.
JUNE: (1) Pearl
The only gemstone to come out of a body of water. It comes in many varieties - freshwater v saltwater, cultured v natural, several distinct shapes and colours. For a quick intro read this earlier blog post.
JULY: (2) Carnelian
Carnelian is a variety of chalcedony. Typically found in earthy orange hues, in opaque form. It has been used since the Bronze Age.
SEPTEMBER: (2) Lapis Lazuli
A deep blue rock, highly prized since antiquity. An opaque stone of intense colour, often with deeper coloured veins and gold flecks. Widely used in ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and other early civilisations. It’s also the base for the pigment ultramarine.
NOVEMBER: (2) Citrine
A type of quartz that comes in transparent earthy yellow to orange tones. Also associated with the 13th anniversary.
A quartz stone, predominantly in violet hues. The name, from the Greek amethystos (‘not intoxicated’), follows the ancient belief that the crystal protected the wearer from drunkenness. The stone colours vary from light violet to deep purple.
MAY: (1) Emerald
Emerald is a type of beryl, known for its vivid green hue. It is found in Brazil, Colombia, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Pakistan. Historically a popular gemstone, with synthetic versions available in the last few decades.
JUNE: (2) Moonstone
A type of feldspar, which includes gemstones with a distinct opalescence. Moonstones are typically white with pale blue flashes, but can also be grey, peach and brown. The name stems from the opalescence and the gemstone has been used since antiquity.
A silicate mineral with a distinct olive green colour. It is found in volcanic rocks (and not on the earth’s crust like almost all gemstones) and it only comes in this colour. Then intensity of the green depends on the amount of iron in the crystal structure.
A form of silica, it comes in a variety of gems, transparent, translucent or opaque, with a wide spectrum of background colours. Some opals also have iridescence, due to their structure which diffracts light.
DECEMBER: (1) Tanzanite
One of the most recently discovered gemstones, Tanzanite comes only from a single source on earth: the hills or Merelani in northern Tanzania. It is a type of the mineral zoisite and has a deep violet-blue hue. The deeper the colour, the most highly prized the stone. It’s also the gem for a 24th anniversary.
A cyan variety of beryl, its name derived from Latin aqua marina for ‘sea water’. The ancient Romans believed that aquamarine would protect against dangers while travelling at sea. The stone can be found in pale transparent blue as well as mid-tone translucent tones.
MAY: (2) Chrysoprase
A variety of chalcedony (a form of silica). The name derives from Greek, literally meaning ‘golden green’ and hints at the colour range – from apple to deeper green. It’s an opaque stone with some translucence.
JULY: (1) Ruby
Ruby is a variety of corundum (aluminium oxide). Like diamond, it doesn’t need introduction – everyone is familiar with its vibrant pinkish red colour; its name comes from Latin ruber for 'red'. A hard stone with a broad range of clarity and associated value.
SEPTEMBER: (1) Sapphire
Another type of corundum (like ruby). Mostly known as a mid-blue gem, but also comes in several ‘fancy’ versions which range from pale pinks to lavender and golden hues. Synthetic versions also exist. Sapphire is also the gem of the 45th anniversary.
NOVEMBER: (1) Topaz
A silicate mineral, topaz is a hard stone that comes in a variety of colours, blue being the most used in jewellery. However, blue topaz occurs rarely in nature, so these tend to be irradiated or heat-treated. Within the blue range are London blue (deep sky blue as above) and Swiss blue (paler sky blue).
DECEMBER: (2) Turquoise
An opaque, porous stone that comes in a variety of gree-blue hues, usually with dark vein patterns. It’s one of the most ancient gems used across the world, with rich symbolism – from ancient Egypt to Aztec civilisations. The name comes from the French ‘pierre tourques’, Turkish stone, denoting the fact that the gemstone arrived in Europe via Turkey. It remains very popular today and it’s also the gem for the 11th anniversary.