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The 12 Birthstones and what they mean

Each of the 12 months of the year is represented by one, or in some cases several, of the world’s most beautiful gemstones and each of those birthstones comes laden with significance and meaning, making them an ideal gift for someone on their birthday. But where did the concept of birthstones come from and what are the qualities associated them?

Birthstones, it would seem, have their origins in the Bible. In Exodus 28 it states that Moses instructs special garments to be made for Aaron, the High Priest of the Hebrews. This included a breastplate inlaid with twelve gemstones representing the twelve tribes of Israel. The twelve gemstones were emerald, sapphire, diamond, topaz, carbuncle, sardius, agate, ligure, amethyst, onyx, jasper and beryl.

Later, around 1 and 5 AD, the stones were associated with the twelve signs of the zodiac, then in the 18th century gem traders in Poland associated each gemstone with a person’s birth month. In 1912, the American National Association of Jewelers created an official list of birthstones and while there have been some changes, the 1912 list remains the one in use today.

The twelve birthstones

January Birthstones

January’s birthstone is Garnet, a gemstone group boasting over 20 varieties in almost every colour. Associated with eternity, truth and faith, Garnet is believed to protect travellers.


February Birthstones

February’s birthstone is Amethyst, one of the most precious of the Quartz gemstones. Associated with health, luck and wit, Amethyst is believed to make the wearer courageous.


March Birthstones

Aquamarine is the birthstone for those born in March. A blue variety of Beryl, Aquamarine is associated with understanding and happiness and is believed to have healing powers.

April Birthstones

Famed for its brilliance and exceptional hardness, Diamond is the April birthstone. Associated with eternity, courage and health, Diamond is a symbol of love.

May Birthstones

May’s birthstone is Emerald, the most prized and valuable of the green gemstones. Like Diamond, Emerald is considered to be a symbol of love, and is also associated with goodness and fidelity.

June Birthstones

Those born in June have a choice of birthstone - they can choose between the birthstone long-associated with June, Pearl, or the birthstone more recently associated with June, Alexandrite. Unique among gemstones for being organic rather than mineral, Pearl is associated with nobility, beauty and peace, and is considered to be a symbol of purity. Named after the Russian Tsar Alexander II, Alexandrite is a very rare gemstone, believed to bring luck, good fortune and love.

July Birthstones

Ruby is the birthstone for July. One of the Big Four gemstones and the most precious of the red gemstones, Ruby’s lustre and rarity make it one of the most desirable gemstones. Associated with enthusiasm, strength and love, Ruby is also believed to ward off evil.

August Birthstones

Also associated with strength is Peridot, the August birthstone. One of just a few gemstones occurring in only one colour (green), Peridot is also associated with success, peace and luck.

September Birthstones

Although the most precious of all blue gemstones, September’s birthstone, Sapphire, comes in a host of colours. Sapphire is one of the Big Four gemstones, and is associated with serenity and truth, as well as warding against evil, especially poison.

October Birthstones

October’s birthstone is Opal. A hugely popular gemstone thanks to its play of colour, Opal is associated with wisdom, purity and hope, as well as faithfulness and confidence.

November Birthstones

Like those born in June, November babies get a choice of birthstone - they can choose between Topaz and Citrine, the yellow/orange variety of Quartz. Topaz comes in many coloured varieties and is associated with love and affection, as well as sincerity, courage and wisdom. Citrine, meanwhile, is associated with success, prosperity, cheerfulness and light-heartedness.

December Birthstones

Those born in December are faced with a choice of three birthstones. The December birthstones are Turquoise, Tanzanite and Zircon. Said to be the oldest mineral on Earth, Zircon can be a colourless/white gemstone and a few other colours. Because of Zircons high dispersion it shows a rainbow of colours with the amount of sparkle it produces. This sparkling gemstone is associated with wisdom, honour and prosperity. An alternative December birthstone, the opaque gemstone, Turquoise is associated with peace and balance, as well as good luck and longevity.

Another alternative December birthstone is Tanzanite. One of the world’s most recently discovered gemstones, Tanzanite’s huge popularity lead to it becoming the first gemstone to be added to the official birthstone list since 1912. This beautiful blue-violet gemstone is associated with prosperity, happiness and health.

Gifting birthstones

Whether you believe they have healing powers, protect or bring good luck to the wearer, birthstones are a wonderful way of marking someone’s birthday and conveying your love, affection or appreciation for them.

Gemstone specialists GF Williams supplies a huge range of high quality coloured gemstones and is an expert and experienced gemstone supplier to designers, manufacturers, collectors and private clients.

Find out more about how GF Williams can fulfil your gemstone requirements by browsing our online gemstone catalogue or contacting our friendly team of gemstone experts on +44 (0) 207 405 5477 or email office@gfwilliams.co.uk.