Have you ever received a birthstone as a present from a loved one but had no idea what it meant? You’re not alone. The truth is, there’s far more to each stone than just the striking colors. Yours could even tell you more about your personality! But first, where did the concept even come from? And who decided which color went with which month?
The first-ever birthstone appears to be mentioned in the Bible’s Book of Exodus. In this part of the Old Testament, the Israelites’ first high priest, Aaron, has on a breastplate containing a dozen gems.
And each one is meant to be linked to one of Israel’s 12 tribes. People placed a lot of value on these stones, as according to legend, they could help you see the future.
These stones were also referenced in both the Book of Revelation and Book of Ezekiel. Revelations describes how the stones are used to decorate a wall in New Jerusalem.
And in Ezekiel, they are listed as being some of the King of Tyre’s prized possessions. It took approximately a half-millennia, though, for a man named Flavius Josephus to make the link between Aaron’s breastplate stones and the 12 zodiac signs and months.
And then, in the fifth century, a historian called St. Jerome made the suggestion that people use these stones in their everyday lives — making bracelets, belts, and other items of clothing.
When the ninth century rolled around, though, it was more common for people to opt for a different stone each month, which is when the designated stone was supposed to be at its strongest.
Interestingly, though, the concept of having a different stone assigned to each birth month didn’t come about until the 16th century — and it stemmed from either Poland or Germany. Then, in 1912, the National Association of Jewelers finally got together to decide which stones should go with which months of the year.
Here’s what they settled upon and what each birthstone actually means.
Ah, January. The month when we all have to try and get back into the normal rhythms of life after the holiday season.
Thankfully, the grounding properties of garnet, the month’s birthstone, can help us do just that. Usually red, the stone can be worn by Aquarians and Capricorns, depending on which side of the month their birthday falls.
Author of Crystals: The Modern Guide to Crystal Healing, Yulia Van Doren, told website MindBodyGreen that garnet is the “perfect adventure partner,” for those born in January. She said the stone acts as a “safe space” and with it, people can “bravely explore unknown ideas and unchartered passions.”
And the supposed powers don’t end there.
Garnet is also said to encourage a healthy metabolic rate, clean the blood, and help any skin breakages to repair. And some even believe that if wearers of the stone do good deeds, they will be repaid with good karma.
Sounds like January babies have got it good. Are those born in February as lucky?
We’d say the answer is yes. Not only is Amethyst very beautiful, but it is also supposedly helpful when it comes to healing — particularly bruising and helping to strengthen immunity.
They say it can get your hormone levels in check, too. Yulia explained, “Amethyst carries an energy which helps neutralize imbalances and can really help calm Aquarian and Piscean tendencies toward extremes.”
And Yulia seems to believe that the birthstone is one of the most advantageous when it comes to health. She said, “You can never have enough amethyst around you, in my humble opinion — keep this purple crystal anywhere and everywhere.”
The royals used to do this, but the reason why was slightly different.
Back in the days when amethysts crystals were hard to come by, they had the value of diamonds! So, naturally, the royals of the time would use them to show off their status.
Who knows, maybe they were also aware of the stone’s supposed ability to increase passion — a quality that you won’t find in March’s stone.
March’s birthstone, aquamarine, is intended to invoke a feeling of peace. Though that may not always be the case, as it’s also supposed to inspire total and utter honestly — no matter how uncomfortable.
And it’s considered to be particularly useful for the busy-brained Arians and detail-oriented Pisceans.
Its name derives from the word for seawater in Latin. This perhaps explains why both the Romans and the Greeks believed that aquamarine belonged to the mermaids.
Sailors, on the other hand, felt that the stone would serve as protection while traversing rough waters. And soldiers also deemed it to have a similar quality on the battlefield.
Yulia explained to MindBodyGreen, “Aquamarine is the blue variety of the mineral beryl… It encourages you to follow your curiosity and can help you break out of mindless routines, stale habits, and fear-based thinking.”
And the gemstone expert seems to be a big fan of April’s birthstone, too.
To Yulia, there is so much more to diamonds than just the glitz and the glamor.
She said, “These extraordinary crystals will help support whatever intention you ask of them… This brilliantly strong gemstone will help you stand strong in your own sparkling truth — something you are already naturally gifted at doing — and is a beautiful reminder that there’s always light at the end of every tunnel, no matter how pressurized things get.”
Of course, diamonds are best known these days for their use in engagement rings. But they haven’t always just been a girl’s best friend.
Ancient Greek warriors believed that if the gemstones were close, they wouldn’t be defeated by the enemy. And both men and women in Ancient Rome wore the diamonds to show off their virtue.
The birthstone, which is usually associated with Taureans and Arians, has many other qualities, too. It’s also supposed to clean the body’s organs, increase intelligence, and provide clarity to those feeling particularly overwhelmed.
Impressive stuff, for sure, but you don’t even have to wear May’s birthstone to benefit from its powers!
Well, that’s according to Ancient Egyptians, anyway. They believed that merely a glance at an emerald could help to relieve all kinds of health issues — from intestinal problems to dermatology complaints.
The May birthstone was also said to be a great protector for those who had passed over into the afterlife. It’s no wonder Cleopatra supposedly had quite a few to her name!
But what about us mere mortals? Yulia said, “Emeralds have shone brightly through countless mythologies and histories for good reason: this is a gemstone which can manifest huge gifts of magnetic good fortune, abundance, and health.”
The expert went on to add that it’s useful for “balancing Taurus’ infamous stubbornness and [is] a natural complement to Gemini's inquisitive, inventive, creative personality.”
If you’ve ever wondered how emeralds can become such a dazzling shade of green, then wonder no more. The hue derives from either chromium or another element called vanadium.
And despite the vivid shade, those who keep the stone close to their person are said to feel a sense of calm. But if it’s healing you need, then maybe June’s birthstone can help.
On a physical level, the pearl can apparently help to aid digestion. And if you take it as a powder supplement, which many people do, it is said to help give the skin a natural glow and keep bones in peak health.
Spiritually, though, the pearl supposedly brings about qualities such as humility and devotion.
Pearls have the distinction of being the only birthstone that’s produced by a living being. The name derives from the term “perna” which means “leg” in Latin.
Why? Well, the thinking is that a mollusk’s shell looks a bit like a mutton’s leg. And according to Yulia, this distinction should teach us all a valuable lesson.
The expert said, “Pearls are luminous reminders that it’s often the most difficult things in life that transform us the most beautifully. But just as it takes a mollusk much time and effort to transform a grain of sand into a pearl, it also takes us a lot of time and dedicated soul work to transform our greatest challenges into priceless radiance.”
But could July’s birthstone be even more radiant?
Leos and Cancers no doubt adore their striking red birthstone. Strangely, the richest ruby hue is known as “pigeon’s blood,” and it radiates brightly thanks to the chromium.
While yes, rubies are obviously very beautiful, there seems to be much more to them than meets the eye.
Even hundreds of years ago, people believed rubies were great protectors and that the stones could guard them against all kinds of illnesses and plagues.
Having one in your life was also said to bring about good fortune and it would supposedly make you feel brave and passionate — some of the qualities we associate with the color red today.
As well as helping to bring about love and romance, the ruby can supposedly help the heart in a physical sense as well. And the stone is said to be good at flushing toxins out of the body.
So even if you’re not born in July, it may be worth getting your hands on a ruby — or a ruby on your hand!
August’s green stone peridot is usually uncovered close to volcanoes and is synonymous with the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, Pele. Like a volcano, peridot can supposedly be pretty powerful — forcefully removing any negativity that may create obstacles in your life.
We’re talking indecision, envy, or insecurity, for instance.
The stone is particularly useful for August-born Virgos, who are renowned for constantly finding fault with themselves.
And if you find it difficult to make decisions — no matter how big or small — peridot can supposedly help with that, too.
Peridot was once seen as a useful tool for new mothers, too. Not only did it supposedly help with the birthing process, but the stone is also said to encourage a restful night’s sleep.
Mothers no doubt regarded peridot as their best friend! Interestingly, peridot is the only birthstone that comes in one color, which makes it the complete opposite of September’s birthstone in that regard…
Sapphire is stereotypically blue — maybe because the name originates from the Greek and Latin words for “blue stone.” But in truth, you can get them in a whole array of colors.
And each seems to have different properties. If it’s full-body healing you're after, though, the classic blue choice may be the one for you.
Since ancient times, sapphire has also become known as the Wisdom Stone. Yulia says that the gem allows us to “connect with our higher self and our inner empath who sees the bigger picture, acts from a global perspective, and walks in someone else’s shoes.”
If you’re a Libra or Virgo, she says keeping the stone nearby may help to “stretch your compassion muscles, empower your better self, and keep small-minded, fear-based thinking at bay.”
The sapphire has been embraced by all kinds of civilizations, too. Greeks used to hold them close when consulting with the oracle, for example.
And they were commonly found in Byzantine jewelry boxes way back in the sixth century. For Buddhists, the birthstone was thought to encourage better spiritual understanding — a quality it seems to share with October’s stone.
That’s right: with its apparent ability to harness happy energy, the opal is often used in meditation and prayer. And it certainly looks divine.
When the stone is shone into the light, anyone looking at it might see a whole spectrum of beautiful colors — yellows, pinks, oranges, purples. You name it, it’ll be there.
This unique appearance is why the gem is called opal, with the word stemming from opallios, the Greek term for noticing a difference in color. But spiritual author Yulia believes that there’s more to the birthstone its beauty.
She said, “This mysterious stone hides endless shimmering rainbows within its milky-white depths.” And she had some advice for Scorpios and Libras.
“Look deeper, look closer: at people, places, ideas, and within yourself.” The stone can apparently help Libras to balance “natural inclination toward order and aesthetic beauty so that they don't get stuck in surface-level superficiality.”
And for Scorpios who tend to have lots of different aspects to their personalities, opal’s varying energies will be a good companion. But what do those born in November need from a birthstone?
Well, Yulia believes that Sagittarians and Scorpios can both gain a lot from the balancing qualities of November’s birthstone topaz. She said that people in either of those star signs can “sometimes get a little too wrapped up in their own stories.”
The birthstone can therefore stop them from sinking too deeply into just caring about what’s happening in their own lives.
And the different-colored versions of the stone apparently have varying benefits. The blue form of the gem can offer clarity of thought, for instance, while the yellow topaz can help to combat depression.
They’re not the only colors you can find the birthstone in, either. It also comes in brown, pink, and deep orange — the latter of which is especially sought after.
The meaning of topaz has changed throughout history. Romans and Greeks believed it was particularly useful in stopping people from getting hurt.
But Ancient Egyptians, on the other hand, felt the stone had a strong connection to their sun god, Ra. And Hindus rest it on their chests in the hope it’ll make them live longer and be beautiful and clever.
According to Yulia, turquoise has been celebrated throughout ancient history as a gem of both magic and wisdom. She added that for certain Capricorns and Sagittarians, the birthstone “reminds us that we can draw support and healing from the natural world whenever needed.
All you have to do is ask.”
Persians used to decorate jewelry and weaponry with the bluey-green mineral. And turquoise was also used in Native American rituals.
Egyptians, too, liked to wear it around their necks, believing it would help shield them from harm.
As for its modern-day powers, turquoise is believed by some to help with various mental health issues such as anxiety and depression — maybe because it’s a birthstone of compassion and faith. And all those Sagittarians born in December can also benefit from the stone’s general recuperation and purification powers.
We all know those are especially needed during the holidays!