by Jessica Kosinski
Birthstones Shining Bright
This month we are taking a peek at birthstones. Birthstones today are commonly worn as physical adornments. Necklaces, rings, and many other types of jewelry can be set with birthstones, all of which have significance to those who wear them. The exact type of significance may be sentimental in nature or it may be religious, mystical, or astrological. Jewelry featuring birthstones has also been worn in various time periods to represent familial ties or general cultural status in different parts of the world.
Birthstones as They Relate to Religions and Cultures
The tradition of associating certain types of stones and gems with specific days or months dates back many centuries and crosses several religions and cultures. For example, the Jewish historian Josephus postulated in the first century that the gemstones mentioned in the Book of Exodus were symbolic of both the signs of the zodiac and the twelve months of the year. Hindu texts and other religious and cultural documents dating back centuries also list precious stones associated with days or months. However, each culture had its own list of such stones, and many of those lists have changed over time, including the present U.S. list of birthstones.
Precious gems and stones have also had ties to the mystical and magical realms throughout history. Those who believe in the magical powers of the gems, such as practitioners of Wicca, consider them to have healing and protective properties. Most believers of such properties feel that wearing each birthstone in its designated month can help to keep them healthy and safe. Therefore, they collect at least one piece of jewelry with each birthstone and wear the appropriate one for each month. However, some historians who do not believe in the mystical properties of birthstones argue that different cultures marked the passage of time in different manners. According to some historical researchers, since calendars as we know them today post-date many birthstone traditions, such modern mystical implications have no real significance because the periods of time they mark are arbitrary.
Using Birthstones as Sentimental Adornments
For many people, wearing jewelry set with birthstones has more to do with sentiment than protection or religious significance. Such jewelry can represent a reminder of a loved one or a reminder of your own life and how far you have come. If you want to wear jewelry featuring birthstones for sentimental reasons then you may choose to wear your own birthstone, the one representing your spouse’s birth month, or the birthstones of your children. Other options include the birthstones of your parents or friends or family members who have passed away. One good way to represent several family members or friends is to have a ring or pendant made featuring each of their birthstones together.
Current U.S. Birthstones and Their Physical Properties
The current list of birthstones used in the United States has been used since 1912, unaltered, except for the more recent addition of tanzanite as one of what are now three December birthstones. The others are turquoise and zircon. According to the list, six months have one birthstone each. January’s stone is garnet, February’s is amethyst, April’s is diamond, May’s is emerald, July’s is ruby, and September’s is sapphire. Other months have either two or three stones to pick from. For instance, those born in the month of March can choose from aquamarine or bloodstone. June’s birthstones are pearl, alexandrite, and moonstone. August-born individuals have peridot, sardonyx and spinel to choose from. Opal and tourmaline represent October, while November is represented by topaz and citrine.
When examining the physical properties of birthstones it is important to note that most of them are actually minerals. However, they are all also considered to be gems or referred to as precious stones. That is because gems are defined as any such materials which are valued by a given culture. In other words, the minerals citizens of the United States consider to be precious gems may not be the same as those valued by other cultures. In fact, clear differences have existed throughout history. For example, in the Hindu culture coral is considered to be a birthstone and is often also categorized as a gem, but the same is not true in most other cultures.
Followers of the Tropical Zodiac also use a distinct set of birthstones to represent each Zodiac sign. The Zodiac signs do not follow exact months. For example, Aquarius lasts from January 21 to February 28 and is represented by Garnet. Therefore, if you were born on February 1, you would wear a garnet birthstone based on the Tropical Zodiac, but an amethyst birthstone based on the U.S. birthstone list. The other Tropical Zodiac birthstones are, in Zodiac calendar order, amethyst, bloodstone, sapphire, agate, emerald, onyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, and ruby.
Purchasing and Collecting Jewelry Featuring Birthstones
If you intend to purchase jewelry featuring birthstones, the first step is identifying the birthstone or birthstones you are seeking. For example, if you wish to buy a piece of birthstone jewelry for your child who was born in early May then, depending on whether you are seeking standard or Zodiac-based stones, you can pick from either sapphire or emerald. Assuming that neither you nor the intended recipient has any particular religious or mystical beliefs surrounding birthstones the final selection can be based on the cut and color of the stones in question and the appearance of the jewelry itself.
It is also worth noting that it is less expensive to collect some birthstones than others. For example, diamond is the birthstone of April, but purchasing diamond-studded jewelry may be out of your budget range. If that is the case then you may prefer to go by the Zodiac stone list and purchase bloodstone or sapphire, depending on the exact birth date in question. However, you may be able to find the jewelry you are looking for by comparison shopping online or visiting antiques shops and other venues as well, so be sure to leave no stone unturned in your search for the perfect birthstone jewelry.
Jessica Kosinski has been a freelance writer specializing in writing short articles for 15 years. She is also an avid collector of both antique books and Star Wars memorabilia. Although she is not in the antiques industry professionally, she has learned a lot about antiques over the years by periodically helping out at her mom’s antiques shop in Greenville, NH. She currently balances maintaining the antiques shop’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/MallofNE, and working on various freelance writing assignments. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.