Birthstones are so much more than elegant stones for celebrating your birthday. They have a deep history that originates in the first century and healing properties that many people believe to this day. The following article explains how this popular tradition evolved over time. Scroll to the bottom of this page for our Birthstones by month guide, including alternative stones for each.
Priest, theologian, and historian Flavius Josephus (340-420) discovered the concept of birthstones while studying The Book of Exodus. In Exodus, Moses’ older brother and prophet, Aaron, had a breastplate that he used to communicate with God. This breastplate was said to be adorned with 12 stones. It is believed the stones were as follows: raw carnelian, chrysolite, emerald, turquoise, sapphire, amethyst, jacinth, agate, crystal (quartz), raw beryl, lapis lazuli, and jasper. (However we cannot be sure of this fact, due to stones being named for their color and not their chemical makeup in ancient times. For instance, peridot was often misidentified as emerald.)
Some believe that these twelve stones represented the twelve original tribes of Israel. Josephus decided these stones could also represent the 12 months of the year—as well as the 12 zodiac signs. It is important to note that each of these stones were believed to have protective and healing properties, but their connections with months and zodiac signs did not exist until Josephus identified them in such a way. Along with this came the belief that each stone’s powers were amplified during the month it was assigned.
A Hindu Version
The Hindus were developing their own system in India around the 5th century with a text called the Ratna Pariksha. This text identified nine gems called Navaratna, meaning nine gems in Sanskrit. These gems were associated with days of the week, Gods, and celestial bodies. The nine gems were: ruby, pearl, coral, emerald, yellow sapphire, diamond, blue sapphire, hessonite and cat’s eye. It was believed wearing stones that best fit your astrological chart would place you in harmony with the universe and protect against negative cosmic forces.
People around the world started wearing birthstone jewelry around the 8th or 9th centuries, though many of these gems were strictly reserved for royals. During this time, religious treaties were written associating particular stones with apostles.
It was not until sometime during the 16th-18th centuries (in either Poland or Germany) when people started wearing the stone associated with their birth month all year long. This is the tradition we follow now.
Birthstones Changing Over Time
Throughout history, accepted birthstones have rotated in and out, with style and availability sometimes determining which stones reign. In 1912, the National Association of Jewelers gathered in Kansas to produce a standardized list of birthstones. These stones are what we recognize as the traditional birthstones. Since then, stones have been added as alternative stones to some months. In 1952, alexandrite, tourmaline, zircon and citrine were added. 2002 brought tanzanite and 2016 added spinel.
Birthstones By Month Guide – Including Alternatives
Traditional birthstones, their symbolic meanings, and alternative stones for each month of the year are listed below. We also include links to many authentic, handcrafted birthstone necklaces in our online store.
January Birthstone — Garnet, The Karma Stone
Garnet is associated with karma and good health. Discover fascinating facts and folklore of this striking gem. Learn more.
Alternative January birthstones: obsidian and emerald.
February Birthstone — Amethyst
An amethyst reportedly aids in the reduction of insomnia, arthritis, circulatory and pain issues. It is thought to promote peace, balance, courage, and inner strength. Learn more about amethyst.
Alternative February birthstone: fluorite.
February Birthstone – Amethyst necklace
Amethyst is the traditional birthstone for February. Amethyst is believed to increase awareness, bring peace, and encourage spiritual growth.
Celebrate all your February-born friends or gift this necklace for someone on a path to higher consciousness.
– Limited quantity –
Related: Zodiac Soaps – Hand-pressed in the USA.
March Birthstone — Aquamarine, The Sailor’s Gem
Aquamarine is Latin for “seawater,” which describes its blue-green color and relates to its ancient oceanic mythology. Coined by the ancient Greeks as “the sailor’s gem,” its presence on a ship was believed to appease the mighty sea god, Poseidon, who in turn would calm rough waters and provide safe passage for seafarers.
Learn more facts and folklore about this beautiful birthstone.
Alternative March birthstone: Bloodstone.
March – Bloodstone Necklace
Bloodstone is an alternative birthstone for March and a powerful stone thought to have many magical and mystical properties.
In ancient times, bloodstone was worn to bring patience, aid in decision-making, and adjust to new circumstances. Get this necklace for someone who is moving to new place or going through a chaotic time.
– Limited quantity –
April Birthstone — Diamond, The Lover Rock
Diamond’s name comes from the Greek word, adamas, meaning unconquerable and indestructible. What makes it so special? We explain why ancient Egyptians wore diamonds on their ring fingers and other surprising facts about this rare gem.
Learn about its legendary hardness, unmatched sparkle, and mysterious folklore.
Alternative April birthstones: malachite, sapphire, and opal.
May Birthstone — Emerald, The Truth Stone
Emerald’s name comes from the Greek word for green—a color classically associated with spring and fertility. Likewise, this rare gemstone signifies rebirth. It also symbolizes: truth, wisdom, and intuition.
Learn fascinating emerald facts, folklore, and healing properties believed by ancient cultures around the world!
Alternative May birthstone: blue lace agate (also known as chalcedony).
June Birthstone — Pearl, The Gem Of Purity
Pearl’s name comes from the Old French word, perle, which, oddly, is derived from the Latin word for “leg” (as in “leg-of-lamb”). It is believed that this was a reference to the shape of mollusk shells, where pearls form. Pearl is the only birthstone not mined from the Earth and instead comes from a living creature!
Pearls symbolize purity and loyalty and are believed to bring peace, balance, and protection to its wearer.
Learn more facts and folklore about pearl.
Alternative June birthstone: moonstone.
June – Moonstone Necklace
Our handcrafted pendants with birthstones are sure to bring a smile to your loved one’s face!
Moonstone, featured here, is perfect for June birthday friends and family, but we have others in stock. (See below.)
– Limited quantity –
July Birthstone — Ruby, The Gem Of Motivation
Ruby’s name comes from the Latin word, ruber, meaning red. But its name in Sanskrit reveals more of its mysterious power and value: ratnaraj, the ruler of jewels.
Prized for its distinct beauty and believed protective qualities, it is also thought to increase motivation and connect one with their passion for life.
Discover what makes this gemstone so rare as well as the history and folklore surrounding it.
Alternative July birthstone: Onyx
August Birthstone — Peridot, The Space Gem
This enigmatic gemstone—often misidentified and mispronounced—is believed to bring happiness and a sense of one’s destiny in life.
Did you know peridot falls to Earth in some meteorites? It is also found on the Moon! That’s why we call it, “The Space Gem.”
Learn more about the mystery, history, and folklore surrounding this misunderstood gem!
Alternative August birthstone: carnelian, sardonyx, and spinel.
September Birthstone — Sapphire, The Gem Of Connections
Sapphire, a stunning gem once reserved for royalty, is believed to facilitate communication with the divine. This precious stone has been said to bring blessings from heaven to the wearer. In ancient times, one would wear a sapphire ring while visiting an oracle to increase the odds of receiving a prophecy.
Sapphire rings are also connected with 5th and 45th wedding anniversaries—as well as famous, regal wedding engagements.
Discover the interesting facts, folklore, and superstitions about this powerful gem.
Alternative September birthstones: lapis lazuli and aventurine.
October Birthstones — Opal, The Mysterious Rainbow Jewel
This rainbow-colored jewel holds many secrets. No one knows how it is scientifically formed. Over time, it has had curious connections with luck and magic.
The Aztecs believed opal brought necessary destruction for new creation.
Discover opal’s rich folklore and history!
Alternative October birthstones: rose quartz and pink tourmaline.
November Birthstone — Topaz, The Friendship Stone
In ancient times, topaz was associated with wealth, beauty, strength, and protection. Today, yellow topaz is linked to friendship much like the yellow rose.
Learn more facts and fascinating folklore surrounding this beautiful gem.
Alternative November birthstones: citrine and rhodochrosite.
December Birthstone — Turquoise, The Clarity Stone
Turquoise has long been seen as a talisman for luck and protection. From burial rituals in ancient times to the deep history of turquoise in Native American cultures, there is much to discover about this gemstone.
Learn more about turquoise’s facts and folklore.
Alternative December birthstones: zircon and tanzanite.
December – Turquoise Necklace
Native Americans and many indigenous peoples regard turquoise as a spiritual stone that connects the wearer with the Earth and the sky.
It is believed to help one see their life from a higher perspective and get rid of bad habits. This is a great necklace for someone who could use this kind of clarity right now.
Join The Discussion
What did you learn about birthstones history or folklore today?
Which birthstone is yours?
Do you prefer your traditional birthstone an alternative?
Let us know in the comments below!
Hmm. Online encyclopedias backup your article, but the dates of Josephus are way off. Under birthstone history, you have this sentence: “Priest, theologian, and historian Flavius Josephus (340-420) discovered the concept of birthstones while studying The Book of Exodus.” He was a first century CE personage. Flavius Josephus (c. 37 – c. 100 CE) was a first-century Romano-Jewish historian and military leader.
Thank you for this information. We appreciate your feedback and sharing this with us.
I love my birthstone in August.
jewelry and gemstone makers are the last people who should ‘tell’ the rest, which stones are for which month. Better to learn about the stones themselves and decide for your-self, which one you ‘feel’ is associated with ‘you’.
im a little boi named camden i have no tiktok yack shack
Hi im 11
I like reading about gems stones and weather and food
Very interesting! Thanks for everything & all information!???❤️
A lovely story about the birth stones I enjoyed it very much. Thank you for the info of the stones.
The birthstones are not the original. The stone for November is precious topaz, very hard to find, and a good color is marvelous. Expensive also. CITRINE IS USED FOR THOSE REASONS.