Birthstone Guide


Birthstones are a great way to celebrate a birthday, but what you might not realise is that every gem has a number of significant facts behind it and comes steeped in intriguing mythology. Our insider's guide looks at each gem's history, so you can be inspired to pick out personal birthstone jewellery for yourself or a loved one.

What are birthstones?

Every month of the year is represented by a beautiful birthstone, each with its own unique meaning and interesting folklore.

You'll hear many ideas about how birthstones came about. They're thought to go way back to the Bible and the breastplate made for Aaron, the High Priest of the Hebrews. The garment held 12 precious gemstones, each one representing a different Israeli tribe.

Many theories have been offered up since. The stones were once linked to the signs of the zodiac, before later becoming associated with the 12 months of the year.

Birthstones are shrouded in myth and legend – they're traditionally believed to bring good luck and therapeutic powers. It was thought that wearing the gemstone during its associated month helped to enhance its abilities, the idea being that you should own all 12 and wear each one depending on the time of year.

Nowadays, birthstones are given to loved ones as birthday gifts in different forms of jewellery. With each birthstone having its own individual meaning and history, they make for a truly thoughtful and personal gift - and they can be cherished for a lifetime.

What is my birthstone?

Whether you're looking to treat yourself or someone special, birthstones can be the standout feature of beautiful jewellery pieces and have great personal significance.

We've compiled a list of birthstones to help you find out more about each month's stone and what they mean for the wearer:

January: Garnet

January's birthstone, garnet, is most commonly found in a rich, fiery red shade, although it can appear in other striking colours. The stone is a symbol of peace, prosperity and good health - all the things we toast when seeing in the new year.

It’s no coincidence the gem looks a bit like a pomegranate seed - the word 'garnet' comes from the Latin for 'seedlike'.

Legend has it that garnet can bring protection to the home, but it's also said to symbolise deep and everlasting friendship, making it an ideal gift for someone you value and cherish.

February: Amethyst

Famed for its stunning deep violet colour, amethyst is the birthstone of February. This instantly recognisable gemstone is a member of the quartz family and is linked to qualities of peace, courage and stability.

For many years, amethysts were as highly valued as diamonds and even favoured by royalty. Today, they're affordable gemstones that are widely available in different shapes and sizes, which is why they're so popular.

March: Aquamarine

A March birthday is symbolised by aquamarine. Its mesmerising colour ranges from deep to pale pastel blue, reminiscent of the sea. Darker shades of aquamarine are very rare and bump up the value of the stone.

For centuries, this beautiful stone has been thought to bring youth and health. It's the colour of water and the sky and is said to represent eternal life. Although there are many myths and legends about the aquamarine stone, the Greeks and Romans viewed it as 'the sailor's gem' and relied on it to ensure their safe passage across stormy seas.

April: Diamond

Diamonds were a girl's best friend long before Marilyn Monroe told us so. If you're lucky enough to have a birthday in April, this striking gem is your birthstone.

A diamond symbolises deep, everlasting love, coming from the fact it's the hardest substance on earth – only another diamond can scratch a diamond. Even the name is derived from the Greek for 'invincible'.

This stone has a long history of folklore and mythology behind it - some people even believe diamonds were formed by lightning bolts striking rocks. And for those who pay attention to superstition, wear a diamond and you'll be brought peace and be protected from negative energies all year round.

Looking for an affordable alternative? White topaz, the gem of clarity and strength, is the next go-to stone for April.

May: Emerald

One of Egyptian queen Cleopatra's favourite gems, the green emerald is the birthstone for May.

Emeralds have always been associated with fertility, love and rebirth – certainly according to the ancient Egyptians - but modern interpretation links them to wisdom, growth and patience.

The finest emeralds are a vivid, deep shade of green and are more valuable. However, they are also very brittle. In fact, come across a flawless emerald and you could be sitting on a fortune.

June: Pearl

Modern theories link Alexandrite to June birthdays, but traditionally, this month has always been associated with pearls.

Popular for centuries because of their gleaming natural beauty, pearls symbolise purity. They make for a natural-looking jewellery piece thanks to their soft colour.

Naturally formed, these stones are a beautiful addition to a piece of jewellery. For the romantics out there, the ancient Greeks held the belief that pearls were the tears of joy of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

July: Ruby

July's birthstone, the ruby, is considered to be the king of the gems, known for its vibrant red colour.

If there was ever a gemstone more fitting to signify love, we've yet to come across it. In fact, the ruby's brilliant red hues are such a perfect symbol of love that it's become an increasingly popular choice for engagement rings. It's also believed that a ruby will protect its wearer from evil as well as bestowing good fortune, so it's a great choice to give a loved one.

Rubies are one of the hardest natural gemstones around and their overall colour can sometimes give a clue as to where they originated. Burmese stones are often tinged with purple, while Thai types have a brown tone. But one thing's for certain - rubies are ideal for unique statement jewellery.

August: Peridot

Peridot, August's birthstone, is lime green in colour and is believed to bring power and influence to its wearer.

A very old gemstone, peridot has been found in Egyptian jewellery from as early as the 2nd millennium BC when the stones were discovered on a volcanic island in the Red Sea. Although there isn't a great deal of folklore to accompany this stone, native Hawaiians believed that the crystals were the tears of Pele, the goddess of fire.

This striking stone is said to attract love and quieten feelings of anger, as well as soothing nerves and warding off negative emotions.

September: Sapphire

September's birthstone, sapphire, is commonly thought of as blue, but can also be found in pink, orange, clear, yellow and many other colours. Many don't believe it until they see it for themselves, but mystical colour-changing sapphires also exist, known as 'phenomenon' stones.

Sapphires are said to protect the wearer from evil, stress and harm. Once upon a time it was even believed that a venomous snake would meet its end if thrown in a container made of sapphire.

This is another stone enjoying popularity as a choice for engagement rings, which is fitting since it has long represented a promise of honesty, loyalty and trust.

October: Opal

Along with tourmaline, opal is the birthstone for the month of October.

Known as the queen of the gems in ancient times, this beautiful stone got its nickname because it's made up of all the colours of the other gems. Each gem is stunningly unique, whether it's made up of calming blues and greens or exciting, vibrant reds and yellows.

There are many superstitions and plenty of mythology associated with opals. In Europe, people used to believe the stone could make you invisible, while French superstition believes it to be a jinx. However, for a very long time, many have said that opal has healing powers.

November: Topaz

You might hear citrine associated with November birthdays, but topaz is the main birthstone for this month - and it has great appeal.

Shades of yellow, brown and honey take centre stage in topaz, but if you come across a pale pink or sherry red form, you're on to an exceptional find. Topaz is increasingly popular in various shades of blue, as while it's rare in nature, it can be easily crafted from clear material.

Delving into its history, the Greeks believed topaz heightened strength and could even make you invisible, while the Egyptians associated the golden gem with the sun god.

December: Tanzanite

A member of the mineral family zoisite, December's birthstone tanzanite is a much-loved stone. Velvety blue in appearance, with rich overtones of purple, there aren't many other stones quite like it. The warm hues are associated with generosity and friendship, while wearers of tanzanite are said to be given a helping hand dealing with change.

Tanzanite can only be found in one place in the world - Tanzania, near Mount Kilimanjaro - so it's a rather special gem if you can get your hands on it.