Zodiac of Gemstones: The Modern and Ancient Meanings of Birthstones
The use of birthstones in jewelry makes the piece more personal. The tradition and folklore of a birthstone is associated with magical and mystical powers, such as a source of protection to ward of evil and/or to bring good luck to the wearer. During the Middle Ages, some gems were thought to evoke extreme power if they were worn during a particular month. The wealthy often owned a pieces of jewelry designed with all twelve stones and wore them in rotation throughout the year. During the early 1900’s, six of 12 ancient birthstones were replaced with more affordable and readily available gens. Today both the modern as well as traditional gems are acknowledged and six of the twelve months are represented by two birthstones. Listed below are the gems that represent each month of the year as well as its meaning and legend.
The gemstone for January is the garnet. The dark red color of the garnet is associated with blood, therefor the life force. According to ancient legend, it is said that the wearer of a garnet is protected from nightmares and the gemstone provides guidance for the wearer during dark times.
The amethyst represents the month of February. The stones purple color is thought to represent peace and tranquility as well as provide protection for the wearer. In Greek mythology, an amethyst was thought to promote sobriety According to legend, it was a favorite gem for Catherine the Great, because it was believed to provide miraculous powers. Some ancient cultures believed the amethyst provided protection for the crops against locusts and tempests, brought good fortune during a hunt and in war and it drove out evil spirits.
The modern gemstone representing March is the Aquamarine. The light blue color of the stone represents ocean water, so the aquamarine was traditionally worn to provide protection while at sea. The gem is thought to shield seafarers from seasickness and to ease depression. The ancient gemstone for March was the bloodstone and heliotrope. The heliotrope is dark green and red, which was thought to inspire courage and passion. The bloodstone is a dark green, almost black in color, with streaks/spots of light-reflecting red, which were thought to resemble specks of blood. During the middle ages, it was believed that the stone contained the blood of Christ and that the stone possessed spiritual powers for healing and purification.
Diamonds, which are thought to be the worlds most precious gems, represent the month of April. The colorless feature of a diamond is thought to represent undying love. In the Middle Ages, a diamond was thought to provide strength during battle and protect the wearer from black magic.
The emerald is the gemstone designated for those born in the month of May. The gem is a vibrant green in color and thought to provide the wearer with the ability to seek knowledge about the future through supernatural means. Cleopatra was an avid wearer of emeralds as well as a collector of the gem, in fact she had her own mine for the gem.
The modern birthstone for June is the pearl. Pearls are thought to promote purity and chastity. Ancient Greeks believed pearls were solidified tears of joy that had come from Aphrodite; the goddess of love. The ancient birthstone representing June was alexandrite, which was thought to bring good-luck, joy and to promote self-esteem.
Rubies are the birthstone for July. The deep red of a ruby is thought to promote great beauty and harmony. Ancient belief was that inside of the ruby an inextinguishable flame, which was the symbol for an everlasting love. According to legend, when a ruby is worn on the left hand, it is brings good luck. Rubies are also thought to bring peace and prosperity to the wearer.
The modern gemstones for August are the peridot and the chrysolite. The peridot is green in color and said to promote vitality, bring wealth to the wearer and ease anxiety. The gold color of the chrysolite is also thought to bring wealth to the wearer as well as a long and prosperous life. The ancient gemstone is the sardonyx, which is a brown-red color. The stone was worn by Roman soldiers to help promote daring and bravery. The stone is frequently streaked with black or white bands, which is thought to be slash marks that provide protection against the wearer.
The gemstone for September is the sapphire. The deep blue of the sapphire is believed to represent honesty and faith. Ancient Egyptians associated sapphires with “the eye of the sky” or the “eye of Horus”. Sapphires are traditionally worn by Priests because of their association with purity. Sapphires are often worn by royalty as a symbol of wisdom.
The modern birthstone for October is the opal, which is multicolored. The opal is said to promote the purity and innocence that is typically associated with children. During the medieval times, a red opal was believed to cure a blood disorder and a white opal was thought to provide a cure for brain disorders. When a black opal is set in gold and worn as a necklace, it is thought to provide protection for travelers going away to far away lands. The ancient birthstone for October was the pink tourmaline, which stood for love and compassion. It was also believed to ward against death during the medieval times.
The modern birthstone for November is the topaz, which is either yellow, pale blue or pink. The topaz is said to provide sanity and health and make the wearer resistent to danger. The Greeks considered a topaz to be the stone of strength. The ancient birthstone for November was the citrine. A citrine is either yellow or orange and is associated with warmth and energy. It is also believed that a citrine stone would aid against depression and promote a spiritual well-being.
The modern birthstone for December is a blue zircon. The gems medium blue color is thought to bless the wearer with prosperity and success as well as alleviate pain and promote a more tranquil sleep. It is believed that if a blue zircon loses its luster, it is a sign of danger. The ancient birthstone for December was a sky-blue turquoise. A turquoise stone is thought to bring good fortune and happiness. A turquoise gem was an important body ornament for the ancient Egyptians and it is consider to be a sacred stone by many Native American Tribes.
Throughout the years it become more common to only wear the stone of one’s birth month year round and it was considered bad luck to wear a gemstone that was not your birthstone.