January - GarnetA vivid, beautiful stone said to symbolise faith, eternity and truth.
Colour: A deep red shade typical in Victorian times is the most popular colour. Garnets can also be found in every colour except blue, including brilliant green Tsavorite, raspberry pink Rhodolite and orange Malaya - all true garnets. The Tsars of Russia favoured rare green Demantoid garnets.
History: The name "garnet" comes from the Roman word "granatus" meaning "seed," as the gems were thought to resemble pomegranate seeds. Legend has it that Noah hung a large garnet in the ark for illumination. Other attributes of garnets include giving guidance in the night; protection from nightmares; to aid peaceful sleep; are an antidote for snakebites and food poisoning; heal wounds and stop blood flow; promote true love; warn of danger by changing colour and protect the wearer's home from fire and lightning. Representing faith, this birthstone was also believed to provide the wearer with health and good fortune and it was used to exercise a calming influence.
Found in: USA, Africa, Sri Lanka, Brazil and India. Bright red "anthill" garnets are found in Arizona, USA.
February - AmethystThe Amethyst is said to symbolise peace, protection and tranquillity.
Colour: Pale lilac to rich, deep purple shades: the best stones are a deep medium purple with rose-coloured flashes that give the amethyst its beauty and fire.
History: The ancient Egyptians believed that amethyst, a variety of quartz, could keep a person from being poisoned and Greek folk legend held that it would prevent intoxication. This sobering effect on the wearer was also said to influence those who were over-excited by love's passion. Other claims include a cure for insomnia; to bring pleasant dreams; as a means of preventing baldness; to improve the complexion; to protect from treason and deceit and to sharpen the mind and intellect. Because royalty has always adored the colour purple, amethysts abound in the ornaments of ancient Greeks and Egyptians and even in the British Crown Jewels. This birthstone was believed by the ancient Greeks to ward off the heady effects of wine. Legend has it that the god Bacchus gave the stone its colour by pouring the juice of the grape over pure white stone.
Found in: Brazil, Uruguay, Zambia and many other countries.
March - AquamarineAquamarine is said to symbolise happiness and understanding.
Colour: Transparent pale-blue stone from the beryl family, which also includes emerald. Ideally a pastel sea-blue; clear blue stones with no green or grey are generally the most valuable.
History: Since earliest times the Aquamarine has been said to bestow courage in times of adversity, bringing serenity and hidden strength like the waters of the ocean after which this beautiful stone was named. In ancient times, the stone was said to aid seafarers; it is therefore an excellent gift for sailors or anyone who takes frequent cruises. Today many people who believe in the spiritual properties of gemstones wear aquamarines to give them religious and mental inspiration, provide inner calm and to enhance both verbal and written communication. To dream of aquamarine signifies the making of new friends; to wear aquamarine earrings brings love and affection. It is a universal symbol of youth, hope and health.
Found in: Brazil, Nigeria, Zambia, Madagascar and Ukraine.
April - DiamondA sparkling Diamond is a token of eternity and is said to symbolise courage and health.
Colour: Although diamonds are associated with a colourless stone, they are occasionally found with a strong, bright colour - green, red, pink, blue, canary yellow and amber. These "fancy" coloured diamonds are highly prized.
History: Diamond comes from the Greek word "adamas" which means unconquerable - suggesting the eternity of love. In fact, diamonds have been the traditional symbol of love since the time of the ancient Greeks. Discovered about 2,500 years ago in India, the ancients believed they were either splinters from the stars, crystallised lightening or hardened dewdrops. Most diamonds are over 100 million years old, and many are over three billion years, making diamonds the oldest of all gemstones. They are also the hardest substances known to man, made of carbon that is crystallised deep within the earth. According to ancient mythology, white or clear stones signified integrity, innocence and happiness. They were also thought to symbolise the power of good over the forces of darkness.
Found in: Australia, Russia, Botswana and South Africa.
May - EmeraldThe vivid green Emerald is said to symbolise fidelity, goodness and love.
Emerald is one of the most highly prized of all the gems.
Colour: From the Greek "smaragdos" which means green stone; the most prized are pure grass green in colour. Emeralds are often characterised by the 'garden' or 'jardin' - the crystals trapped within the stone. Under magnification these crystals resemble patterns of foliage as in a garden. A flawless, clear emerald is very rare and is usually only found in the smallest stones.
History: The world's largest emerald was discovered in 1969 in Colombia and weighed 7,052 carats. According to legend, the wearing of emeralds not only cured a wide range of ailments, including low IQ, poor eyesight and infertility, but also enabled the wearer to predict the future. They were mined near the Red Sea during the time of Cleopatra, who wore her emeralds lavishly.
Found in: Colombia, Brazil, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
June - Pearl
The Pearl is said to symbolise peace, nobility and beauty.
A pearl is the product of an oyster's defence mechanism. When a foreign irritant is introduced either by man (cultured) or naturally, the oyster immediately surrounds it with layers of a substance called nacre. This forms the exquisite gemstone know as pearl.
Colour: Pearls come in a wide range of colours. They should be as perfectly round as possible and relatively free from blemishes. The higher the lustre, or "orient," the more valuable the specimen. The larger the pearl, the greater the value.
History: Ancient mythology connected the pearl to the moon because of its soft, glowing appearance and the belief that pearls were teardrops from the moon that fell into the sea. The ancient Chinese believed pearls had the power to perpetuate eternal youth. Even today, pearls are often ground up and used in Chinese cosmetics and serums to promote youthful looking skin. Pearls have been recognised as an emblem of modesty, chastity and purity, and have come to symbolise a happy marriage.
Moonstone is sometimes an alternative considered by those born in June since it looks very similar to some pearls. Moonstone is the gift for lovers as it symbolises passion, and lovers have an obvious affinity for the night. It was also believed to bestow the power of clairvoyance, being at its most powerful when the moon is decreasing in size.
Found in: Natural pearls are found in Seas off Bahrain, Australian Indian Ocean plus many other seas. Cultured pearls can be cultivated anywhere.
July - RubyThe Ruby is said to symbolise love, enthusiasm and strength.
Ruby has been the gem of passion and the heart's desire since the dawn of time. It is known as the "Lord of the Gems" because of its rarity and beauty.
Colour: The word ruby is derived from the Latin word "tuber" which simply means red. Ruby, like sapphire, is the red variety of corundum and only exists as a true red colour. The finest colour is a vivid, almost pure spectral red with a very faint undertone of blue, as seen in Burmese rubies which are considered the finest.
History: It was thought that rubies possessed an inner flame that burned eternally. Throughout the Middle Ages and early Renaissance the ruby was considered the precious stone most associated with weddings as they were supposed to keep passion alive and promote lasting love and contentment in marriage. It was also believed they had the power to bestow peace and harmony and protect wearers from discord and all perils of war.
As part of the usual fashioning process, virtually all rubies are heated to permanently improve their colour and appearance.
Found in: Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania, Cambodia, Afghanistan and India.
August - PeridotPeridot is said to symbolise success, peace and luck.
A gem variety of the mineral olivine, this wondrous stone is the child of volcanic action.
Colour: Should be a lively lime green.
History: Favoured by pirates who believed it would glow in the dark whenever it was near buried treasure, peridot was considered a powerful amulet against all evil and when "set in gold and worn thus, dispels fear of the dark and is a potent amulet against all evil". It also had medicinal uses. If fashioned into a chalice from which medicines were drunk, it was thought to intensify its efficacy. Cleopatra was a great admirer of the stone, and by Renaissance times peridot had become a love stone worn to attract romance.
Found in: USA, Mexico, Norway, Kenya and Burma. Originally mined for the Egyptian kings (1,500BC) on St. John's Island in the Red Sea, today's most important source of peridot in the world is the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation near Globe, Arizona where it is mined by native Americans.
September - SapphireThe noble Sapphire is said to be a symbol of serenity and health
Sapphire is the blue variety of corundum; known as the "Gem of Autumn". It was regarded as powerful talisman of faith and good fortune.
Colour: Sapphire comes in all colours except red, but is especially popular in deep blue. Fancy coloured sapphires - including pink, green, orange and golden yellow are magnificent when combined in a necklace or bracelet.
History: In the Orient, kings wore sapphires around their necks as defence from harm and it was thought that merely looking upon this stone would bring luck. Ancient priests and sorcerers honoured sapphire above all gems, for it enabled them to interpret oracles and foretell the future. Ancients believed the Ten Commandments were written on a sapphire tablet. Marriage partners put great faith in the stone. If its lustre dimmed, one knew ones spouse had been unfaithful. Sapphire refused to shine when worn by the wicked or impure. Though sapphire grows in the ground like most gemstones, it is often washed down into riverbeds where its bright blue colour would easily catch the eye of ancient treasure hunters. Prince Charles chose a blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds for Princess Diana's engagement ring and this ring has now been famously passed to the Duchess of Cambridge.
Found in: Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), Kashmir, Australia, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, China and USA.
October - OpalThe Opal is a symbol of purity, hope and health.
The well-known Roman naturalist Pliny, described the opal as being made up of the glories of the most precious gems..."the gentler fire of the ruby, the rich purple of the amethyst, the sea-green of the emerald, glittering together..."
Colour: White opal has a white or light body colour with flashes of many other colours. Black opal has a black, dark blue, dark green or grey body colour with vivid flashes of colour such as red, pink and bright green - this colour variation makes every opal unique.
History: Derived from the Latin ‘opalus' - precious stone - opals were highly prized by the ancient Romans. Opal is supposed to promote love and romance, to grant wishes and personal happiness; to protect the wearer from disease and to possess the gift of prophecy. Medieval writers believed opal could render its wearer invisible when the need arose. It was also said to have a beneficial effect on eyesight and banish evil spirits.
Found in: Australia, Mexico and U.S.A.
Sometimes tourmaline, another multicoloured gemstone, is used as an October birthstone. It is not as fragile as opal and is often chosen by those who prefer faceted stones.
November - TopazTopaz is said to be a symbol of wisdom, sincerity and courage.
The name topaz is derived from the Greek word meaning, "to shine" and also implies "fire".
Colour: Most people think of topaz as a transparent golden yellow gemstone. However, this gemstone occurs colourless as well as orange-yellow, red, honey-brown (dark sherry), light green, blue and pink. Orange-red "Imperial" and pink colours are rare and most valuable.
History: Topaz holds the distinction of being the gemstone with the widest range of curative powers. The Greeks felt it gave them strength, cooled tempers, restored sanity, cured asthma, relieved insomnia, strengthened breathing and even warded off sudden death. It is said to make its wearer invisible in time of emergency, and proved the loyalty of associates by changing colour in the presence of poison.
Found in: Brazil, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and China.
Citrine is often used as an alternative to topaz because it appears in many of the same colours as topaz. Unlike topaz, citrine is readily available and inexpensive even in large sizes.
The word Citrine is derived from the Latin ‘citrus' meaning lemon and describes a transparent quartz stone in shades ranging from yellow to orange. Symbolising generosity, this delicately coloured stone was thought to safeguard secrets and was regarded as a stone of mystery and subtlety.
December - TurquoiseTurquoise is said to be a symbol of love, happiness and luck.
The word turquoise means "Turkish stone" because the trade route of this precious gem to Europe came via Turkey.
Colour: From sky blue (most desirable) to blue-green and apple-green.
History: Egyptian turquoise graced the necks of the Pharaohs, and Cleopatra probably ground up this gemstone for eye paint. Tutankhamen's coffin was filled with examples of turquoise - sarcophagus inlay, beads, jewellery and even furniture. Highly valued by ancient Chinese and Aztecs, turquoise was widely thought to prevent injury, especially from falling; the Turks attached them to their horses' bridles for special protection from this hazard. Representing happiness and luck, its powers are said to be greatest when the stone is received as a gift. During the 16th century, native American Indians of the south west used turquoise as currency. They believed the gemstone could bring spoils to the warrior, animals to the hunter and happiness and good fortune to all.
Blue topaz has become a popular alternative in recent years for those who prefer faceted stones.
Found in: North-east Iran and south-west USA.