My Birthstone Angels have been bestsellers ever since I first designed them in 2017. Back then I was selling my stained glass pieces on a stall at Altrincham Market. I wanted to develop a line of products that would make meaningful and heartfelt gifts, and birthstones felt like the way to go.
However, as I researched Birthstones and each month’s corresponding gem, I realised that there is much more to birthstones that meets the eye. It turns out that no one really knows where the concept of birthstones comes from, why each gem is assigned to each month and there isn’t even a proper consensus on which months get which birthstone!
It’s thought that the concept of birthstones (eg gems being ascribed to each month of the year) began in one of two places. Either they are related to the 12 tribes of Israel in the Bible, or they are connected to Eastern Traditions including Hinduism and Ayurvedic practices of gemstones relating to a person’s astrological chart.
In the 8th and 9th centuries, some Christian writings ascribed certain gemstones to each month, and it became a tradition in religious communities for people to wear a different stone each month as an act of worship.
Similarly in 15th and 16th century Poland, people had a custom of wearing a different stone every month as a good luck talisman, with each month’s stone chosen to ward off evil spirits.
Our more modern practice of wearing just our own birthstones (as opposed to swapping them out every month) was popularised by one of the biggest trendsetters of all time, Queen Victoria. Victoria’s engagement ring, given to her by Albert, was a serpent with an emerald inlaid into it’s head. Victoria was a great lover of symbolism in her jewellery, and this ring was no different. Whilst the snake was a traditional symbol for everlasting love, the Emerald was Victoria’s birthstone. With that, birthstone jewellery (and more general symbolic jewellery) became wildly popular amongst the Victorian upper classes.
(A portrait of young Queen Victoria alongside an image of her snake shaped engagement ring inlaid with an Emerald Birthstone)
However, Birthstones were never standardised, with multiple gemstones being associated with each month. In 1912, seeing the continued popularity of Birthstones, and the continued confusion around which were the ‘true’ birthstones, the (American) National Association of Jewellers met in Kansas and produced a list stating the Official Birthstone for each month of the year. It’s never been made public what this list was based off, and whilst it may have come from Ayurvedic principles, traditional folklore or astrological symbolism, it could just as easily have been based around which gemstones were easily available and affordable to the American public at the time.
Either way, the official list of birthstones was not quite as official or as permanent as the committee had hoped. Over the years, the ‘official list’ has been changed numerous times (most recently in 2016), and other jewellers associations (including Britain's National Association of Goldsmiths in 1937) have created their own ‘official’ lists.
All this means that we still have multiple gemstones listed as Birthstones for each month of the year, June for instance has at least six- Cats Eye, Turquoise, Agate, Pearl, Moonstone and Alexandrite!
When it came time to decide which birthstones to use when I was creating my own line of products, I tried to choose the gemstones that were most commonly attributed to each month, although there were times when that was hard to judge! I still occasionally have people tell me that I am using the wrong gemstone for a certain month, but the truth is, no one is really sure what the right or wrong answer is here! Most of the sources I’ve consulted over the years simply state that you should choose the birthstone that you feel the strongest connection with, rather that worrying over much about the validity of that stone. Each gemstone has it’s own unique characteristics and properties assigned to it, but the common belief states that wearing your birthstone on a piece of jewellery brings you luck and wards off bad fortune.
With my Birthstone Angel range, you can give a friend or loved one a symbol of that luck shining in their window all year round.
Let me know below what your thoughts are on Birthstones. Do you think the whole thing was made up to sell more jewellery? Or is there something deeper and more spiritual in the tradition of linking certain gemstones with a person's time of birth?
Shop my Birthstone Angel Collection here