Birth Stone

Garnet - the birthstone of January

is derived from the Latin word for “pomegranate”, granatum, and is said to signify friendship and trust.

Rather than being one single gemstone, they are in fact a group of minerals which are found in a variety of colors; from the deep reds of the well-known pyrope and almandine garnets to the vibrant greens of the highly-valuable tsavorite and demantoid varieties.

References to the gemstone date back to 3100 B.C., when the ancient Egyptians used red garnets for jewelry inlays. However, they reached the peak of their popularity with the Germanic tribes - most notably the Anglo Saxons - who dominated Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Today, the most important sources are Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar and Tanzania.

Amethyst - the birthstone of February

is derived from the Greek work for “intoxicated”, methustos, as it was believed in ancient times that this purple variety of quartz could increase someone’s resistance to the effects of alcohol.

Due to the historical association of the color purple with royalty - stemming from the high costs of purple dies during the Middle Ages - the finest Russian amethysts are featured in much European royal jewelry. This was at a time when amethyst was itself sufficiently rare to be regarded alongside ruby, sapphire and emerald in terms of value.

While Brazil is now a prolific producer of the gemstone, todays finest material is to be found in Africa, especially Zambia.

Aquamarine - the birthstone of March

is derived from the Latin word aqua, meaning “water”, and marina, meaning “the sea”, and it was believed that this pale blue variety of beryl would protect sailors during their perilous voyages.

Its serene color - which beautifully compliments spring and summer wardrobes - is also said to cool the temper, allowing the wearer remains calm and level-headed in any situation.

While Brazil is the primary producer of aquamarine - including the famous, 10,363-carat Dom Pedro aquamarine - deposits of the gemstone can also be found in Nigeria, Madagascar, Zambia, Pakistan and Mozambique.

Diamond - the birthstone of April

is derived from the Greek word for “unbreakable”, adamas, due to its high hardness.

Although often associated with having no color - albeit with a high-degree of the spectral, rainbow-like effect, known as fire - they can actually occur in any hue, with yellow being the most widely-encountered in nature and red being by far the rarest.

However, such colors are sometimes introduced - or even removed - artificially, and customers should therefore always ask if any enhancements were used to improve the color or clarity of a diamond before making a purchase.

Emerald - the birthstone of May

is derived from the Greek word for “green”, smaragdus, and having such a color is a necessary requirement for this valuable variety of beryl.

First mined in Egypt as early as 330 B.C., it was subsequently associated by the Romans with fertility and rebirth. In the centuries that followed, emerald also came to symbolize foresight, good fortune and youth.

Natural emeralds almost always contain a large number of inclusions and fractures - known as the stone’s jardin - and oiling and filling treatments are therefore performed regularly to improve their clarity.

While Colombia is known as the source of the world’s finest stones, emeralds are also found in Afghanistan and Zambia.

Pearl - the birthstone of June

is derived from the Latin for “leg”, perna, due to the pearl-producing oyster’s similar shape to that of a leg of mutton. They are unique amongst the gemstones in that they require no cutting or polishing.

Pearls have been used as an adornment for thousands of years, and it is said that one of Julius Caesar’s primary motives for his invasion on Britain was to gain access to Scotland’s supply of natural river pearls. In the 16th century, their popularity during England’s Tudor dynasty has led to the era being known as the pearl age.

Today, almost all pearls are cultured, which means that human intervention has initiated their growth within saltwater oysters or freshwater mussels.

Ruby - the birthstone of July

is derived from the Latin word for “red”, rubeus, and having such a color is a necessary requirement for this valuable variety of corundum.

While ancient Roman texts mention red stones, it is unknown whether these are garnets, spinels or rubies. However, by the Middle Ages, the ruby - most likely from Sri Lanka or Afghanistan - was established as a stone of very high value in the Arabic world. The crusades subsequently brought rubies to Europe, where they came to symbolize, above all else, love.

While, the best-quality stones - with a deep, vivid “pigeon blood” color - are found in Mogok, Myanmar, nearby Mong Hsu is the primary source in terms of quantity. Other localities include Vietnam and Tanzania.

Peridot (pronounced “per-ree-doh”) - the birthstone of August

is a name whose origins are unknown.

Occurring in lighter shades of green - often with hints of yellow or brown - they were extremely popular in ancient Egypt. In fact, it now believed that many of Cleopatra’s famous “emeralds” were actually peridots from the mysterious Red Sea island of Zabargad.

Like diamond, peridot is formed deep inside the earth, before being brought to the surface by volcanic activity. However, in rare cases, they can also come from outer space, with extra-terrestrial stones - known as pallasite peridot - being found within some meteorites.

While Arizona and China are the primary sources in terms of quantity, the finest peridot is generally found in Myanmar and Pakistan.

Sapphire - the birthstone of September

- is derived from the Greek for “blue stone”, sappheiros.

However - while blue is indeed the most valuable hue - this corundum variety can occur in any color other than red, due to the fact that a red corundum is a ruby. It should be noted that non-blue sapphires - sometimes known as fancy sapphires - are usually prefixed by their color.

During the Middle Ages, blue sapphires became associated with divine blessings and thus were often worn by the clergy. Today, with India’s legendary Kashmir sources long depleted, Sri Lanka’s Ceylon blues are the most revered.

The only other sapphires of comparable value are padparadscha - derived from the Sinhalese for “lotus flower” - which have an orange-pink, salmon-like color.

Opal - the birthstone of October

is derived from the Latin for “precious stone”, opalus, which was itself derived from the Sanskrit word for “stone”, upala.

It was associated with bad luck during the 19th century - almost entirely due to Sir Walter Scott’s fictional novel, Anne of Geuerstein - but recovered during the late-Victorian era.

While opals are known for their play of color - patches of bright color that appear and disappear as the stone is rotated - not all opals display this phenomenon, as is usually the case with Mexico’s bright orange fire opals.

Australia provides over 90% of the world’s precious opal production; including over 99% of the extremely valuable black opal. However, Ethiopia has become a significant alternative source in recent decades.

Citrine - one of November’s two birthstones, along with topaz

is derived from the French for “lemon”, citron.

While it was often used by the Romans as a carving material, Queen Victoria’s love for this yellow variety of quartz caused citrine’s popularity to peak in the 19th century, when it was amongst the most revered of all gemstones.

However - much like was the case with its sister stone, the amethyst - the discovery of large Brazilian quartz deposits caused an over-saturation during the 20th century, which inevitably diminished citrine’s association with rarity.

Today, this abundance is being used as an advantage by jewelers, who are making use of citrine’s large size to make jewelry pieces on a scale not possible with other natural, faceted gemstones.

Turquoise - one of December’s two birthstones, along with zircon

is derived from the Old French word for “Turkish”, tourques, due to the its association with the region. It is also therefore clear that the well-known greenish-blue color, of the same name, takes its title from the stone, and not the other way round.

Aside from its ubiquitous presence throughout the Middle East, Turquoise also features very strongly in Native American cultures, where it was believed that the “fallen sky stone” formed through their tears of joy combining with the long-awaited rainfall.

Unlike most birthstones, turquoise is generally opaque and is therefore usually cut as carvings, inlays, beads, free-forms and cabochons, rather than being faceted.