Birthstones Part 3 – The Origins of Western Birthstone Lists: from Traditional to Modern and Beyond

By Yaĝé Enigmus

In 1906, the National Association of Jewellers (today known as the Jewellers of America) was founded. This American organization met in 1912 and adopted their own official version of the birthstone list in an attempt to make the use of birthstones more standardized.

Below is the list developed by the National Association of Jewellers in 1912: 

Month

 

U.S. Birthstone (1912)

[‘Alternative Stones’ in Brackets]

January

Garnet

February

Amethyst

March

Bloodstone, [Aquamarine]

April

Diamond

May

Emerald

June

Pearl, [Moonstone]

July

Ruby

August

Sardonyx, [Peridot]

September

Sapphire

October

Opal, [Tourmaline]

November

Topaz

December

Turquoise, [Lapis Lazuli]

An older British organization founded in 1894, the National Association of Goldsmiths, met in 1937 to develop their own birthstone list.

Below is the birthstone list adopted by the National Association of Goldsmiths:

Month

 

UK Birthstone (1937)

[‘Alternative Stones’ in Brackets]

January

Garnet

February

Amethyst

March

Bloodstone, [Aquamarine]

April

Diamond, [Rock Crystal]*

May

Emerald, [Chrysoprase]

June

Pearl, [Moonstone]

July

Ruby, [Carnelian], [Onyx]

August

Peridot, [Sardonyx]

September

Sapphire

October

Opal, [Tourmaline]

November

Topaz

December

Turquoise, [Lapis Lazuli]

*“Rock Crystal” is another name for colourless quartz

Skyjems Emerald

Skyjems Opal

Click here to see our beautiful selection of emeralds, the birthstone for May!

Click here for our breathtaking assortment of opals – October's birthstone!

Since 1937, both of these lists have changed. In 1957, the Jewellery Industry Council of America amended the American list by adding alexandrite as a birthstone for June and citrine as a birthstone for November, while modifying October to cite pink tourmaline as the specific variety of tourmaline to be used as an October birthstone. At some point in the 20th century, sardonyx was removed from the American list and zircon was added as a birthstone for December. The American Gem Trade Association added tanzanite to the American list in 2002 as a birthstone for December, and in 2016 added spinel to the list as a birthstone for August in collaboration with the Jewellers of America (formerly the National Association of Jewellers). The inclusion of stones labeled as ‘alternative birthstones’ on this list also eventually changed, and all stones used in the American list are now considered ‘official’. The list used in Britain by the National Association of Goldsmiths has received modifications since its original development as well.

Below are the U.S. and UK birthstone lists as of 2016 and 2013 respectively:

Month

 

U.S. Birthstone (2016)

 

UK Birthstone (2013)

[‘Alternative Stones’ in Brackets]

January

Garnet

Garnet

February

Amethyst

Amethyst

March

Aquamarine, Bloodstone

Aquamarine, [Bloodstone]

April

Diamond

Diamond, [Rock Crystal]

May

Emerald

Emerald, [Chrysoprase]

June

Pearl, Moonstone, Alexandrite

Pearl, [Moonstone]

July

Ruby

Ruby, [Carnelian]

August

Peridot, Spinel

Peridot, [Sardonyx]

September

Sapphire

Sapphire, [Lapis Lazuli]

October

Opal, Pink Tourmaline

Opal

November

Topaz, Citrine

Topaz

December

Turquoise, Zircon, Tanzanite

Tanzanite, [Turquoise]

With such a nuanced history, the lack of a single definitive list of birthstones is not surprising. Fortunately this means everyone has a significant number of options when choosing a birthstone. These birthstone lists and the practices that surround them have even been modified to produce birthstone lists for the day of the week, time of day, and even simply the season in which a person was born. 

In the next part of this series, discover other birthstone lists and which stones may match other elements of your birth date. 

Skyjems Garnet

Skyjems Amethyst

Click here to see our gorgeous collection of garnets – January's birthstone!

We have an incredible selection of Amethysts, February's birthstone. Click here to have a look!


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