Birthstones

Birthstones

These gems have life in them:  their colors speak, say what words fail of.  ~George Eliot

A birthstone is a gemstone that is said to represent a specific birth month. Gemstones have long been thought to contain meaning and power and these properties are said to be accentuated when worn by someone born in the corresponding month.

The idea of birthstones is thought to have been inspired by the story of Aaron in Exodus who wore twelve gemstones in his breastplate representing the twelve tribes of Israel. These twelve gemstones came later to represent the twelve months of the year in popular culture.

The allocations of birthstones have fluctuated throughout history and vary according to region, country and source. There is also debate concerning the names of gemstones throughout history and how these relate to the gems we know today (obviously, there are no lab records so we cannot always verify which precise gemstone was being referred to).

According to the American Gemological Association, the following are the agreed upon birthstones. These allocations have been consistent since 1912, with Tanzanite being recently added for December. In brackets beneath some of these, I have put some other even more traditional correlating stones.

JANUARY

Garnet

FEBRUARY

Amethyst

(Pearl)

MARCH

Aquamarine

(Bloodstone or Red, Yellow, Orange or Brown Zircon possibly referred to as Jacinth or Hyacinth in ancient times).

APRIL

Diamond

MAY

Emerald

JUNE

Pearl  

Alexandrite

(Agate or Cat’s Eye)

JULY

Ruby

(Coral)

AUGUST

Peridot
Sardonyx
Spinel

(Moonstone)

SEPTEMBER

Sapphire

(Chrysolite)

OCTOBER

Tourmaline
Opal

NOVEMBER

Topaz
Citrine

DECEMBER

Turquoise
Tanzanite
Zircon

Please also see my previous post ‘The Language of Stones’ where I discuss the tradition of ‘acrostic’ jewellery.

© Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

The Language of Stones

Gem set ‘regard’ brooch, Early 19th century

Sotheby’s Lot 76, The Jewelry Collection of the Late Michael Wellby

Another lovely trend in the Georgian and Victorian eras was ‘acrostic’ jewelry. Acrostic jewelry was a beautifully subtle and poetic way of sending a sentimental message by way of the first letter of each stone, the first letter of which spelled out a word. Acrostic jewelry was a product of an era in love with poetry, when word play, coded messages and subtle verbal games fascinated the populace.

The simple yet intelligent designs of acrostic jewelry captured the imagination and made wonderful gifts for friends and lovers. Acrostic rings were particularly popular items and ‘Regards’ rings were even given as engagement rings during the Victorian era.  During the Georgian years, padlocks with keys or hearts were often worn as pendants or brooches.

Acrostic jewelry is believed to have first been invented in Paris in the 1809 by Jean-Baptiste Mellerio (1765-1850), jeweler to the French aristocracy. The fashion soon took off also in England and America but remained especially popular in France.  It is said that fashionable French women even wore particular stones whose beginning letters corresponded to the names of the weeks. Empress Marie Louise had three acrostic bracelets made by the jewelers Chaumet with messages of love between herself and Napoleon.

It’s important, when you come across a piece of antique jewelry with an arrangement of colored stones, to question whether there is a message being conveyed by way of the names of the stones.  Sometimes, this might be quite difficult to interpret, especially if the piece comes from a non-English speaking country, so this is definitely something to be aware of. Also, certain stones have changed their names; for example the word for garnet used to be ‘vermeil’.

A few of the popular acrostic messages in jewelry were:

Dear

Diamond. Emerald. Amethyst or  Aquamarine.  Ruby.

Dearest

Diamond. Emerald. Amethyst or  Aquamarine.  Ruby. Emerald. Sapphire. Tourmaline.

Regards

Ruby. Emerald. Garnet. Amethyst. Diamond.

(The word ‘regards’ had a much deeper and more passionate meaning in times past than we ascribe to it today.)

Seed pearl and Gem set ‘regard’ brooch/ pendant, Early 19th Century
Sotheby’s Lot 74 The Jewelry Collection of the Late Michael Wellby

Je t’aime

Jet, Emerald, Topaz, Amethyst, Iolite, Malachite, Emerald.

Friend

Fluorite. Ruby. Indicolite. Emerald. Nephrite. Diamond.

Love

Lapis Luzuli. Opal. Vermeil. Emerald.

Pendant

England, c. 1830
Pendant, gold with lapis lazuli, glass in imitation of opal, garnet, emerald and gold.
Here, the pendant has the stones of Lapis Lazuli, glass in imitation of Opal, Vermeil ( the old name for garnet ) and Emerald which spell LOVE.
V&A Museum

Adore

Amethyst. Diamond. Opal. Ruby. Emerald.

Sources / resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrostic

http://www.jewelrymakingdaily.com/blogs/daily/archive/2012/08/08/the-language-of-gemstones-acrostic-jewelry-says-it-all-in-diamonds-rubies-emeralds-sapphires.aspx

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Regard_Ring

http://books.google.de/books?id=bmArl2_dDZwC&pg=PA35&lpg=PA35&dq=acrostic+jewelry&source=bl&ots=qmd0HegA3z&sig=rOOLa0wSrOOtzgXo73ZoigxhZYQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=xcMXUYLfBKeC4ATOo4GwDA&ved=0CHkQ6AEwDg#v=onepage&q=acrostic%20jewelry&f=false

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Louise,_Duchess_of_Parma

http://m.chaumet.com/collection/432/univers