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Tuesday, March 2, 2010


It's the beginning of March and I've decided to start a new birthstone post that will run at the beginning of each month with some information guessed it---birthstones. Today's will be about birthstones in general but tomorrow I'll give you some information on aquamarine, the March birthstone. As it happens it's my birthstone as well (not that I own one personally---well no wait, I DO own a lot of stones personally--I mean not that I wear one personally).

The birthstone lists do have some attachment to ancient history. There are biblical references from as early as the 1st and 2nd centuries that mention them. There are also very early astrological birthstone lists. Twelve is an important number in human life and twelve stones representing various things pops up a fair amount in ancient times.

Modern birthstone lists, however, are pretty much a marketing tool. They have been changed repeatedly, and often the lists bear no resemblance to the original ancient texts. Even recently there have been additions made to the lists. Also the astrological birthstone lists tend to have a lot of overlapping of months, further complicating the issue. The generally accepted birthstone list currently in use looks something like this:

January: Garnet

February: Amethyst

March: Aquamarine

April: Diamond

May: Emerald

June: Pearl, Moonstone, or Alexandrite

July: Ruby

August: Peridot

September: Sapphire

October: Opal or Tourmaline

November: Citrine or Topaz

December: Turquoise, Lapis Lazuli, or the newest, recent addition of Tanzanite

In ancient birthstone lists there were often other stones, agate, sard, etc. that were mentioned. Some of these no one is truly clear on what was even meant since early man used to call a lot of gem materials by different names or wrong names (most of the largest "rubies" in the Crown Jewels collection in London turned out to be spinels). Additionally they didn't even start the calendar with the same months as we use today. But the list above is generally what's acceptable today (unless you want to use your astrological list and then you have another whole set of parameters).

Personally I think birthstones are fun but somewhat problematic. Their most common use seems to be in birthstone rings for mothers. Now this is a great idea in theory but the problem is that if you have a bunch of kids you have to put all of these different colors of stones into one piece of jewelry. Frankly, most mother's rings I have seen (and even a few I have had to make) are pretty ugly because of the color combinations necessary. No matter what you do if you try to put a peridot next to an emerald next to an amethyst it's just not going to be attractive. It may represent all of those babies you've had but it's just ugly. Now with the more prevalent use of rings with stones that go all the way around a ring, it might be a little easier to combine some of these colors (four different colors placed equally around a ring won't be right next to each other and resolve some of the issues), but it is still usually a problem.

My personal solution for this quandary is to do a mother's bracelet. Make a charm style bracelet (check out my wife's here) and do it with charms that have the birthstones necessary. They aren't all right next to each other, you can space colors that don't go well together farther apart, and frankly they are a lot more fun! Of course if you only have one or two kids it may not be necessary to do something like this, but I urge people with multiple children to look at this as an alternative.

Tomorrow's posting will be on March's birthstone aquamarine. The picture up top is courtesy of the AGTA. For those of you who don't know who they are, they are the American Gem Trade Association and their goal is to promote the sale and use of colored gemstones in an ethical manner. Click on their name here if you want to learn more about them. And yes I am a member.

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