Birthstone Myths and Legends

By John Inmon

http://www.emporia.edu/earthsci/amber/go340/students/inmon


Throughout the centuries, mankind has assigned special properties to inanimate objects and called them lucky charms and talismans. These objects are seen as a means of control in an uncertain world. Gemstones have often filled this roll in the human experience.
This webpage project was created for a Gemstones and Gemology course in April of 2004 at Emporia State University. The main focus of this page is the myths and legends that surround birthstones.

January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
Sources



January

The birthstone for January is garnet. Traditionally it is given on the 2nd and 6th wedding anniversary. This gem is said to stop bleeding and to protect the wearer from poisoning and illnesses of the blood (source 1). Garnet was even believed to prevent bloodshed between enemies and perhaps if you paid them enough no harm would come! It is also considered the gem of faith and truth (source 1).


Almandite garnet.
Picture taken from
http://www.gemhut.com/garnet.htm.

Return to the birthstone list.

February

Amethyst is the birthstone for February. It is typically given on the 6th and 17th wedding anniversaries. Leonardo Da Vinci thought this gem could "dissipate evil thoughts and quicken the intelligence" (source 2). This lead to a belief that it represented celibacy and symbolize piety (source 2). This fact made it very popular in the Catholic Church at the time. It was even said to ward off drunkenness (source 2). It also represents the astrological sign of Pisces.


Amethyst
Picture taken from
http://www.gemstone.org/
gem-by-gem/english/amethyst.html
.

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March

Aquamarine is the March birthstone that is given on the 16th and 19th wedding anniversaries (source 1). It has a deep blue color which has lead to an association with the sea and water. Early sailors carved the stone into small amulets of the god Neptune and believed this would protect them from danger while they where at sea (source 3). It was also submerged in water for medicinal purposes. This water was believed to be endowed with power from the stone, and have the medicinal use of reversing poison, and healing ailments of the heart, liver, stomach, mouth and throat (source 3). When aquamarine is given to someone, it is said to represent safety and security (source 3).


Aquamarine
Picture taken from
http://www.gemhut.com/aqua.htm

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April

The birthstone for April is for those with expensive tastes, the diamond. Today we are told that diamonds represent love, however it has not always been this way. The Greeks and the Romans explained diamonds by stories of "tears of the Gods" or by "splinters from falling stars" (source 4). Cupids' arrows where even said to be tipped with them (source 4). This may be the root of the idea that diamonds represent love today. The Romans also believed diamond gave the "wearer strength, invincibility, bravery, and courage during battle" (source 4). The Hindus believed diamonds where a result of lightning striking rock. Diamonds were even touched on all four corners of a house or garden to protect from lightning (source 4).


Diamond
Picture taken from
http://www.bestgem.com/
diamonds.asp?path=1&cat=1
.

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May

May carries the birthstone known as emerald. Emerald has a deep green hue and represents spring and new birth. It is no surprise that to the Romans this gem represented fertility and rebirth (source 5). The Egyptians buried emerald with there Pharos because they believed it had the power of eternal youth (source 5). The stone is also said to represent wisdom, growth, and patience (source 5). A gift of emerald represents love and fidelity (source 5).


Emerald
Picture taken from
http://www.gemstone.org/
gem-by-gem/english/emerald.html
.

Return to the birthstone list.

June

The birthstone for June is pearl, and it is given on the 3rd, 12th and 30th anniversaries (source 1). Freshwater pearls are given on the first anniversary. Arabian legend say pearls are drops of the moon that the oyster has fallen in love with (source 6). The Chinese believed that the pearl came from the brain of a dragon (source 6). Pearls are also said to represent purity (source 6).


Pearl
Picture taken from
http://www.mysticgames.com/
gems/Pearl.htm
.

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July

Ruby, which represents devotion, desire and passion, is the birthstone for this month (source 7). It is said to be an antidote to poison, and was a stone of prophecy. The stone was supposed to darken when you were in danger (source 7). When rubbed on the skin a ruby is thought to restore youth and vitality (source 7). The gift for the fifteenth and fortieth wedding anniversaries is ruby (source 7).


Ruby
Picture taken from
http://tarot.mysticgames.com/
gems/Ruby.htm
.

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August

August's birthstone, peridot is usually given on the 16th wedding anniversary (source 1). The Egyptians called it the gem of the sun and thought it cured diseases of the heart. It was searched for at night because of a belief that the moonlight made it easier to see (source 1). Powers attributed to peridot include: protection from negativity, a health aid for the entire body, a stress reducer, a relaxant, and a fever reducer (source 1). Powdered peridot is said to cure asthma (source 1).


Peridot
Picture provided from
http://www.bernardine.com/
birthstone/peridot.htm
.

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September

For the month of September, the sapphire is the birthstone and traditionally given on the 5th, 23rd and 45th wedding anniversaries, with a star sapphire given on the 65th (source 1). The deep blue of this sapphire lead to the belief that the world sat on a giant sapphire and the color of the sky was merely a reflection of this gem (source 8). Sapphire was considered a cure for poison. It was said that a poisonous snake, put into a sapphire container would soon shrivel and dye (source 8). It was also attributed the powers of: protection against envy, cure colic, rheumatism, mental illness, and strengthen eyesight (source 8). Sapphire given as a gift represents sincerity and faithfulness.


Sapphire
Picture taken from
http://www.swdgems.com/
main.htm
.

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October

October’s birthstone is opal. It is considered unlucky in some cultures due to its brittle nature (source 7). This may explain why it is traditionally given on the 13th wedding anniversary (source 1). In stark contrast, Asian cultures believe it to be a gem of hope (source 7). Aborigines of Australia believe opal was left behind by an ancestor as a sign of his or her presents. They also believe that fire came from opal (source 1). Opal as a gift is said to mean faithfulness and confidence.


Opal
Picture taken from
http://www.australianopals.com/
home.html
.

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November

A birthstone for November, citrine, is the gift for the 17th wedding anniversaries (source 1). Because of its scarcity, not as many myths surround this gem (source 10). It was however believed to ward off evil thoughts and snake venom as well as cure urinary and kidney ailments (source 10).


Citrine
Picture taken from
http://www.justgemstones.com/
natural_citrine.html
.

Return to the birthstone list.

December

The birthstone for December, turquoise, is the gift for the 5th and the 11th wedding anniversary (source 1). Turquoise promotes mental and spiritual clarity, expansion, enhance wisdom, trust, kindness and understanding (source 1). In the orient, turquoise was said to ward off all evil things (source 11). Indians used it to guard burial sights as well as signified the god of the sky (source 11). Properties attributed to turquoise include relax the mind and relieve mental tensions, calming the emotions and easing stress (source 11).


Turquoise
Picture taken from
http://www.bernardine.com/
birthstone/turquoise.htm
.

Return to the birthstone list.


Sources

Source 1. Bernardine Fine Art Jewelry, Fine Gemstone Jewelyy In Gold and Silver, World Wide Web URL:
http://www.bernardine.com//birthstone/index.htm, and specifically for garnet, http://www.bernardine.com//birthstone/garnet.htm; specifically for aquamarine, http://www.bernardine.com/gemstones/aquamarine.htm; specifically for pearl, http://www.bernardine.com/birthstone/pearl.htm; specifically for peridot, http://www.bernardine.com/birthstone/peridot.htm; specifically for sapphire, http://www.bernardine.com/birthstone/sapphire.htm; specifically for opal, http://www.bernardine.com/birthstone/opal.htm; specifically for citrine, http://www.bernardine.com/birthstone/citrine.htm; specifically for turquoise, http://www.bernardine.com/birthstone/turquoise.htm. Retrieved on April 22, 2004.

Source 2. Gemsbrokers, Amethyst, World Wide Web URL: http://www.gemsbrokers.org/english/amethyst/myths.htm Retrieved on April 22, 2004

Source 3. About Birthstones, March Birthstone World Wide Web URL: http://www.about-birthstones.com/marchbirthstone.html Retrieved on April 23, 2004

Source 4.Gemsbrokers, Diamond, World Wide Web URL: http://www.gemsbrokers.org/english/diamond/myths.ht Retrieved on April 23 2004.

Source 5. About Birthstones, May Birthstone World Wide Web URL: http://www.about-birthstones.com/maybirthstone.html Retrieved on April 23, 2004

Source 6. About Birthstones, June Birthstone World Wide Web URL: http://www.about-birthstones.com/junebirthstone.html Retrieved on April 23 2004.

Source 7. Tiaraonline, Birthstones, World Wide Web URL: http://www.tiaraonline.co.uk/birthstones.htm Retrieved on April 23 2004

Source 8. About Birthstones, September Birthstone, World Wide Web URL: http://www.about-birthstones.com/Septemberbirthstone.html Retrieved on April 23 2004.

Source 9. About Birthstones, october Birthstone, World Wide Web URL: http://www.about-birthstones.com/octoberbirthstone.html Retrieved on April 23 2004.

Source 10. About birthstones, November birthstone: Citrine, World Wide Web URL: http://www.about-birthstones.com/novemberbirthstone.html. Retrieved on April 23, 2004.

Source 11. Designer Jewelry by Jan McClellan, Turquoise, World Wide Web URL: http://www.designjewel.com/turq4.htm Retrieved on April 23, 2004.


Return to the GO340 student webpages.

This page went online April 27, 2004. Last update 2 May, 2004. For questions and comments email the author at j_inmon@yahoo.com.