What are birthstones?
Birthstones are gemstones that are associated with a particular month of the year and which some people believe have special properties that benefit the wearer.
The tradition of birthstones dates back to ancient times, and different cultures have associated different gemstones with different months.
Some people wear a piece of jewellery with their birthstone to symbolise their birth month, while others may give a piece of jewellery with the recipient's birthstone as a gift. If you're considering getting engaged, at Ingle & Rhode, we specialise in creating beautiful gemstone engagement rings set with birthstones, so please do feel free to get in touch if you'd like to discuss how we could help you.
Overview of all the birthstones
In the modern Western tradition, the birthstones for each month are as follows:
|January||Garnet||Various||6.5 to 7.5|
|March||Aquamarine||Light blue||7.5 to 8|
|May||Emerald||Green||7.5 to 8|
|2.5 to 4.5|
6 to 6.5
6.5 to 7
|5.5 to 6.5|
7 to 7.5
|Blue to purple|
|6.5 to 7|
5 to 6
6.5 to 7.5
The Mohs scale of hardness
The hardness of gemstones is measured on the Mohs scale from 1 (softest) to 10 (hardest). Diamond is the hardest gem (indeed the hardest known material of any kind) and scores 10.
The Mohs scale is logarithmic, meaning that diamond at 10 is roughly ten times harder than sapphire and ruby at 9, which are in turn approximately ten times harder than spinel and topaz at 8, and so on.
The hardness of gemstones is important because harder stones stand up better to wear and tear. As a rule, rings typically experience much more wear and tear than earrings and necklaces, so setting the softer birthstones into engagement rings is unwise.
The January birthstone: Garnet
Garnets are found in various colours, including red, orange, yellow, green, purple, brown, black, and even colourless. The most valuable garnets are those with a deep, rich colour and high clarity.
Garnets score between 6.5 and 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, making them suitable for use in jewellery. However, they are relatively soft gemstones and should be treated carefully to avoid scratching or chipping.
Some believe garnets offer protection, shielding the wearer from injury, and red garnets are also associated with love.
Garnets are found in several different countries, but at Ingle & Rhode, we offer only traceable, ethical garnets sourced from responsible producers in the US, India, Tanzania and Mozambique, which we set in custom-made engagement rings.
The February birthstone: Amethyst
Amethyst is a type of quartz known for its beautiful violet colour, which ranges from light lilac to deep, rich purple.
Amethyst scores 7 on the Mohs scale for hardness, meaning it is tough enough for engagement rings, but should be treated with care since it can become scratched or chipped relatively easily.
Some people believe that amethyst has healing properties, so it is sometimes used in alternative medicine. Some think it can help reduce stress and improve sleep, and some believe it can purify the mind and spirit.
Amethyst is found in many different parts of the world, but at Ingle & Rhode, we source only traceable, ethical amethysts from responsible suppliers in the US and Sri Lanka.
The March birthstone: Aquamarine
Aquamarine is a variety of beryl (as are emerald and alexandrite) with its name coming from the Latin "aqua," meaning water, and "marina," meaning sea, because of the stone's colour, which is reminiscent of the ocean. Aquamarines are found in a range of shades of light blue, sometimes with a hint of green. The most valuable aquamarines are untreated stones with a good blue colour and high clarity.
In terms of hardness, aquamarines rank between 7.5 and 8 on the Mohs scale, making them relatively durable and suitable for use in engagement rings. However, they are still relatively soft gemstones and should be treated carefully to avoid scratching or chipping.
Aquamarines are said to have calming and soothing properties, and some believe that aquamarines promote marital happiness. Traditionally, these beautiful stones were thought to protect seafarers from danger.
Aquamarines are found in several countries around the world, but at Ingle & Rhode, we offer only traceable, ethical aquamarines from Zambia and Sri Lanka for setting in custom engagement rings.
The April birthstone: Diamond
Diamond is a transparent crystalline form of pure carbon and is the hardest naturally occurring substance on Earth, scoring 10 on the Mohs scale. This makes diamonds exceedingly well-suited to withstand the wear and tear experienced by diamond engagement rings.
Diamonds are found in various colours, not only white but also yellow, pink, blue, green, orange and red. These so-called fancy coloured diamonds are even rarer and more valuable than white diamonds.
Prized for their beauty and durability, the value of a diamond is determined by a set of four criteria known as the 4Cs: carat, colour, clarity and cut.
Carat is a measure of weight equal to 0.2g and so increases with a diamond's size, meaning that the value of a diamond increases with its carat weight.
Colour refers to the saturation of any colour present within a diamond. For white diamonds, the less colour, the better, meaning diamonds that are colourless or nearly colourless are the most valuable. However,
Clarity refers to the presence of imperfections on the surface (blemishes) or within the crystal (inclusions). Diamonds with fewer imperfections are more desirable and, therefore, more valuable.
Cut refers to how a diamond has been faceted and determines a diamond's shape and proportions, which in turn determine how much a diamond will sparkle.
Natural diamonds were formed deep beneath the Earth's surface under high pressure and temperature about two billion years ago and are brought to the surface through volcanic eruptions and "pipes" formed when magma flows upward and cools, forming a tube-like structure. Diamonds are also found in alluvial deposits, created when diamonds are transported by water and deposited in rivers, lakes and the sea.
The May birthstone: Emerald
Emeralds are a beautiful green variety of the mineral beryl, with their colour due to trace amounts of chromium and vanadium in their crystal structure. Most emeralds have natural inclusions (imperfections within the crystal structure), but the most valuable emeralds are a rich green with no visible inclusions.
Much softer than diamonds, sapphires or rubies, emeralds score 7.5 on the Mohs scale, meaning that the lucky owners of emerald engagement rings need to take extra care not to allow their emeralds to get scratched or chipped.
The biggest producers of emeralds are Zambia and Colombia, though they are also found in other countries, including Brazil. At Ingle & Rhode, we source only ethical emeralds from Zambia.
Emeralds have a long and fascinating history, prized for thousands of years across many cultures. To learn more, read Emerald: the May birthstone.
The June birthstones: Pearl and moonstone
Certain types of molluscs, including some oysters and mussels, produce pearls in response to an irritant, such as a grain of sand getting inside the mollusc, causing them to secrete a substance called nacre to cover the irritant. Over time, this process creates a pearl.
There are two main types of pearls: natural pearls and cultured pearls. Natural pearls are formed spontaneously in the wild, without human intervention and are extremely rare and are typically very valuable. Cultured pearls are much more common than natural pearls and are produced on pearl farms, where a small piece of shell or a bead is inserted into the mollusc as an irritant to lead to the creation of a pearl.
The quality of a pearl is determined by its size, shape, colour, lustre, and surface quality. Pearls are typically round or near-round in shape and are found in various colours, including white, black, and shades of pink, yellow, and green. The most highly prized pearls are large, round, and have a high lustre.
Scoring only 2.5 to 4.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, pearls are soft, delicate gems that are not well suited for use in engagement rings. When they have been set in jewellery, they should be stored in a soft, dry place away from heat and sunlight and should not be exposed to harsh chemicals or abrasive surfaces.
Unfortunately, Ingle & Rhode does not have a source of traceable, ethically produced pearls, so these are not gems that we currently offer.
Moonstone is typically colourless or white but can also be found in shades of grey, yellow, pink, green, or blue. It is a variety of the mineral feldspar that exhibits a shimmering, opalescent effect known as "adularescence." This effect is caused by tiny layers of different minerals within the stone, which diffract light as it passes through.
It is a relatively soft gemstone, rating a 6-6.5 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, meaning that extra care needs to be taken if you choose to have a moonstone engagement ring since it can be damaged relatively easily through natural wear and tear.
Moonstone has a long history of use in jewellery and is believed by some to promote emotional balance and creativity.
Moonstone is found in a variety of locations around the world, including Brazil, Madagascar, India, and the United States, but at Ingle & Rhode, we offer only traceable, ethical moonstone sourced from a responsible producer in Sri Lanka.
The July birthstone: Ruby
Ruby has been prized for its beautiful red colour for thousands of years. The most highly sought-after rubies are those that have a rich red colour (described in the trade as "pigeon blood") and without any visible imperfections (inclusions) in the crystal structure.
Formed from the mineral corundum, the gorgeous red colour is caused by trace amounts of chromium in the crystal structure.
Ruby is a hard gemstone, second only to diamond, and scores 9 on the Mohs scale, meaning that ruby engagement rings are well able to withstand normal daily wear and tear.
Historically, the finest rubies came from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), but they are also found in several other countries. Ingle & Rhode sources stunning ethical rubies from Mozambique, Greenland and Tanzania.
Rubies have a long and fascinating history. To learn more, read Ruby: the July birthstone.
The August birthstones: Spinel and peridot
Spinel is found in many beautiful colours, from pink, to red, purple, blue and even black.
The name "spinel" comes from the Latin word "spina," meaning thorn because many spinel crystals have a pointed shape.
Spinel is often found in conjunction with other minerals such as rubies, sapphires, and diamonds and is sometimes mistaken for these more valuable gemstones, although it is a little softer than these more precious gems, with a hardness of 8 on the Mohs scale.
Spinel is believed to have protective and healing properties and is often associated with love and commitment. It is also thought to bring good fortune and success in some cultures.
Spinel is found in several countries around the world, but at Ingle & Rhode, we source our beautiful ethical spinels from socially- and environmentally responsible sources in Sri Lanka and Australia.
Peridot – which should be pronounced as "dot" at the end, rather than "doh" – is formed from the mineral olivine and is typically a bright, olive green colour, although the shade can range from yellow to brownish green.
Peridot is not very hard, rating a 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale, and although it has been used for centuries in jewellery, the wearer should be careful to avoid damage to the gemstone.
Peridot is found in various locations around the world, including China, Myanmar, and Pakistan, but at Ingle & Rhode, we offer only traceable, ethical peridot from responsible sources in the US and Sri Lanka.
Some believe that peridot has various metaphysical properties, including aiding communication and attracting love and abundance.
The September birthstone: Sapphire
Like ruby, sapphire is formed from the mineral corundum. It is commonly thought of as a blue gemstone but is found in various other colours, including yellow, pink, purple, green, and orange. The colour of a sapphire is caused by trace elements present in the mineral, with iron and titanium responsible for blue hues and chromium responsible for pink, purple, and orange.
Sapphire is a relatively hard stone, rating a 9 on the Mohs scale, the same as ruby and second only to diamond. This means that sapphire engagement rings are well able to stand up to normal daily wear and tear.
At Ingle & Rhode, we source stunning, ethical sapphires from responsible sources in Sri Lanka, as well as Australia, Malawi and the US.
To learn more, read Sapphire: the September birthstone.
The October birthstones: Opal and tourmaline
Opals come in a wide range of colours, including white and black, and are known for their unique play of colour, caused by the diffraction of light by tiny silica spheres within the stone. The most valuable opals are those with a strong play of colour and a distinctive pattern.
In terms of hardness, opals rank between 5.5 and 6.5 on the Mohs scale, making them relatively soft and delicate. As a result, they should be treated with care to avoid scratching or chipping and are best suited for use in pendants, earrings, and other types of jewellery that do not experience a lot of wear and tear.
Due to their relative softness and to showcase the play of colour, they are usually cut and polished into cabochons rather than faceted shapes.
Opals are found in several countries around the world, but at Ingle & Rhode, we source only ethically produced opals from responsible sources in Australia, the US and Mexico.
Opals are associated with love and passion and are believed by some to bring good luck and protect the wearer from danger. In some cultures, opals are also thought to have healing properties.
Tourmaline is a versatile gemstone prized for its beauty and durability. Formed from a complex mineral, it is a relatively hard gemstone, scoring 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale, and is found in many colours, including black, brown, green, pink, red, and blue. Some tourmaline crystals are even multicoloured, with different colours visible in different parts of the same crystal.
Tourmaline is found in many parts of the world, including Brazil, parts of Africa, and Afghanistan. At Ingle & Rhode, we source only ethical tourmaline from responsible producers in the United States and Sri Lanka.
Tourmaline is associated with the heart chakra. It is believed to have healing properties and is sometimes used in crystal therapy to promote balance and harmony. Tourmaline is also thought to have grounding and protective properties and is sometimes used to help improve circulation and boost the immune system.
The November birthstones: Topaz and citrine
Topaz comes in various colours, including white, yellow, orange, pink, red, green, blue, and brown. The most common colour is colourless or white, and the rarest is the red imperial topaz.
Topaz is a silicate of aluminium, and unlike many other gemstone varieties, it is not always the presence of impurities in the crystal that give topaz its colour.
Topaz is a relatively hard gemstone, scoring 8 on the Mohs scale, which makes it suitable for use in an engagement ring.
Topaz is found in a variety of locations around the world, but at Ingle & Rhode, we offer only ethical topaz sourced from responsible producers in the United States and Sri Lanka.
Some believe topaz aids communication, enhances creativity and promotes love and good fortune.
Citrine is a form of quartz and is typically yellow to orange in colour but can also be found in shades of brown or pink. The colour is caused by trace elements of iron within the mineral.
Citrine is relatively soft, scoring 7 on the Mohs scale, meaning that extra care must be taken if setting citrine in an engagement ring to ensure it does not become scratched or chipped.
Citrine is found in several countries around the world, including Brazil, Madagascar, Spain, and the United States. At Ingle & Rhode, we offer only ethical citrine sourced from responsible producers in Sri Lanka.
Some believe that citrine promotes prosperity and abundance and aids in creativity and self-expression.
The December birthstones: Tanzanite, turquoise and zircon
Tanzanite is a form of zoisite known for its beautiful blue-to-violet colour, although it can also be found in shades of brown or yellow. The presence of trace amounts of vanadium within the mineral causes the colour.
Tanzanite is often found in large crystals, usually without any significant inclusions, but almost all Tanzanite is heated to improve its colour.
Tanzanite was discovered in 1967 in the Mererani Hills of Tanzania, and this remains the only location in the world where Tanzanite is found.
Tanzanite is relatively soft, rating a 6.5-7 on the Mohs scale, meaning that it scratches and breaks relatively easily, so great care should be taken of it to be used for engagement rings or daily wear jewellery.
Turquoise is composed of a hydrous phosphate of copper and aluminium and is typically a blue-to-green colour but can also be found in shades of yellow, white, or red. The colour is caused by the presence of copper within the mineral.
Turquoise is relatively soft, rating a 5-6 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, making it unsuitable for use in engagement rings. Due to its softness, it is usually polished into smooth cabochons rather than being faceted.
It is found in a variety of locations around the world, including the United States, Mexico, China, and Iran.
Some believe that turquoise aids communication and promotes wisdom and balance.
Zircon is composed of zirconium silicate and is typically colourless or pale yellow but can also be found in shades of red, orange, green, blue, and brown. The presence of trace elements within the mineral causes the colour.
Zircon is relatively hard, rating a 7.5 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness.
It is found in a variety of locations around the world, including Australia, Cambodia, Russia, and the United States. At Ingle & Rhode, we offer only ethical zircon, sourced from responsible producers in Sri Lanka.
Some believe that zircon promotes wisdom and prosperity and enhances spiritual growth.
While zircon and the diamond simulant cubic zirconia have similar appearances and names and are often mistakenly believed to be the same gemstone, the two do not share the same chemistry or crystal structure.