For centuries, gemstones of all colours, sizes and shapes have bedazzled pieces of jewellery and objets d’art as symbols of beauty and status. And for just as long, superstitious wearers have believed in the ability of stones to provide healing powers and influence personality traits. Modern birthstones, which were first standardized by the Jewelers of America in 1912, continue the tradition of bestowing the wearer with protection and positive energy, and make a wonderful keepsake for a child, teen or adult.
When purchasing a birthstone gift that you hope will stand the test of time, Toronto jewellery designer Erin Tracy suggests choosing a classic design and skipping plated costume jewellery in favour of quality stones and solid yellow or white gold. She also recommends considering the size of the item. “Will the necklace or bracelet still fit in 10 years?” she asks. “I love delicate necklaces for this type of gift because they can always be layered with existing necklaces and there are so many fun ways to incorporate birthstones.” Rings, on the other hand, should only be bought for adults when you know the correct ring size.
If you’re on a budget, Tracy recommends choosing a small, delicate bauble and “a few smaller stones, which are always less expensive than a single large stone and can still be very pretty and sparkly.”
Chatelaine kids’ bracelet, $450, davidyurman.com
Sometimes mistaken for rubies, garnets are lesser-known gems most commonly found in shades of violet red or deep burgundy—though they’re available in almost every colour and at a variety of price points. According to the Canadian Jewellers Association, garnet was once believed to offer guidance in the dark of night and represents faith, constancy and truth. When purchasing a garnet, or any coloured gemstone, Tracy recommends looking at the richness of the hue. “Sometimes if stones are cut very thin, they don’t have the same depth of colour,” she notes.
Amethyst swirl frame stud earrings, $399, peoplesjewellers.com
The birthstone of February babies, amethyst is a regal purple stone that ranges in shade from lilac to eggplant. The name originates from the Greek word améthystos, which means “not intoxicating,” as amethysts were believed to prevent drunkenness, insomnia, headaches and other ailments. Though relatively durable, amethysts are more prone to scratches than some harder stones and may fade with exposure to heat and sunshine. Lucky for those on the hunt for birthstone jewellery, many vibrant, well-cut amethysts are available at a moderate price.
Stud earrings, $529, michaelhill.ca
The aquamarine gemstone was named after the Latin term for seawater, “aqua marina,” thanks to its hue. Intense blue aquamarines are very rare, which means they also come with a hefty price tag, while pale blue varieties are much easier to come by. According to folklore, the stone protects sailors on open water and represents youth, hope and courage. Though part of the beryl family, just like emeralds, aquamarines are less brittle and more durable than delicate emerald gems.
Bar necklace, $680, erintracy.ca
Exceptionally hard and strong, diamonds are known for their longevity—making them the stone of choice for marriage proposals since Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioned a diamond ring for his bride in 1477. Their natural durability means they’ve also come to symbolize strength, balance and abundance. When looking for quality, always consider the four Cs: cut, colour, clarity and carat. Cut is the most important factor, as it will enhance the diamond’s sparkle, followed by colour. The less colouring in the diamond, the higher the grade. That said, pink, yellow, blue and green diamonds have all been found in nature and can be incredibly expensive due to their rarity.
Coveted emerald ring, $275, melanieauld.ca
May’s birthstone is the brilliant green emerald. It’s a rare gem that, at its best, looks like fresh-cut green grass with a hint of blue. Though emeralds have a high number of inclusions, which makes them prone to chipping, they’re still one of the world’s most coveted stones. The finest varieties come from Colombia and are a symbol of rebirth. Supposedly, they also sharpen the intellect and provide the wearer with excellent foresight.
Pearl bracelet with silver studs, $295, maisonbirks.com
Soft, luminescent orbs that grow within freshwater and saltwater mollusks, pearls are a unique type of gem formed in water—not underground. Natural pearls are a rarity, so most pearl jewellery is made from cultured pearls, which are created by seeding a mollusk with a round item that the mollusk then coats with nacre. Pearls are also extremely delicate and easy to scratch, chip or damage with acidic substances. They’re a symbol of purity and virtue and, according to the International Gem Society, ancient lore mythologized white pearls as tears shed by the gods. Alternative June birthstones are moonstone and alexandrite.
July necklace, $330, mejuri.com
The bright red ruby is July’s birthstone and is a member of the corundum gemstone family along with sapphires. As one of the hardest gemstones available, it is easily wearable and resistant to scratches. The ruby ranges in colour from cool blue-red to warm yellow-red and is the stone of love and passion. It was once thought to rekindle desire and end arguments between loved ones.
Showcase stackable peridot ring, $740, ecksand.com
Traditionally a deep chartreuse hue, peridot beautifully accentuates the warmth of yellow gold. It’s considered a stone of friendship and acts as a charm to ward off envy, depression and fear. Since peridot measures 6.5 to 7 on Mohs scale of mineral hardness (diamond is 10 and ruby and sapphire are 9), it is one of the cut stones that’s most prone to scratches and breaks.
Star earring, $180 per earring, myeldesign.com
Sapphires were first discovered in Sri Lanka and Kashmir and are now found around the world including Australia and Turkey. “Although we think of the traditional blue when we think of sapphires, they actually come in a whole array of colours,” says Tracy. “Sapphires are durable and also have a really nice sparkle to them if they’re cut well.” When poorly cut, they can appear overly dark. This precious stone symbolizes truth, sincerity and constancy.
Wwake opal Arc necklace, $672, nordstom.com
Unique among the birthstones, opal is not a single hue but instead, it flashes an array of colours on a creamy white or grey background. According to the Canadian Institute of Gemology, the opal is composed of hydrated silica spheres that interfere with light to create a rainbow effect. The more brilliant and varied the colours, the more expensive the gem. Favoured by Queen Victoria, opals can be a symbol of good luck.
Tourmaline is an alternate October birthstone and is one of Tracy’s favourites. “It can either be a deep pink or deep forest green,” she says. “It’s a durable stone and has such a vibrant colour.”
Citrine stud earrings, $266, bluenile.com
An affordable substitute for November’s other birthstone, topaz, citrine is a yellow or amber stone and is often created by heat-treating purple amethyst. It has a softer colour and lesser brilliance than topaz, but it still looks stunning alongside white or yellow gold. Thanks to its sunny hue, citrine is said to make the wearer happy and hopeful by promoting creativity and eliminating harmful habits.
Concerto blue topaz and sterling silver tennis bracelet, $340, thebay.com
December: Blue topaz
Similar in appearance to aquamarine, though more affordable, blue topaz is a silicate mineral most famously found in Brazil. Natural blue topaz is quite rare, so most of the blue topaz made into sparkling baubles today is produced by heat-treating colourless topaz to make two different shades: Swiss blue (bright and cheerful) and London blue (dark and moody). The stone represents love and fidelity and was historically thought to promote patience in the wearer. Other affordable birthstones for December include turquoise, tanzanite and blue zircon.