Tradition associates a gem with each sign of the zodiac based on a color system. Color was thought to unleash the power attributed to the gemstone.
In time, birthstones became associated with calendar months rather than the zodiac and people began to select birthstones in colors other than the original.
The Roman, Arabic, Jewish, Polish, Russian and Italian lists were all different.
The following list of birthstones, which is the one commonly used today, was adopted in 1912 by the American National Association of Jewelers, which later evolved into the Jewelers of America.
Garnet is a beautiful gemstone, bursting with fire and brilliance. Most recognizable as glossy pomegranate red, it is found in every color to match everything in your wardrobe and complement any style. This gem is a favorite of connoisseurs, who can't resist adding more garnet to their collection. There are garnets that change color in different light, translucent green garnets that look like jade, and garnets with stars. In addition, garnets are durable, all natural, and generally affordable.
Amethyst is an ideal gemstone for jewelry because of its royal color, variety of sizes and shapes, affordability, and wide tonal range, from pale lavender to dark purple. Amethyst complements both warm and cool colors so it looks great set in both yellow and white metals. This chameleon quality means it complements almost every color in your wardrobe.
A gem whose name means sea water, Aquamarine captures the beauty of the sea. This member of the beryl family, which also include emerald, is found in a range of pastel blue and greenish blue shades, from the palest hint to a deep sky blue. The elegant icy color looks as fresh with earth tones as with other paste shades. And it is the perfect accompaniment to grey and navy.
So brilliant, they were once thought to be fallen stars, diamonds are the ideal gift for a loved one. Thought to be one of the hardest substances on the globe, diamonds date back billions of years. Traditionally most desired as colorless, fancy-colored diamonds are enjoying a surge of popularity, and come in a wide range of colors such as black, blue, green, pink, red, purple, orange and yellow.
The supreme green color of emerald has a timeless appeal - Cleopatra, Egypt's tempestuous monarch was famous for wearing emeralds in her time, as Liz Taylor, the actress who played her in a 1969 movie, is for wearing them in ours. Because of the rich green color of emerald is the color of spring, it has long symbolized love and rebirth. Emerald is most often cut in a rectangular step-cut, which is now popularly known as the emerald cut. Due to their rich color, emeralds are also spectacular when cut in a smooth-domed cabochon cut.
Pearls are unique in that they are the only gems from living creatures. They require no faceting or polishing to reveal their natural beauty. They are truly a gift from the sea.
Pearls have long been a favorite adornment. Jacqueline Onassis, Princess Grace Kelley and Audrey Hepburn are a few of the timeless beauties who loved wearing classic strands of pearls or traditional pearl earings.
Throughout most of recorded history, Ruby had been the world's most valued gemstone. Ruby is the epitome of the boldest of colors: the gem of desire, passion, courage, and emotion. In the ancient language of Sanskrit, ruby is called ratnaraj, or "king of precious stones."
The fresh lime green of Peridot is its distinctive signature. Its spring green color also is ideal with sky blue. The beauty of Peridot is a result of extreme conditions - Peridot is found in the rocks created by volcanoes and even in meteors that fall to earth. A few samples of extra-terrestrial Peridot have been faceted into gems.
Sapphire provides the most beautiful blues of the gem kingdom. The ancient Persians believed the earth rests on a giant sapphire. Its reflection, they said, made the sky blue. But Sapphire doesn't have to be blue to be beautiful. Sapphire also comes in beautiful pinks, yellows, oranges, peach and violet colors. The most sought-after color of Sapphire is the rare and beautiful padparadscha - a pink-orange corundum with a distinctive salmon color reminiscent of a tropical sunset.
A beautiful Opal is one of the kind: a natural artwork with a unique pattern of rainbow flashes of color unlike any other. It's as individual as your personality. You my prefer an opal that serenely glows with pinpoint flashes of the blues and greens of the sea and sky. Or you may fall in love with a gem that flashes broad patterns of red and yellow, with all the bright festivity of carnival in Rio.
Opal value is based on the amount and distribution of play of color. The ideal is broad patterns covering the surface of the stone, with all the colors of the spectrum represented. But opals are the most individual of gems, and personal taste in color and pattern should guide your selection.
For centuries, many people in India have believed that Topaz worn above the heart assures long life, beauty, and intelligence.
Many know topaz as a blue gem, however, the blue color of the gems is often caused by treatment. Topaz has an exceptionally wide natural color range that, besides brown, includes various tones and saturation of blue, yellow, orange, red, pink, and purple.
Topaz is also pleochroic, meaning that the gem can show different colors in different crystal directions.
Tanzanite is an ideal complement to all the rich blues, purples, and green in your wardrobe, but the velvety depths of this gem are also beautiful worn with earth tones, from chocolates to rusts and golds.
Tanzanites with a color that is more blue than purple tend to be more expensive because the crystal tend to form with the blue color axis oriented along the width of the crystal instead of the length. That means that if the cutter chooses to maximize the purity of the blue color, the stone cut from the rough will be smaller and will cost more per carat. The blue color, however, is so beautiful that the sacrifice is often worth it.