Birthday/Birthday gift symbolism

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Birthstones

A birthstone is a gift of a precious material (jewelry, mainly gemstones; themselves traditionally associated with various qualities) that symbolizes the month of birth (in the Gregorian Calendar).

It is sometimes also called birthday stone (cf. infra; but that word is, confusingly, sometimes used as a synonym for an anniversary gift, which is related to the recipient's age, that is, year of birth).

There have been many different sets of birthstones used throughout history and in different cultures. In 1912, in an effort to standardize them, the American national association of jewelers, Jewelers of America, officially adopted the following list; it is currently the most widely used list in the United States and many other locations, including Australia and Thailand. Some alternates have been adopted to be a less expensive substitute for a cut stone.

Month Birthstone Alternate
January Garnet Rose Quartz
February Amethyst Onyx
March Aquamarine Red Jasper (Bloodstone)
April Diamond Rock Crystal (Quartz)
May Emerald Chrysoprase
June Pearl (the only non-mineral) Moonstone
July Ruby Jade or Carnelian
August Peridot Aventurine, Sardonyx, or Sapphire
September Sapphire Lapis lazuli
October Opal Pink Tourmaline
November Yellow Topaz Citrine or Turquoise
December Blue Zircon Turquoise, Lapis Lazuli or Tanzanite

Tanzanite was added to December by the American Gem Trade Association in 2002.

The birthstone seems to originate from Biblical times. The Breastplate of Aaron, referred to in Exodus 39:10-14:

10 Then they mounted four rows of precious stones on it. In the first row there was a ruby, a topaz and a beryl;
11 in the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and an emerald;
12 in the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst;
13 in the fourth row a chrysolite, an onyx and a jasper. They were mounted in gold filigree settings.
14 There were twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.

The precise list of birthstones however can be found in Revelation 21:19-20 where the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem are listed, in the order of the Roman calendar:

19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
20 The fifth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.

Zodiac stones and astrology

An astrological version of the birthstones exists using the twelve zodiac signs instead of the twelve calendar months. Listed below are the dates for the tropical sun signs and their associated birthstone. Also in regards to astrology, a natal chart can be calculated for the exact date, time, and place of an person's birth.

Sign Birthstone
Aries (March 21 - April 19) Diamond
Taurus (April 20 - May 20) Emerald
Gemini (May 21 - June 20) Crystal
Cancer (June 21 - July 22) Pearl
Leo (July 23 - August 22) Onyx
Virgo (August 23 - September 22) Sapphire
Libra (September 23 - October 23) Opal
Scorpio (October 24 - November 21) Zircon
Sagittarius (November 22 - December 21) Turquoise
Capricorn (December 22 - January 21) Garnet
Aquarius (January 22 - February 18) moonstone
Pisces (February 19 - March 20) Aquamarine

Birth flowers

Month Flower
January Carnation
February Violet
March Daffodil, Jonquil
April Dahlia, Sweet Pea
May Sunflower, Lily of the Valley
June Honeysuckle, Rose
July Larkspur
August Lily, Gladiolus
September Aster
October Calendula (Marigold), Rose, Camellia
November Chrysanthemum
December Narcissus

Just as there are alternatives with birthstones, there are also alternatives with birth flowers. For example, October is often listed as Calendula (Marigold) , but is also occasional noted as being rose or camellia.

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