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List of Traditional and Alternative Birthstones

List of Traditional and Alternative Birthstones

Many people adore birthstone jewelry. At times, the wearer has a strong connection to the stone since they feel it aligns with part of their identity. However, some people simply enjoy the look of their birthstone, causing them to favour it.

But what if you aren’t a fan of your birthstone? Or what if your birthstone just isn’t affordable? Luckily, there are more options to choose from than you may realize. Keep reading to find out about traditional and alternative birthstones.

What Are Birthstones?

List of birthstones by month

A birthstone is a gemstone that represents when a person was born. Commonly, this is a specific stone (or set of gems) that is associated with a month. However, it could also include gemstones that are connected to a person’s zodiac sign.

Traditional Birthstones

Also called ancient birthstones, traditional birthstones varied a bit from one culture to the next. However, certain ones are believed to be more common, being at least somewhat widely adopted during the 15th to 20th centuries. Here’s is an overview of some of the traditional birthstones:

Modern Birthstones

When people discuss modern birthstones, they are usually referring to a specific list. In 1912, the National Association of Jewelers decided on a particular set of gems to use as birthstones. In 1952, three additions and one change made their way onto the list.

Another change happened in 2002 when the American Gem Trade Association gave December an additional birthstone. One of the most recent adjustments came in 2016 when August’s birthstone list was expanded.

Here is an overview of what is commonly considered the modern birthstone list:

Tanzanite marquise (navette) cut.jpg
By Wiener Edelstein Zentrum - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

It is important to note that the National Association of Goldsmith’s in Britain also maintained its own standardized set of birthstones. The list was initially created in 1937 and included:

  • January – Garnet
  • February – Amethyst
  • March – Aquamarine, Bloodstone
  • April – Diamond, Rock Crystal
  • May – Emerald, Chrysoprase
  • June – Pearl, Moonstone
  • July – Ruby, Carnelian
  • August – Peridot, Sardonyx
  • September – Sapphire, Lapis Lazuli
  • October – Opal
  • November – Topaz, Citrine
  • December – Tanzanite, Turquoise

In many cases, the additions on the National Association of Goldsmith’s list that you don’t see in the National Association of Jewelers provide a benefit to shoppers. In some cases, they are lower cost stones, giving people an alternative to expensive options like diamonds and sapphires.

Tropical Zodiac Birthstones

Zodiac Birthstones

Each zodiac sign covers part of two months. It starts toward the end of the month and finishes up a little more than halfway into the following month.

Zodiac signs are often associated with different gemstones. As a result, by following this system instead of the modern or traditional ones above, people can be associated with different birthstones.

Here is an overview of the tropical zodiac birthstones:

  • Aquarius (January 20 – February 18) – Garnet
  • Pisces (February 19 – March 20) – Amethyst
  • Aries (March 21 – April 19) – Bloodstone
  • Taurus (April 20 – May 20) – Sapphire
  • Gemini (May 21 – June 20) – Agate
  • Cancer (June 21 – July 22) – Emerald
  • Leo (July 23 – August 22) – Onyx
  • Virgo (August 23 – September 22) – Carnelian
  • Libra (September 23 – October 22) – Chrysolite
  • Scorpio (October 23 – November 21) – Beryl
  • Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21) – Topaz
  • Capricorn (December 22 – January 19) – Ruby

Now, there is some occasional crossover between the tropical zodiac birthstone list and the others. For example, garnet is on all of the listings for a person born between January 21 and January 31. It’s associated with their month and their zodiac sign.

Chinese Zodiac Birthstones

Chinese Zodiac carvings on ceiling of Kushida Shrine, Fukuoka.jpg
By Jakub Hałun - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

In some Chinese cultural beliefs, certain stones are lucky for those born under specific signs. Unlike the tropical zodiac, the Chinese system involves a cycle of 12 years, not 12 months. Everyone born during a particular year (following the Chinese calendar, not the Gregorian) has the same sign.

  • Rat (1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008) - Garnet
  • Ox (1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1895, 1997, 2009) - Aquamarine
  • Tiger (1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010) - Sapphire
  • Rabbit (1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011) - Pearl
  • Dragon (1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012) - Amethyst
  • Snake (1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013) - Opal
  • Horse (1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014) - Topaz
  • Goat (1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015) - Emerald
  • Monkey (1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016) - Peridot
  • Rooster (1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017) - Citrine
  • Dog (1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018) - Diamond
  • Pig (1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019) - Ruby

It’s important to note that those born in January or February, depending on when the Chinese New Year fell on the year they were born, may fall into the Zodiac year before the one listed. For example, if you were born on January 2, 1983, you would be a Dog, not a Pig.

What to Do If Your Birthstone is Too Expensive?

If you like the look of your birthstone, but it simply isn’t affordable, then consider searching for a lookalike. Many stones strongly resemble others. For example, instead of diamonds, try moissanite, cubic zirconia, white sapphires, white topaz, white zircon, colourless beryl, or spinel.

You can also save money by opting for smaller stones and less expensive supporting metals. For instance, silver is usually is cheaper than white gold, so that may help you lower the cost.

What to Do If You Don’t Like Your Birthstone?

If you don’t like your birthstone, don’t worry. There’s nothing that says you have to love it or wear it. Jewelry should make you feel good, so don’t be afraid to favour one of the ancient or alternative stones if you like them more than the modern versions.

Additionally, if you aren’t a fan of any of them, then get whatever gemstone you enjoy. A person born in June can wear tanzanite, for example. There’s no rule against it.

Ultimately, jewelry should make you happy. Regardless of whether a gemstone is another month’s birthstone, pick options that speak to you. That way, you can enjoy wearing them, which is all that really matters.

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