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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?

Traditional stones 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 certain 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 list of birthstones by month:

AAA cut tanzanite one of the december birthstones


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

In many cases, the additions to the National Association of Goldsmiths 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

Tropical zodiac gemstones

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 also referred to in astrology, as star signs or astrological 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 birth 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 cheaper than white gold, so that may help you lower the cost.

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

If you find that your birthstone doesn't resonate with your personal taste or style, don't worry. There's no requirement for you to love or wear your birthstone. Jewelry is a form of self-expression, and it should make you feel good and reflect your individuality. Here are some suggestions for what you can do if you're not particularly fond of your birthstone:

  1. Explore Ancient or Alternative Stones: You're not limited to the modern birthstone assigned to your birth month. Many cultures throughout history have associated different gemstones with specific months, zodiac signs, or astrological calendars. If you resonate more with an ancient or alternative stone, go ahead and choose it for your jewelry. For instance, if you were born in July and prefer spinel over ruby, you can wear spinel with pride.

  2. Choose Gemstones You Enjoy: Your jewelry box, your rules! If none of the traditional or alternative birthstones resonate with you, that's perfectly fine. You're free to choose any gemstone that captures your imagination. Even if you were born in June and pearls are the standard, go ahead and pick that tanzanite or any other gem that speaks to your soul.

  3. Personalize Your Jewelry: Consider customizing your jewelry to include the gemstone of your choice. Many jewellers offer customization services, allowing you to create a piece that aligns perfectly with your preferences and style. This way, you can have a unique piece of jewelry that truly represents you.

  4. Combine Birthstones: If you like the idea of incorporating your birthstone but want to enhance it with other gemstones, consider creating jewelry with a combination of stones. Mixing and matching birthstones with other favourites can result in stunning and meaningful pieces.

  5. Discover the Backstory: Sometimes, getting to know the history and symbolism of your birthstone can make it more intriguing. Even if it's not love at first sight, understanding what makes it unique might make you appreciate it a bit more.

In the end, remember that the most important thing is that your jewelry makes you happy and resonates with your personal style. Birthstones are a lovely tradition, but they are not binding rules. Your jewelry choices should reflect your personality and preferences, allowing you to enjoy wearing them for years to come. So, whether it's your birthstone or another gemstone that speaks to you, embrace it and wear it with pride.

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Frequently Asked Questions About the Birthstones by Month

What is the rarest birthstone ever?

The rarest birthstone is generally considered to be red diamond, which is the birthstone for April. Red diamonds are incredibly scarce, and their rich color makes them highly sought after in the world of gemstones. These diamonds are so rare that only a handful are known to exist.

Why do some months have 3 birthstones?

Some months have multiple birthstones due to historical and cultural variations. The practice of assigning multiple birthstones to a single month has evolved over time. For example, December has three birthstones: turquoise, zircon, and tanzanite. These variations provide people with more choices and options for their birthstone jewelry.

Can birthstones be different colors?

Yes, birthstones can come in a range of colors. For example, sapphires, the birthstone for September, are typically associated with a rich blue color, but they can also be found in various colors like pink, yellow, and green. Different colors of a birthstone are often referred to as "fancy" varieties.

Why are there modern and traditional birthstones?

The concept of modern and traditional birthstones is based on different historical and cultural traditions. Traditional birthstones have been used for centuries and are rooted in ancient beliefs. Modern birthstones, on the other hand, were introduced in the early 20th century as a way to update the birthstone list and offer alternative gemstones for each month. Both traditional and modern birthstones are recognized and used today.

What's the least rare birthstone?

Generally, the least rare birthstones are those that are more common and readily available. For example, the birthstone for August is peridot, which is relatively common and affordable compared to some of the rarer gemstones like red diamond or alexandrite.

What is the difference between mystical and modern birthstones?

The terms "mystical" and "modern" birthstones refer to different interpretations and lists of birthstones:

Mystical Birthstones: These stones are typically associated with a specific zodiac sign or astrological calendar. They are believed to offer spiritual or metaphysical benefits to individuals born under that astrological sign. The list of mystical birthstones can vary depending on different astrological belief systems.

Modern Birthstones: These are an updated list of birthstones that was standardized by jewelry organizations in the early 20th century. Modern birthstones were introduced to provide alternative options for each month and to accommodate changes in gemstone availability.

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