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Guide to Modern Birthstones and Traditional Birthstones

Birthstone Jewelry

A birthstone is a peculiar gemstone that represents a person’s month of birth. Birthstones are often integrated in jewelry pieces like necklaces, rings, and bracelets.

The origin of birthstones dates back to centuries ago as far as the biblical times. Historians believe that the 12 gemstones on Aaron’s breastplate were referring to the twelve tribes of Israel. And these stones offer specific powers, resulting in people wearing them as talismans or for therapeutic benefits.

Source: Pinterest

Over the years, these gemstones have been modernized into birthstones for every month (January to December). In this post, we will make a comparison between the traditional birthstones and modern birthstones, discussing the differences between them.

List of Traditional and Modern Birthstones

NOVTopazGolden TopazCitrine
DECTurquoiseLapis LazuliBlue ZirconBlue TopazTanzanite

What are the Differences between Modern and Traditional Birthstones?

Explained below is a comprehensive difference between birthstones modern vs traditional birthstones, explaining their history and types of gems.

Source: twelvesilvertrees

1. Historical Factor

  • Traditional Birthstones

As earlier stated, the theory of birthstones began from the biblical times. Josephus (a first-century historian) believed that there was a link between the 12 stones in Aaron’s breastplate with the 12 tribes of Israel.

The interpretation of this theory has varied over the years, as George Frederick Kunz (an American mineralogist and mineral collector) argued that Josephus saw the breastplate of the Second Temple (the highest place of worship, ritual sacrifice, and gatherings of Jews), and not the one worn by Aaron.

However, in the 8th and 9th centuries, the practice was to keep the 12 stones, but wear one a month. This transcended to the modernization of wearing these stones as birthstones for each month of the year.

  • Modern Birthstones

In a bid to standardize the birthstones and solve any puzzle around them, the National Association of Jewelers in America met in 1912 to officially adopt a list of modern birthstones.

Over the years, the list has been updated, giving more clarity to each month’s stone and what they represent. For example, Opal birthstone jewelry, which was traditionally worn by people born in October was changed to Tourmaline birthstone jewelry, which represents creativity, love, and healing.

Different Types of Gems

  • Traditional Birthstones

They are a mix of transparent and opaque gemstones. Traditional birthstones consist of gems with historical and cultural preferences. They include gemstones that were more accessible in ancient times.

  • Modern Birthstones

Modern birthstones differ majorly from the traditional birthstone list by including only transparent gemstones. This made jewelers create jewelry pieces that suit modern tastes.

Why Do Some Months Have Multiple Birthstones?

You would have noticed that some months have more than 1 birthstone. These are the reasons for that:

  • Historically, some regions had varying cultures, resulting in how the birthstones were recognized. For example, in the traditional list, December has 2 birthstones (Turquoise and Lapis Lazuli).
  • In recent years, gemologists and mineralogists have discovered newer gemstones, which has resulted in updates of the birthstone lists. This is why you have 2 birthstones for November (Golden Topaz and Citrine) and 3 birthstones for December (Blue Zircon, Blue Topaz, and Tanzanite).
  • The inclusion of more birthstones for every month offers a wider range of choices. Depending on your budget, you can choose an affordable option without compromising your taste. For example, in the modern list, December has 3 birthstones, which are priced differently;
    • Blue Topaz: Most affordable
    • Blue Zircon: Moderately priced
    • Tanzanite: Quite expensive because of its rarity

What are the Price-Affected Issues When Selecting Your Birthstones?

There are a number of factors you need to consider when selecting the stone to add to your birthstone jewelry. They include:

  • Color

Check the color thoroughly to see how natural and intense it is. The more pure and vivid the color, the higher the value of the birthstone. For example, quality Amethyst has a deep, rich purple color that commands attention and makes you stand out in any gathering.

On the other hand, there are some gemstones usually treated to enhance their color. These types are often priced low because they tend to lose their luster and shine over time.

  • Clarity

Birthstones by month are also selected based on how clear they are. Those with fewer or no impurities are more costly. Impurities in this context means inclusions (internal flaws) and blemishes (outer flaws).

Imperfections affect the free flow of light across the gemstones, which impacts how beautiful they appear. Thus, birthstones with lesser inclusions and blemishes have higher prices.

Gemstones like Diamonds and Tanzanite cost more because of their high degree of clarity. But stones like Emerald and Blue Zircon have more imperfections, which reduces their clarity standards.

  • Rarity

The more rare a birthstone is, the more costly it will be. This is most common with precious gemstones like Diamond, Ruby, Emerald, and Sapphire. They are very hard to find and have a high market demand because of their uniqueness.

But common birthstones like Topaz, Tourmaline, Amethyst, and Citrine are less expensive because they are easier to find in large quantities.

  • Cut and Carat

Naturally, birthstones come in uneven and irregular shapes, requiring that they are cut properly. How a birthstone is cut affects its brilliance and color. This goes as far as impacting its overall appeal and value. Poorly cut stones irrespective of their quality won’t allow light pass through to reflect their beauty and radiance.

Also, the carat weight of the birthstone influences the price. Larger stones are harder to find and more valuable. A 2-carat birthstone is more expensive than a 1-carat birthstone.

Importance of Birthstone Durability and Hardness

The hardness and durability of your birthstone is crucial in how long they will last without losing their luster and shine. To know how strong birthstones are, the Mohs scale is used. This scale grades birthstones hardness and durability by measuring their resistance to damaging components.

Below is a table of the hardest and weakest birthstones:

The Top 5 Hardest Birthstones

BirthstoneMohs Scale
Diamond 10

The Two Weakest Birthstones

BirthstoneMohs Scale
Pearl 2.5


Despite the evolution of birthstones across centuries, they are still popular. In fact, their inclusion in jewelry pieces has made them retain their peculiarity.

Now that you know the difference between birthstones modern vs traditional birthstones and the factors that affect their pricing & quality, it’s important that you get a professional jewelry manufacturer with verifiable experience and technical know-how to meet your specifications.

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