The Seasons and Birthstones
Precious stones have from earliest times been associated with special powers. Not only were they guardians against demons, but each by its particular virtue warded off certain diseases or other misfortunes. In their astrological aspects, they could help to arrange, if not wholly to secure, a happy future.
From this connection with things to come, the gems came to be linked with various times: each season, each month, even each day of the week, had its special stone. The season of spring, with the first flowering of the reborn year, is considered especially appropriate for the amethyst, the green diamond, the chrysoberyl, the spinel, the pink topaz, the olivine, and the emerald.
The bright sun of summer, that bells the fruit and spreads the foliage, is best for zircon, garnet, ruby, and fire opal. Spinel, chrysoberyl, and pink topaz still hold their charm.
As the languors of summer tang toward the crispness of autumn, it grows time for sapphire, hyacinth, oriental chrysolite, tourmaline, jacinth, and topaz.
Then with the challenge of winter come turquoise, white sapphire, rock crystal, quartz, moonstone, pearl, and the gleaming diamond. Of course, the brilliant solitaire, the diamond of the engagement ring, is an appropriate stone in any season.
The Days of the Week
The days of the week are more intricately bound in gemmed symbol. If you know the day on which you were born, you can garner all the good fortune that comes with the proper stone. Each day of the week, along with the stone, bears other significances and powers.
The golden-yellow day of King Sol, the sun, is marked Vith the yellow jacinth. If one wears this, we are told, one has tile power of a lion on that day—especially when Leo, the lion in the heavens, takes the summer season with the sun. But also this is a token of secrecy in the an—-it ensures discretion, always advisable, often essential, in a lover— while in the woman it betokens generosity, always desired but not always appreciated by a lover.
The serene day of the moon is the day for pearls. Pearls should be bestowed on a Monday. The color white is bound with them and with the day, for the snow-white blanket of peacefulness. A man might wear a pearl in a tie clasp, bar, or in a tie pin, which is coming back into favor. The pearl is a token, in a man, of friendship, of integrity, of a religious feeling; and in a woman of contemplation, purity, affability.
Tuesday is a more active day. Tiw is the Nordic god of war, and his name is used to translate the Latin for Mars’ day. Hence its stone is the blood-red ruby. This is a fitting day to hold in memory those who have died valiantly in battle. But it is likewise a day to be on one’s guard, for while the star ruby marks nobility and power of command in the man, it may also spill over in excess to bloody vengeance. And in the woman, while the ruby of this day adorns a proper pride, it may descend to a pettier obstinacy. At its best, the ruby is resplendent on a Tuesday.
Although Woden was king of the Nordic gods, his name is used to translate the Latin for the day of the fickle and thievish Mercury, who was placated on this day. The emerald is its precious stone. The color green may mark jealousy when it flickers in a woman’s eyes, but in a gem it is a token of change. In a man it betokens joyousness, quick-soaring but transitory. In the woman, with the Wednesday emerald comes a spontaneous, childlike delight in passing things, a love of variety. This is a good day to hold in memory those who have died in the flower of youth.
Thor’s day, said the Anglo-Saxons. Again they transmuted the powers, for Thor is the god of war, while to the Romans this is the day of Jupiter, king of the gods. It is a violet day, the day of the violet sapphire. This is a precious stone indeed, and a potent day. In the man it marks sober judgment, gravity, industry. In the woman the Thursday sapphire denotes high thoughts, and a love that lifts beyond the body with the spirit. Fortunate are they between whom a violet sapphire passes on a Thursday.
Here the Anglo-Saxons made no mistake, for Friya is their god of love, and Friday is Venus’ day. Friday still feels the force of the sapphire, but the sapphire must be blue. In the man, the blue sapphire marks magnanimous thoughts and wisdom. In the woman, the blue sapphire of Friday, especially the star sapphire, marks courtesy and keen powers of observation. The girl Friday sees more than she tells. But there is need for caution; without the stone, these feminine powers may shift to a colder watchfulness, accompanied by jealousy and suspicion. Beware a flaw in the precious stone, the precious one. Friday is an auspicious day for love, if love is bedecked with a blue saphire.
Saturday is the seventh day, the day of rest. Thus the Anglo-Saxons did not labor to translate it from the Latin; it is the day of Saturn, the Roman god of time and growth. Saturn was the father and first king of the gods; his stone is the king of gems, the diamond. Saturday crowns the days of the week, as the diamond crowns the family of the gems. In a man the diamond marks gravity, fortitude, constancy. In a maiden, it may betoken a certain giddiness, a flighty fancy that has not yet found its destination; but in a woman it marks perseverance and constancy. The woman of the Saturday diamond knows what she wants, and works unfaltering to attain it.
Thus, from the jacinth and the pearl to the sapphire and the diamond, runs the gemmed story of the days. More fixed in popular imagination are the special stones of the months, for these have become the birthstones that mark the natal days. In early times there was considerable variety; today there is general agreement as to these stones. They may have come, as many believe, from the twelve stones in the breastplate of the Jewish high priest.
Or they may be transferred from the twelve foundation stones proclaimed in Revelations for the New Jerusalem. The ages have fixed them as memorials of birth, and one should have at least one lucky jewel adorned with one’s birthstone.
Table of Birthstones
- January: Garnet
- February: Amethyst
- March: Aquamarine
- April: Diamond
- May: Emerald
- June: Pearl
- July: Ruby
- August: Sadonyx or Peridot
- September: Sapphire
- October: Opal
- November: Topaz
- December: Turquoise
Each of the birthstones is caught into more than one jingle. Its powers have been trusted so long that folklore has wrapped them in song, and truth hangs upon them like the beard of a patriarch. And the stones themselves endow the wearer with the special grace of the natal day.
By her who in this month is born Gaily the garnet should be worn;
‘Twill guarantee love’s constancy
And warm her in felicity.
The January stone, at its best, is a deep red, or a red shading to violet. With its burgundy sparkle, it has a dark brilliance found in no other gem. The color of the garnet drew it naturally to association with blood. It has been considered a sovereign remedy against all kinds of inflammation and bleeding and disorders of the blood.
Since the face flushes with anger, the garnet was held as a charm against anger; it was felt to have a calming influence and to be potent against mental disorders. Psychoanalysts take long years to accomplish what one may gain just by the wearing of a garnet.
Pile on the coal.
And if there’s a hole
In underclothes, go darn it.
This is the time
For winter’s rime,
And for the ruddy garnet.
The February born will find
Sincerity and peace of mind,
Freedom from passion or from care,
If they the amethyst will wear.
The February stone has a wider range of color, and may be chosen in any shade from light lilac to a deep royal purple. It is a symbol of beauty and of power. It has been traditionally associated with the Princes of the Church, and down the ages has been the chosen royal gem.
Out of the ancient Hebrew comes the thought that the amethyst has the power to prevent nightmares and unpleasant dreams. With its buried meanings of beauty and power, of powerclaiming beauty, the amethyst was one of the earliest stones to be cut in the shape of a heart.
Here is a story of the best known and most heralded of the powers of the amethyst, its potency as a guard against intoxication, against the evil effects of overindulgence. The god of revelry and wine, Bacchus, we are told, fell in love with a nymph, who sought to avoid his tipsy embrace. (One needs not the gods to picture such a pickle!) This nymph, however, prayed to Diana, goddess vowed to chastity.
Diana changed her to an amethyst, with power to withstand the effects of drink. The frustrated Bacchus gave the stone the color of wine. Hence the amethyst was known to the Greeks as “the sobering gem.” It should surely be the token stone of Alcoholics Anonymous, for its very name, a-methyst, comes from the Greek, meaning “against strong drink.”
February, we are told, is the cruellest month; its chill seems to call for the warm coursing of an invigorating drink. It is most fortunate that the stone for this month of biting cold is the amethyst.
Red the cheek glows,
Still redder the nose;
Jack Frost the lips has kissed.
Spice the hot drink;
Let glasses clink—
And wear the amethyst!
Who in this world of ours their eyes
In March first open, shall be wise,
In days of peril firm and bold,
If they an aquamarine will hold.
March is the month when spring rains begin. It is also the month when of old, after the winter’s frost, men ventured forth again. In the Mediterranean to the south, and from the fjords and headlands of the north, our ancestors pushed their boats out from the shore, in quest of food and far adventure.
Thus the gem of March is the aquamarine, whose name means “water of the sea.” And the stone is truly cousin to the waters. At its best it is clear as mid-ocean, and of a brilliant greenish blue. It has been said that whoever wears an aquamarine can do no dirty deed, will all his life be clean of body and spirit.
For this reason, the aquamarine is a favorite gift to a newborn baby. Sea voyagers today, as the Vikings long ago, for protection from the dangers of the deep may wear an aquamarine.
Hark how the rain
Beats on the pane!
It flushes the world with green.
Brooks are all high,
Roads never dry—
She who from April dates her years
Diamonds should wear, lest bitter tears
In vain repentance flow; this stone
Emblem of innocence is known.
With the magic of spring, in myriad raindrops lit by the sudden sun, in the glint of young leaves and the brightness of early flowers, April shares the sparkle of the diamond. For springtime and for its precious stone, superlatives are the order of the season. The diamond has the greatest brilliance and most power of reflection of all gems. Its clearness and its cleanness are unsurpassed. It is colorless, yet it can show the entire spectrum of colors.
The god of mines, we are told, created the diamond by pulverizing all other precious stones—ruby, sapphire, emerald, and the gathered host—blending and pressing them into one supreme stone, a crystal that, itself without color, imprisons and releases all the fused colors in its core.
More sentimentally, legend records that in one of his unguarded tender moments, Jupiter, king of the gods, asked the young man who had rocked him in his cradle to name his own reward. The young man asked that he might endure unchanged forever. Jupiter turned him into a diamond.
Increasingly through the centuries has the diamond been valued. Popes have proclaimed its virtues. Musical comedies have sung its praises. Only the flawless diamond, the Hindus pointed out, has the power to heal. Pope Clement VII stated that the greatest curative potency dwelt in the powdered diamond.
In the eighteenth century, the French maintained—to the smiling aquiescence of the feminine kind—that the diamond possesses talismanic virtue only when given as a gift; a purchased diamond held no luck for the purchaser. This symbolism blent with the meaning of the ring to make the diamond the first formal gift to the loved woman upon betrothal. As the seal of an engagement, a solitaire is more effective than the old “writ” or quill-penned bond; it symbolizes at once a bond and an indestructible union of power and beauty.
There is in this gem, though it is not always the most costly of precious stones, the strongest appeal to a woman, and she is fortunate indeed whose claim to the diamond is a birthright. A diamond in a jewel adorning another beauty sets unrest in a woman’s heart, until she too is asparkle. The diamond is a sign of love; it confers loveliness, or at least it imposes pride.
It is the ambition of every woman—and it should be the fortune of everyone Aprilborn—to possess a flawless diamond.
After the shower
Brightens the hour,
Flowers lift on the stem.
Till evening darkles:
Diamond is the gem.