What do Jackie Kennedy, Princess Diana, Kate Middleton, Penelope Cruz, Halle Berry, Elizabeth Hurley, Jessica Simpson, Olivia Wilde, and Victoria Beckham all have in common? Birthstone engagement rings!
Indeed, the selection of birthstones as the marquee stone in engagement rings is becoming increasingly popular—threatening to usurp diamonds as the crown jewel in modern engagement rings.
Here’s what to know, courtesy of whattowear.com.
Bespoke with birthstones
Birthstones – the gemstones that represent a person’s month of birth – have long been popular. But sales are currently rising as more and more shoppers seek to personalize their purchases, especially with engagement rings.
There has been particularly high demand for birthstone engagement rings, which Etsy recently described as a “breakout wedding trend.” “For generations, the diamond has been the ultimate stone for proposing, but today’s bride wants to express her personal style and choose a ring that reflects her personality,” Dayna Isom Johnson, an Etsy spokeswoman said.
L.A.-based jewelry designer Jennie Kwon explained why the trend is taking off: “We are at a time where people are more and more interested in creating bespoke things—pieces that are made just for them and feel personal because of it,” she said. “The trend of birthstone engagement rings falls in line with this.”
If you’re interested in the trend, Kwon has some expert advice to consider: “The only thing we’d say is to be careful about how your birthstone is set if you’re planning on wearing it daily as many women do,” she said. “For instance, for our softer-stoned girls whose birthstones are emeralds, opals, pearls, or the like, we would suggest having them set in a way where the stone is protected, such as a bezel setting.”
Background on birthstones
The connection between gemstones and the zodiac can be traced to the Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus. He described in the first century AD in his writings, Antiquities of the Jews, the bejeweled breastplate worn by Aaron, the first high priest of the Israelites, in the Book of Exodus. The breastplate was adorned with 12 stones, each one engraved with the name of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Reflecting on the significance of the number 12, Josephus suggested that the stones could represent the 12 signs of the zodiac.
The stones subsequently became associated with the 12 months of the year and were purported to have healing properties and bring good luck. Some affluent individuals might well have owned all 12 and carried with them each day the one that corresponded with the current calendar month.
It was only in 1912 that a standardized list was drawn up detailing exactly which stone was connected with which month. This was produced by the United States’ National Association of Jewelers – possibly in an effort to drive up demand for the jewels that made the cut.
In 1937, the UK’s National Association of Goldsmiths produced its own official list – this is the one most retailers here tend to stick to today, although there have been some recent additions.
In 2002, the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) introduced tanzanite as an alternative to turquoise for December, to acknowledge its popularity. And the Jewelers of America (JA) trade association approved. “JA sees the addition of tanzanite for December as a way to build business,” it said at the time. “Any step that helps retailers sell more jewelry is a good one.”
The most coveted gemstones are diamonds (April), emeralds (May), rubies (July) and sapphires (September) – jewelers refer to them as “the Big Four,” but relatively few people might be familiar with bloodstone (March) and peridot (August).
In 2016 the JA and AGTA jointly announced the introduction of a new birthstone for August to sit alongside peridot on the US standardized list: spinel.
The stone comes in a variety of hues but red is the most popular color. For centuries, spinel was routinely mistaken for ruby – the Black Prince’s Ruby, which sits at the front of the Imperial State Crown worn by the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament, is in fact, a red spinel.
Although the gem has not been introduced to the UK birthstone list, it’ll almost certainly come to enjoy greater popularity over there too.
Alt versions of birthstones
Another growing trend among consumers is to opt for alternative versions of the gemstones that correspond with their birth date. The shade people typically ascribe to garnets (January) is dark red, but the stones come in an array of colors – black, pink, green, purple – red is just much more abundant. Lily Faber, a gemologist, likens spessartine garnets, which are orange, to “beautiful little sweets.”
One of the most frequently overlooked birthstones is opal (October). There’s a long-standing belief that opal is unlucky, and only people whose birthdays fall in October can get away with wearing it. Faber is particularly enamored by the stone though, and is keen to dispel this myth.
Opals are also quite soft and are not really suitable for everyday wear, unlike very hard stones such as diamond. It’s possible that the bad luck attributed to the stones is simply down to their fragile nature – for example, they can chip easily when worn in a ring. Diamonds, by contrast, especially colorless ones, have historically been considered good luck.
What’s your birthstone?
March: bloodstone, aquamarine (alternative)
April: diamond, rock crystal (alt)
May: emerald, chrysoprase (alt)
June: pearl, moonstone (alt)
July: ruby, cornelian (alt)
August: peridot, sardonyx (alt)
September: sapphire, lapis lazuli (alt)
November: yellow topaz, citrine (alt)
December: turquoise, tanzanite (alt)