Gemstones 101: Colors & Meanings


Dating back to earliest recorded history, gemstones have held symbolic importance in cultures all over the world. Many gems are believed to possess special meaning or have distinct properties, each one unique in color and significance but all connected by intrinsic beauty.

If you’ve ever wondered about the stories behind your favorite precious gemstones, continue reading to learn more about the meanings, colors, and unique histories associated with some of the world’s most treasured gemstones.

Historical records indicate it was a historian from the 1st century AD who first connected the twelve stones in Aaron’s Breastplate with the twelve months of the year in the Gregorian calendar. By the 8th and 9th centuries, it had become customary for people of all religious backgrounds to wear one stone each month according to the virtue each stone represented, hence how the gemstones came to be associated with birth month.



The January birthstone garnet comes in shades of red, orange, and green. Because of its specific chemistry, many of those shades have blue undertones, yielding elegant stones with shades of deep red-purples and pinkish-oranges. The green garnet, tsavorite, and red garnet, rhodolite, are the most precious variety of garnet because of the unique chemical conditions required for their formation.

They exhibit a similar color change phenomenon as alexandrite, and thus over thousands of years, their dynamic visual qualities have come to represent fire and creativity. The name “garnet” is derived from the Latin word “granatum” which means “pomegranate” because of its resemblance to the seeds of its fruit.

Garnet is a sensual stone and even the green shades have a soft and warm quality that represents the creation of something beautiful, pure, and lovely out of chemical and environmental chaos.



Commonly known as February’s birthstone, this striking purple gemstone has made its mark in many societies and cultures throughout history. With distinguished rich purple color, amethyst has been connected to a number of mythical and legendary figures, royalty, and religion for hundreds of years.

In Ancient Greek and Roman times, it was widely believed that Amethysts could banish the effects of black magic by offering healing properties, preserving clear-headedness, and endowing the wearer with quick wit.

Today, amethyst remains very popular due to the variety of shapes and sizes in which it can be found, its durability, and of course, its gorgeous color. Ranging from pale to deep purple, amethyst tends to complement every skin tone.



At first glance, aquamarine is reminiscent of a breathtaking blue ocean or the bright blue tones of a clear sky. This March birthstone has been a treasured gem for many centuries, standing as a symbol of health, youth, hope, and fidelity. It’s crystalline blue color, much like the sky and water, is also associated with eternality.

The aquamarine is believed to be capable of rekindling and nurturing romantic love, thus, is a popular choice for an anniversary gift.

Aquas come in a wide spectrum of shades ranging from a light pastel or greenish-blue to a deep, dark cerulean. Darker aquamarines are rarer and therefore more valuable. As size increases, the vibrancy of the stone is magnified and thus, larger Aquas are also quite rare and expensive.



A girl’s best friend; the inspiration for countless artistic masterpieces—they are the world’s most precious stone and the embodiment of rarity, luxury, and elegance. This treasured gem didn’t earn its place at the apex of the jewelry world for nothing—diamonds are a chemical and natural wonder.

Millions of years ago and one hundred miles below the Earth’s surface, they formed under intense pressure and heat and require intense labor and skill to mine and cut properly. Not surprisingly, these stones represent desire and prestige. The history of this stone is long and complex, but the earliest diamond trading began in India in the 4th Century B.C. where it secured its place as the rarest of gems because of its consistently limited supply.

Diamonds are the April birthstone. Being the tiny singularity of light that they are, diamonds are always meant to be an accouterment to the features of a beautiful individual. Diamonds make the wearer a centerpiece because they lend their incredible natural beauty to the owner in ways that no other gem can.



The preferred gemstone of female icons like Cleopatra and Elizabeth Taylor, emeralds have held a place in society dating back to the 1st century A.D. and were even the inspiration for the moniker of an entire country: Ireland, “The Emerald Isle.” As its name suggests, it symbolizes the lushest and verdant landscapes and represents the truth. The most precious emeralds have a deeply saturated hue; light green emeralds with high color saturation are just as valuable and expensive as the deeper Kelly green shades.

The emerald’s evocative color is the perfect harbinger of spring and rebirth, and thus it is the May birthstone as well as the traditional twentieth and thirty-fifth wedding anniversary gift.



Pearls are ancient, stately, and elegant. Perhaps one of the most revered gemstones in history, pearls make frequent appearances in mythology and cultural legends. In the ancient Chinese culture, pearls were believed to be creations of the moon, infused with the mystery and power of its celestial glow. Ancient Persian myths called pearls “tears of the gods.” Ancient Egyptians were buried with the treasured gems to aid the soul’s journey into the afterlife. The most unique characteristic of a pearl is its origin; it is the only gemstone formed within the shells of living creatures.
It is the classic June birthstone. Today, you can find them in a rainbow of colors, from creamy white to green and gold pearls, and of course, the iconic black pearl.



A relative newcomer to the precious gemstone family, this alternate June birthstone’s claim to fame is its chameleon-like color. It changes from emerald green to burgundy depending on the kind of light that falls upon it. The alexandrite’s color change attribute is the result of its rare light-absorbing chemical properties.
Named for Alexander II of Russia, this enigmatic stone is truly fit for a king. Similar to the diamond, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a high-quality stone as carat weight goes up and as a result, the larger, higher-quality stones are scarce and more highly sought after.



A favorite of kings, emperors, and other world leaders throughout history, this July birthstone has long been called the “king of all gems.” Even in modern times, the ruby is one of the most highly valued gemstones. Rubies come in shades of red ranging from lively orange-toned reds to true apple and scarlet red, to bluish, purplish, and brown-red hues.
Its deep red color may be responsible for why rubies are a symbol of passion, love, intense emotion, and courage. It is believed that Ruby brings good fortune to anyone lucky enough to wear it. The Burmese Ruby is the most valuable variety—it is a rare version sourced from specific mines in Myanmar and beloved for its vibrant and saturated red color. Explore ideas for custom-made ruby jewelry here.



Peridot is the birthstone for the month of August and its most recognizable shade is vibrant lime green. Many of today’s peridot gemstones are sourced from the deserts of Arizona, with some coming from far-flung regions of China, Pakistan, and Myanmar. Ancient cultures held Peridot in high esteem, believing it to be a gift from Mother Nature herself and a symbol of the annual rebirth of the world. It is also associated with an array of magical powers, including healing properties, the power to banish nightmares, and the enhancement of one’s influence over other people.



Sapphires are one of the most popular gemstones for engagement jewelry, earning favor with their stunning blue color and deep symbolism. In ancient cultures, sapphires represented a sacred commitment rooted in honesty, purity, trust, and loyalty. Sapphires withstood the test of time and still represent all those things in our modern culture.

Sapphire is the September birthstone. The rarest sapphires have a velvety, translucent appearance. This evocative stone comes in a wide range of colors, including peach, yellow, and a breathtaking deep pink, but it is the deep indigo-blue sapphire that the most legendary and is usually found only in specific areas of Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Kashmir. Explore our exquisite collection of sapphire rings here.



Opal is the traditional October birthstone and its name is believed to have originated in India, where it was called upala, or “precious stone.” Opal has been regarded as the most magical of all gems because of the stone’s intrinsic color range. The ancient Greeks believed opals gave their owners the gift of prophecy and guarded them against disease. They have long been considered a symbol of hope, purity, and truth.

The play of color comes from the opal’s formation process. It’s signature sheen is a result of scattering light from the varied arrangements of tiny, closely packed silica spheres. Opals come in just about every color, but the trait that sets it apart from other gems is its “play of color:” its distinctive display of flashing rainbow shades. The more brilliant the play of color, or “fire” as it is referred to in the jewelry world, the more valuable the gem. The most brilliant and sought-after opals come from Queensland and New South Wales, Australia.



Topaz is another distinctive gemstone that comes in shades of blue, yellow and pink. Renowned for its pale color and delicate hues, it is often likened to the crisp, blue autumn sky and the brilliant shades of orange, red and brown of fall foliage. Accordingly, it is November’s birthstone. Ancient legends claim that Topaz holds the power to unlock the wearer’s expressiveness, magnify spirituality, and enhance one’s connection to their inner guidance.



Named after the French word for “lemon,” the citrine’s color ranges from shades of bright citrusy yellow to honey-like orange-browns. Many cultures utilize the Citrine as a healing crystal due to the belief that it wards off negative energy.

In some ancient societies, people wore citrine as protection against snakebites and evil thoughts as well for attracting success and prosperity. Even to this day, citrine remains a popular alternative November birthstone.



The unmistakable opacity of the turquoise’s azure and robin’s egg blue is the signature look of this beloved gem. It is perhaps one of the most universally significant stones, revered as a symbol of good health, good fortune, and protection from evil in Ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Persian cultures. It has deep connections with the American Southwest. It captures the region’s mystery and unmatched natural beauty in its rich and bright blue tones.

Named by the French when it first arrived in Europe in the 13th Century, Turquoise is one of the world’s most ancient gems and has been used in jewelry as far back as 1000 B.C. Its wearer channels an archetypal beauty that is singular and truly unequalled by any other gemstone.



Like alexandrite, tanzanite is a newcomer to the precious gem collection. It was discovered in East Africa in 1967 by a Maasai tribesman and exploded in popularity, almost overnight, in the 1970s. Born of the same water, soil and rock as Mt. Kilimanjaro over 585 million years ago, it is regarded as a geological phenomenon because of the rare, but auspicious, conditions of its formation.

Because of this gem’s soft and stately beauty, many brides with December birthdays have chosen tanzanite as an elegant alternative to a diamond for their engagement jewelry. See some examples of tanzanite engagement rings here.

Make Your Next Jewelry Piece a Meaningful One


Have you been considering creating a custom-designed ring, necklace, or set of earrings that incorporate the symbolism of your favorite gemstones? Perhaps you’re looking for heirloom-quality jewelry that features the array of color and character found only in these precious stones.

Dominion Jewelers offers custom jewelry design services that make it easy to bring your vision to life. By combining your inspiration with the talents of our designers and unparalleled access to the best precious metals and gemstones available, Dominion Jewelers can make designs you’ve only ever imagined in your mind a scintillating reality.

Visit our Falls Church, VA jewelry store today to learn more about how we can help you create the gemstone jewelry of your dreams.