From ruby-red Aries to sapphire-bright Libra, our star signs are inextricably linked to our birthstones, explains top astrologer Shelley von Strunckel. And understanding their power can be transformative.
You might already have some idea of what a birthstone is if you’ve ever been given jewellery (or bought it for yourself). But be aware – the list of jewels you’ll see linked to each star sign in a jewellery store is a modern invention that’s very different to the ancient tradition of birthstones.
With origins dating back to the foundations of astrology, birthstones are connected to your star sign by symbolising the energy of the planet that is said to ‘rule’ it, as well as often reflecting its colour and characteristics. For instance, as a Cancerian, I often wear milky pearls that reflect the luminous nature of the Moon, which ‘rules’ my sign.
But unlike those gems you might find in jewellers’ shops today, there’s more than one stone for each sign. What’s more, the original birthstones aren’t all clear-faceted jewels – they range from precious minerals and opaque stones to precious and semiprecious translucent jewels.
Think of your birthstone as your symbol and, whatever its form – be it polished and set in a ring, or a rough rock that sits on a shelf at home – it holds an energy linked to your star sign and its ruling planet and, over time, to you personally. In learning more about your birthstone, you’ll learn more about your star sign – and yourself.
The New Stone Age: How it all began
Birthstones can be traced back thousands of years to when links were first formed between coloured stones, the planets and mythical characters such as gods and goddesses. At this time, when humanity was beginning to settle, people were able to observe the heavens, day and night. They recorded the cycles of the Moon, the changing hours of sunrise and sunset, and the shifting positions of the heavenly bodies, from speedy Mercury to luminous Venus and slow-paced Saturn.
Over time, the unique colours and varying brightness of these heavenly bodies were linked with mythical tales, such as the goddess of beauty Venus, or Mars – for action and courage – or the swift planet Mercury, for ideas. This process of observation became the foundation for astrology. Back then, the focus was on ensuring the gods and goddesses would show their favour with a good crop or victory on the battlefield, and every town, family and individual had favoured deities.
In rituals and on altars, crystals and stones of the appropriate colour symbolised those deities. Examples are red for Mars, pearly white for the Moon, gold for the Sun, misty pastels for Venus. Similarly, people would wear a stone or jewel to symbolise a particular deity and to cultivate their favour – it was a sort of lucky charm.
Today these ‘characters’ and their symbolic gemstones still play a part in your life. If you are into astrology, you’ll already have some idea about them. But even if you’re not, you may already be using terminology that comes from the planets. When we say somebody is ‘mercurial’, it is a link to the clever planet Mercury, while ‘jovial’ comes from the expansive Jupiter. What’s more, we ‘type’ people according to these characteristics, the athletic Mars type versus those influenced by conscientious Saturn.
And this tradition of wearing certain stones, based on the energy of a star sign’s qualities or gifts, is ancient. Somebody in power would wear one of Saturn’s stones – a black pearl, for example – to enhance their clout. However, those who were seeking a romantic link would wear the stones of Venus, the goddess of love, such as pink tourmaline.
Often, wearing the stones linked to another sign can be a wise strategy. These can be thought of as energetic vitamins – things you’ll benefit from when facing brief upsets or more extended challenges. In this way, you not only begin to understand the energy each stone symbolises, you learn what makes the signs linked with them tick. As a Cancerian, I love wearing pearls. But when my energy needs a boost, I wear a stone of Mars and Aries: a bright red ruby.
In our hyper-scientific times, we sometimes lose track of these traditions. You may decide to learn more about your birthstone – there are many books and courses on the subject – or simply wear yours just for fun. Or you may be inclined to explore the concept of how your birthstone’s energy links to yours – you can experiment by sitting quietly with your stone and seeing if you can sense its connection to you. The journey will be a hugely rewarding one, opening awareness to the rich world of gems, crystals and stones, but even more, to a deeper awareness of your star sign, and your own nature.
How to tap into your birthsign’s power
21 March – 20 April
The sign’s ruler, fiery Mars – planet of courage – champions those who protect their families. Aries also have a gift for overcoming adversity.
Birthstones relate to Aries’s fire and are mostly red – coral, ruby – but diamonds, too, for their ability to handle challenges.
Also try Scorpio’s jet for a sense of mystery.
21 April – 21 May
With Venus, the planet associated with the goddess of beauty, luxury and love, ruling Taurus, this sign is about balancing refinement and taste with indulgence.
Birthstones Taurus’s gems are emerald, pastel jade and some opals.
Also try Cancer’s luminous silver to get into a more reflective mood.
22 May – 21 June
Ruled by Mercury, the planet linked to the clever, youthful, seductive god, it’s no surprise that the way to keep this sign happy is with variety.
Birthstones Think soft orange stones, including tourmaline and orange garnets.
Also try Capricorn’s jet for an exotic touch.
22 June – 23 July
Ruler the Moon symbolises Cancer’s changeable nature, and the deep feelings of vulnerability and capacity to care that come with it.
Birthstones Pale milky shades that resemble the moon: pearl, white quartz, moonstone and also silver.
Also try Aries’s ruby for a sexy choice.
24 July – 23 Aug
Defining our days, warming the earth and nourishing life, Leo’s ruler the Sun gives the sign charm and a sense of family.
Birthstones Just like the Sun, Leo’s gems are warm and bright and include imperial topaz, tourmaline, coloured diamonds and gold.
Also try Cancer’s pearls to intensify a sense of femininity.
24 Aug – 23 Sept
Ruler Mercury brings an earthy side to refined Virgo and also gives the sign its restless, sensual and modest nature.
Birthstones As an earth sign, Virgo’s range of stones are grounding shades of tourmaline, peridot and beryl.
Also try Sagittarius’s vivid lapis lazuli to bring out charisma.
24 Sept – 23 Oct
Relationships are central to this creative sign, which is ruled by Venus. While romantic links are important, connections with others are also a passion.
Birthstones Bright pastels: blue sapphire, opal, some jade – always lovely, never shocking.
Also try Virgo’s beryl adds sensuality.
24 Oct – 22 Nov
This sign of reflection and rebirth was ruled by fiery Mars until Pluto was discovered in 1930, giving Scorpio an even deeper gift for insight and renewal.
Birthstones Scorpio’s stones are deep and dark: think jet, malachite, black agate and dark topaz.
Also try Aries’s simply stunning diamonds.
23 Nov – 21 Dec
This sign’s inquisitiveness is depicted by its symbol (half horse, half human) and its expansive nature by its ruler, luminous giant Jupiter.
Birthstones Sapphire, lapis lazuli and topaz.
Also try Taurus’s pastel jade for a softer touch.
22 Dec – 20 Jan
This winter sign led by Saturn is about reflection and planning. Achievement and value are core, too, in matters from worldly objectives to close ties.
Birthstones Colours are linked to this dark time of year and include black pearls and diamonds, hematite and jet.
Also try A Leo flash of pure gold to make a statement.
21 Jan – 19 Feb
Ruled by Uranus, sociable Aquarians are known for their inquisitive nature and independent way of thinking.
Birthstones This sign’s stones mirror Uranus’s rainbow colours – white onyx (above right), bluish crystal and aquamarine.
Also try Scorpio’s deep jet to create a sense of mysticism.
20 Feb – 20 March
With the planet Neptune – also the god of the sea – ruling this creative sign, Pisces is gifted with intuition and compassion.
Birthstones Pisces’s stones are linked to sea shades and include aquamarine (above right), pale amethysts, coloured pearls.
Also try Scorpio’s malachite for magnetism.
The Birthday Book by Shelley von Strunckel is published by Dorling Kindersley, price £14.99. To order a copy for £11.99 until 20 December go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £15.