APRIL BIRTHSTONE HISTORY: The Unsung Blue Birthstone

The ancients knew that the original April birthstone was blue, but this blue gem was never recognized for what it truly was. The gem was called sapphirus, which people identify with sapphire. Sapphire itself was taken off April in favor of a stone imported from India. Now the birthstone for April lacks the month’s  original blue, or any color for that matter.

Lapis Lazuli

The foundations of the city’s wall were adorned with all kinds of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, lapis lazuli …

— Revelation 21:19

Lapis lazuli is the April birthstone that never came to be. One of the gems on Aaron’s breastplate, lapis lazuli is the 2nd Foundation Stone in Revelation. Lapis lazuli is the correct birthstone for the 2nd sign of the zodiac, Taurus, and the partially concurrent month of April.

A confounding question crosses our mind: how in the world did this April birthstone escape our knowledge?

In the Hebrew Bible, the name for lapis lazuli was sappir,1 sappheiros in Greek.2 The name is translated to Latin as sapphirus3 or sappiri.4 For centuries, cultures interpreted this name to mean the sapphire that we know today. However, as scholars before the 2nd century wrote, the ancient sapphire was a blue gemstone that was never transparent and had golden spots.5 Clearly this description fits not the modern-day sapphire, but lapis lazuli, an opaque blue gem spangled with flecks of fool’s gold.

From Stanislav Doronenko, CC BY 3.0

Sapphire

While the Exodus’ sappheiros2sapphiros in the Book of Revelation6 — in fact referred to lapis lazuli, for centuries this old name was taken to mean the sapphire that we know today. Consequently, sapphire became the traditional April birthstone.

Sapphire comes from the mineral corundum, the red variety of which is called ruby.

Though a result of mistaken identity, sapphire held on as April birthstone until early 1900s. In 1912, however, sapphire saw the end of its reign in April, though a new place opened for the blue gem in September. To make diamond the sole birthstone for April, America’s jewelers migrated sapphire to the winter month.7

From Theresia987, CC BY-SA 3.0

Diamond

Diamond first became a birthstone in Ancient India, who designated the clear gem as April birthstone in place of sapphire. With Poland’s endorsement, diamond’s entry into the list of birthstones reverberated across Europe. In the 1400s, diamond’s rise in popularity saw the traditional birthstone of April, blue sapphire, make way for the white gem. Diamond’s fame proved unbeatable that, in 1912, the gem became the sole April gemstone, as America transferred the traditional sapphire to September.7

Today, diamond is arguably the most popular gemstone of them all. What with a refractive index of 2.417, enabling the mineral to store 2.417 times the light that passes through air, this April birthstone displays an unrivaled brilliance that keeps it among the most expensive gems on the planet. Diamond is the hardest gemstone too. While the stone occurs in a wide range of colors, the clear white diamond is its most famous variety. See —

White Quartz

In 1937, clear quartz, also known as rock crystal, was designated in Britain as alternate April birthstone to diamond. The reason seems rather obvious: white diamond is clear, and so is rock crystal.

In their purest form, free of any inclusion, both diamond and white quartz display colorless clarity.

The move by Britain’s Association of Goldsmiths to make clear quartz an April birthstone made the month’s gem more accessible to everybody. Colorless quartz provides a less costly alternative to the very expensive diamond.

Lapis Lazuli Bracelet

Colorless April Birthstone

In April lay a birthstone that was never recognized for what it truly was. The gem on Aaron’s breastplate was lapis lazuli. The birthstone for April from Revelation was also lapis lazuli. Yet lapis lazuli never made it to any list of birthstones as April gemstone. Even sapphire, who took lapis lazuli’s place, was robbed of this designation. The invincible diamond took April by storm, and is unlikely to relinquish the post. Diamond proved too popular to lose to any other gem. As a result, April birthstone color went from blue to none at all.

Know Their Magic

Each birthstone for April is attributed with magical properties. Know the magical powers of April stone, as well as those of your zodiac birthstones, when you read my book Power Birthstone.

Learn the magic of April Birthstone

Footnotes

1

“Exodus 28.” The Bible. Bible Hub, biblehub.com/interlinear/exodus/28.htm. Accessed 28 July 2019.

2

“Exodus 28.” Septuagint. Blue Letter Bible, www.blueletterbible.org/lxx/exo/28/1/s_78001. Accessed 28 July 2019.

3

“Exodus 28.” Biblia Sacra Vulgata. Bible Gateway, www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+28%3A17-20&version=VULGATE. Accessed 28 July 2019.

4

Plini, G. Secundi. “Libri XXXVII – XXXIX.” Naturalis Historiae. Ed. Carolus Mayoff. Vol. V. Lipsiae: B. G. Teubneri, 1897. The University of Chicago, penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/L/Roman/Texts/Pliny_the_Elder/37*.html. Accessed 27 June 2019.

5

Pliny. “Book 37 – XXXVII.” Natural History. Trans. D. E. Eichholz. Loeb Classical Library ed. Vol. X. Harvard University Press, 1962. Wikisource, en.wikisource.org/wiki/Natural_History_(Rackham,_Jones,_%26_Eichholz)/Book_37. Accessed 27 July 2019.

6

“Revelation 21.” The Bible. Bible Hub, biblehub.com/interlinear/revelation/21.htm. Accessed 28 July 2019.

7

Knuth, Bruce G. “Birthstones.” Gems in Myth, Legend and Lore. Revised ed. Parachute: Jewelers Press, 2007. pp. 293-327.

Published October 16, 2019