The tradition of having a single birthstone is recent. In 1912 the US National Association of Jewelers met to standardise a list aligning each month with a single stone. However, its origins are more ancient, possibly dating to the first century when the historian Josephus proposed that there was a connection between the 12 stones in a biblical breastplate and the 12 months of the year.
Here, we have a look at some of the antique jewellery coming up at auction that fits the months of May, June and July.
May birthstone: Emerald
Green emeralds are traditionally considered to be a symbol of rebirth and love. Among the rarest and most delicate on this list, they are historically associated with the Egyptian monarch Cleopatra – as well as Elizabeth Taylor who portrayed her on screen centuries later.
It might be a little late in the day to start shopping for May birthstones – but one of the pieces might make up for belated birthday wishes.
Elmwood’s in London
On May 29, Elmwood’s in London offers this Art Deco diamond and emerald cluster ring in yellow gold. The circular face is set with a cluster of round-cut diamonds, encircled with cut emeralds. The size J ring has an estimate of £300-500.
Fellows in Birmingham
This late Victorian 18ct gold brooch – which may also be worn as a pendant – is designed with emeralds in a share within a split pearl star, with a rope-twist and bead motif concentric surrounds to the scrolling sides and vacant glazed panel reverse. It has an estimate of £200-300 at Fellows’ June 6 sale in Birmingham.
June birthstones: Pearl, alexandrite, moonstone
Three gems are associated with June: pearl, alexandrite and moonstone. The many colours and types of pearl as well as its versatility can make it attractive. So can the history of these gems, as various types of pearl have long been used to enhance fashions and dress – some of the pearls that come onto the market will have intriguing histories of their own. Alexandrite is rare and changes colour from green to purple-red. Reputedly discovered only in 1834, it can be harder to find antique settings for this stone.
Moonstone, on the other hand, was named by the ancient Roman natural historian Pliny. The best examples are transparent with a blue shimmer. They are relatively soft, but have been used frequently, first by the Romans and rising in popularity again in the Art Nouveau period.
Veritas in Lisbon
This mid-20th century necklace features two rows of grey baroque cultured pearls. Offered at Lisbon auction house Veritas from May 28-29, it includes an 18ct gold wire and clasp as well as medallions with feminine profiles in relief and a chain. It has an estimate of €700-1000.
East Bristol Auctions
Something a little different (and a little more expensive) is this 19th century ‘renaissance’ blister pearl pendant made with ruby, emerald and enamel. The figure of a merman holds aloft a sword and a medusa head. It is offered with an estimate of £3000-5000 complete with its presentation box at East Bristol Auctions’ sale on May 29.
Chilcotts in Devon
This large circular moonstone dress ring is from the personal collection of Pamela Schneider, a well-known dealer in the Bath antiques market from the 1960s-90s. It is surrounded by eight square-cut sapphires with seed pearls between and has a yellow metal shank and scrolling shoulders. Estimated at £100-150, it is available at Chilcotts in Honiton, Devon, on June 1.
July birthstone: Ruby
Associated with love, health and wisdom, the ruby has sometimes been thought to bring its owner good fortune. It is the hardest gem apart from diamond and can be worn every day. Colour is an important consideration when selecting a ruby – the vivid ‘pigeon’s blood’ hue is considered the most desirable, but they vary from pink to a deep red.
Sterling Vault in Surrey
This Victorian ruby and diamond expanding 15ct gold bracelet features a central floral motif of rubies and old cut diamonds. It has an estimate of £700-1000 at Sterling Vault Auctioneers’ sale of May 30-31.
This Mughal pendant from 19th century India would cover any summer birthday. The ovoid pendant is set with foil-backed cabochon emeralds inscribed with three lines of fine nasta’liq script, set into a gold mount set with rose-cut diamonds and surrounded by a line of rubies either side. The reverse has a flower head design in gold, set with a central diamond and surrounded with emeralds on a ground of rubies. Hanging from the pendant is a row of seed pearls and there are golf flower head suspension loops above on a modern gold string. It is offered at Roseberys’ Arts of India sale in London on June 12.