What To Know About May's Birthstone + How To Care For It
The meaning behind birthstones.
It wasn't until 1912 that the birthstones we know today were solidified in the U.S. by the National Association of Jewelers. But before then, they had a long history dating back to biblical times. It's written in the book of Exodus (28:17-20) that 12 gemstones were fixed on the prophet Aaron's breastplate. It reads, "There were 12 stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the 12 tribes."
According to Ashley Leavy, founder and educational director of the Love and Light School of Crystal Therapy, birthstones also have roots in Western astrology and Ayurveda. She explains that the National Association of Jewelers decided to standardize all the American birthstones because so many different traditions had different birthstone options for each month.
Today, you've probably seen birthstones gifted on birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, etc.
May's birthstone is none other than the gorgeous green emerald. It's a variety of the mineral beryl, getting its green color from trace amounts of the chemical elements chromium or vanadium.
It became the official birthstone for May in 1912, along with the rest of the birthstones, and before that, it was also associated with Gemini and Taurus, which are both zodiac signs that fall in May. As Leavy explains, since Taurus is the more predominant sign in May, it's typically more strongly associated with Taurus and its ruling planet Venus.
"There are entire books written about emeralds and their associations in history," Leavy tells mbg. "For example, emerald is speculated to potentially be one of the stones in the holy grail. Also, a lot of green stones were just called emerald before we had the ability to differentiate crystals better than we do now," she explains.
Today, high-quality emeralds mainly come from Columbia, she adds, "but emeralds are also found in Brazil and India—you can find them in a variety of places."
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Meanings & symbolism of the emerald.
According to Yulia Van Doren, author of Crystals: The Modern Guide to Crystal Healing and founder of Goldirocks, emeralds can be found throughout countless mythologies and histories for good reason; "This is a gemstone which can manifest huge gifts of magnetic good fortune, abundance, and health," she previously told mbg.
Emerald "radiates powerful energies of growth and creative manifestation," she says, adding it's also helpful for "balancing Taurus’ infamous stubbornness, and a natural complement to Gemini's inquisitive, inventive, and creative personality."
And speaking of Taurus, the bull of the zodiac is ruled by Venus, the planet of love and beauty. As such, emerald, too, is associated with these themes. The color green is also connected to luck, as well as the heart chakra, further bolstering this stone's connection to love. Its association with Venus also makes the emerald great for connecting to Earth energy, sensuality, and passion.
Along with all that, Leavy says emeralds are known to bring peace, calm, and inspiration, as well as protection. "They're known as a stone of loyalty, too, so you'll often see them in Victorian jewelry, and they encourage friendship and stimulate empathy," she adds.
How to take care of emeralds.
Emeralds are a relatively hard gemstone, making them strong, so Leavy says they don't require any particularly special care. "They are fairly durable," she notes, adding that it's always a good idea to get your precious emerald jewelry cleaned by a professional jeweler.
If you're working with emeralds in a more spiritual way, such as in rituals, check out our guide to cleansing and charging crystals to give your stone an energetic refresh.
Can months have more than one birthstone?
While emeralds are the standard birthstone for May, agate is also another popular stone for this month—and a less expensive option if you're looking to gift a birthstone. Agate has a lot of different meanings depending on the color (coming in shades of blue, green, red, pink, and more), but it's mainly associated with facilitating harmony.
As Leavy tells mbg, you can also work with stones that have corresponding energy to May, such as green calcite, dragon stone, or bloodstone.
And if you're more zodiac-minded, Leavy tells mbg that Tauruses could opt for rose quartz, rhodonite, pink opal, amber, or selenite. Geminis, on the other hand, may prefer to go for red jasper, moonstone, moss agate, or golden tiger's-eye.
There are so many special crystals out there for a variety of purposes. Those born in May are auspicious enough to have a gorgeous (and lucky) birthstone—but you certainly don't need a May birthday to enjoy the beauty and blessings of emeralds.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.