April’s birthstone may be somewhat controversial for a few reasons. For starters, diamonds are unusually inaccessible compared to most birthstones. While rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are hardly common, a decent 1 carat diamond will, on average, be more expensive than a decent 1 carat ruby. Another issue with diamond as April’s birthstone is that historically it wasn’t the most popular choice. So let’s start there and work our way up to today to find an answer for why it was chosen for April.
Going by Kunz’s list, only the Poles regarded diamond as April’s birthstone. Since Poland fostered the concept of birthstones as we know it today, it is no surprise that diamond became April’s birthstone for everyone. But what was the alternative? The answer is found in today’s September’s birthstone: sapphire.
There is some evidence to back up Kunz, although the research in this field is scant, especially since Kunz himself was the pioneer in this field. One clear piece of evidence can be found in the zodiac stones. Although sapphire is September’s birthstone, its zodiac sign is not Virgo, it is Taurus.
Kunz’s comments on the apostles are generally correct, but not every list in history agrees with the ones he puts in the book cited below. For instance, a 17th century text claims that Saint Andrew’s stone is Sapphirus.
We need not look in the past to find proof that diamond was not a widely accepted stone for April. In fact, even in modern times, some considered sapphire to be April’s birthstone. Julius Wodiska in 1909 wrote that the “generally accepted” list of birthstones “by leading dealers in gems and manufacturers of jewelry” named Sapphire as April’s birthstone. Three years later, the Kansas City convention named diamond as April’s birthstone.
Wodiska acknowledged that “some lists” give April to diamond, but he rejected this idea. To Wodiska, the diamond was the stone of marriage and betrothal. Acknowledging the same issue of price listed above, he wrote that not everyone could afford both a diamond engagement ring and diamond birthday ring.
Using readily available sources, it can be said with a reasonable degree of certainty that sapphire was the original birthstone of April in many cultures for most of history. However, when Polish Jews moved to America, they carried the concept of diamond as a birthstone with them. As some became influential jewelers and mineralogists, this concept became official in 1912.
There is a lot to be said about diamond, but there are plenty of other blogs on this site that go into great detail. Instead, this will be a summary of the most prized gemstone today.
Diamond is the hardest substance in the world. Because of its extreme hardness, it can only be cut by another diamond, lasers, or other specialized equipment. The hardness is in large part caused by diamond’s being composed entirely of carbon.
Another contributing factor is its formation. Diamonds form in high pressure and heat environments (even when compared to other minerals). This combination of heat and pressure creates covalent bonds between diamond molecules. Thus, the hardness of a diamond is caused by rigid crystalline lattices made out of pure carbon.
Diamonds are among the most precious stones in the history of the world. There are likely more named diamonds than any other colored gemstone. Despite their prized status, it is questionable if it deserves the title of April’s birthstone instead of sapphire.
Cesi, Bernardo. Mineralogia sive naturalis philosophiae thesauri.
Kunz, George Frederick. The Curious Lore of Precious Stones. Lippincott, 1913.
Wodiska, Julius. “Natal Stone for April.” The Phrenological Journal and Science of Health: Incorporated with the Phrenological Magazine. United States, Fowler & Wells, 1909. P.122-123
Morgan, Alfred. “On Gems and Precious Stones.” Proceedings of the Literary & Philosophical Society of Liverpool, issue 27, 1873, p. 175-214