Birthstones. A lovely tradition – something beautiful to associate with the month of your birth. Chances are you know what your birthstone is. But do you know the history behind it and what it means?
Today in modern America, we’ve actually gotten quite far away from the original meaning and intent of birthstones. The first century Jewish historian Josephus traced the origin of birthstones back to the Breastplate of Aaron, the Hebrew priest, as described in the Bible’s book of Exodus, chapter 28:
15 “Fashion a breastpiece for making decisions—the work of skilled hands. Make it like the ephod: of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. 16 It is to be square—a span long and a span wide—and folded double. 17 Then mount four rows of precious stones on it. The first row shall be carnelian, chrysolite and beryl; 18 the second row shall be turquoise, lapis lazuli and emerald; 19 the third row shall be jacinth, agate and amethyst; 20 the fourth row shall be topaz, onyx and jasper. Mount them in gold filigree settings. 21 There are to be twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel,each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.”
St. Jerome, a 5th century Christian priest, said the stones described in the Bible’s book of Revelation, chapter 21 would be appropriate for Christians to use:
18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.
Both Josephus and St. Jerome are said to have correlated birthstones to the 12 signs of the Zodiac. In any event, the custom was to own all 12 gemstones and wear one each month for good luck and health. The concept of wearing one gemstone associated with your own birth is only a few hundred years old, possibly originating in Poland around the 18th century or in Germany in the 16th century.
Modern List of Birthstones
The modern list of birthstones (created in 1912) has little to do with the breastplate of Aaron or the foundation stones from Revelation. Whether it’s the result of different customs, tastes, or astrological ascendancies, birthstones have become a beloved symbol of the sacredness and beauty of one’s birth.
Here’s the modern list of birthstones (several months have a few options):
January – Garnet
February – Amethyst
March – Aquamarine/Bloodstone
April – Diamond
May – Emerald
June – Moonstone/Pearl/Alexandrite
July – Ruby/Sardonyx
August – Peridot
September – Sapphire
October – Opal/Tourmaline
November – Topaz/Citrine
December – Zircon/Turquoise/Tanzanite/Blue Topaz
Aquarius – Garnet
Pisces – Amethyst
Aries – Heliotrope
Taurus – Sapphire
Gemini – Agate
Cancer – Emerald
Virgo – Carnelian
Libra – Chrysolite
Scorpio – Beryl
Sagittarius – Topaz
Capricorn – Ruby
What does your birthstone mean?
Colorcombos.com lists the following birthstones and their “fabled benefits”:
- January—Garnet is found in every color except blue. It might prevent nightmares and snakebites and can provide directional guidance in darkness. Wearers may see an increase in their self-image, will power and energy levels, and nervous people may feel calmer. Faith, love and constancy are its attributes.
- February—Purple amethyst speaks of peace, temperance, serenity and royalty. Wearing this stone may protect you from the effects of drunkenness. The Pope always wears an amethyst ring.
- March—Pale blue aquamarine gemstones and the bloodstone are associated with good health, youth, love and hope. Wearing this gem may reawaken married love, build your courage and increase your happiness.
- April—Diamonds come in several colors, but they share the same association with eternal love and invincibility. It was once believed that they could also ward off insanity.
- May—Green emeralds speak of health, faithfulness, fertility and improved eyesight.
- June—The cool, milky beauty of pearls or moonstones suggest chastity, modesty and stable marriage relationships. These gems are available in sophisticated black, gray, chocolate and the familiar creamy-white colors.
- July—Red rubies are tokens of harmony and peace. Their beauty speaks of strength and nobility of character. Wearers may attract both good luck and good friends.
- August—Light green peridot has its own charming sparkle. Tradition says you will be able to successfully ward off evil, enchantments and depression if you wear or carryperidot.
- September—Sapphires are available in a variety of delicate colors in addition to the more common blue shades. They speak of dignity, loyalty, serenity, faith, purity and wisdom.
- October—Opals and tourmaline represent hope, creativity and innocence. They also protect the wearer from envious, mal-intentioned people.
- November—Yellow topaz and citrine are associated with strength and healing for both body and mind. They offer protection to travelers and support good mental health.
- December—Turquoise, blue topaz and tanzanite represent a happy life that is filled with good fortune. Headaches may be relieved or prevented. Ancient practitioners believed that turquoise would actually change color when the wearer was ill or in danger.
Choose the birthstone of your choice in a pendant, ring, or earrings, and discover the benefits for yourself! We’ll help you find or create the perfect piece for you.