Birthstones

buyers guide

History

Throughout the ages and around the world, people have appreciated the beauty of gemstones, often assigning these gems special powers.  The idea of a specific gemstone being assigned to each month of the year is an ancient one, and can be traced back to the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. Here, the breastplate of Aaron, the Hebrews' high priest, is described as having twelve specific gems, one representing each of Israel's twelve tribes. The gems were set in four rows of three: sardius, topaz, and carbuncle; emerald, sapphire and diamond; ligure, agate, and amethyst; and beryl, onyx and jasper.  Over time, the gems became associated with the twelve signs of the zodiac, which correspond roughly with the twelve months of the year.

In scholarly works written in the first and fifth centuries AD, it was first proposed that each of the gemstones found in Aaron’s breastplate had special powers associated with the corresponding astrological sign and that wearing these stones at the right time would have mystical and therapeutic benefits to the wearer.  This is not quite the same concept of birthstones that we know today.  According to these ancient beliefs, one would have to own a collection of all twelve gems and wear the appropriate gem during the ascendancy of the corresponding astrological sign.  

The custom of always wearing the birthstone of one’s month of birth is a distinctly modern idea that became popular in Poland around the 18th century.  

Although the ancient names of the gemstones set in Aaron’s breastplate are clearly stated in the book of Exodus, there is still some modern debate about exactly which gemstones were found there.  This is because ancient people did not always classify gemstones by mineral species like we do. Because of this, different cultures around the world have developed different birth stone lists.  The modern birthstone list has been in existence since 1912, but it is up to each individual to decide whether the properties of the ancient or the modern birthstone appeals to them.

Each birthstone, whether ancient or modern, has its own special meaning and symbolism.  Some represent admirable qualities such as love, fidelity, grace and loyalty.   Some offer protection to the wearer or are thought to have special powers, such as the power to heal a broken marriage.