History of birthstones


Western custom

The first century Jewish historian Josephus believed there was a connections between the twelve stones in Aaron’s breastplate, and the twelve months of the year, and the twelve signs of the zodiac. In the eighth and ninth century, religious treaties associating a particular stone with an apostle were written because the book of Revelation stated “their name would be inscribed on the Foundation Stones, and his virtue”. Practice became to keep twelve stones and wear one a month. Wearing a single birthstone is only a few centuries old, although modern authorities differ on dates. Historians place the custom in eighteenth century Poland, while the Gemological Institute of America starts it in Germany in the 1560s.

Modern lists of birthstones have little to do with either the breastplate or the Foundation Stones of Christianity. Tastes, customs and confusing translations have distanced them from their historical origins, with one author calling the 1912 Kansas list “nothing but a piece of unfounded salesmanship.”

Traditional birthstones

Ancient traditional birthstones are society-based birthstones. The table below contains many stones which are popular choices, often reflecting Polish tradition. The Gregorian calendar has poems matching each month with its birthstone. These are traditional stones of English-speaking societies.

Modern birthstones

The (American) National Association of Jewelers met in Kansas in 1912 and officially adopted a list in an effort to standardize birthstones. The Jewelry Industry Council of America updated the list in 1952 by adding alexandrite to June and citrine to November; specifying pink tourmaline for October; replacing December’s lapis with zircon; and switching the primary/alternative gems in March. The American Gem Trade Association added tanzanite as a December birthstone in 2002. Britain’s National Association of Goldsmiths created their own standardized list of birthstones in 1937.


Month Traditional Birthstones15th- 20th century U.S. (1912) Modern U.S. Modern Britain Hindu
January garnet garnet garnet garnet serpent stone
February amethyst, hyacinth, pearl amethyst amethyst amethyst chandrakanta
March bloodstone, jasper bloodstone, aquamarine aquamarine, bloodstone aquamarine, bloodstone Gold Siva-linga
April diamond, sapphire diamond diamond diamond, rock crystal diamond
May emerald, agate emerald emerald emerald, chrysoprase emerald
June cat’s eye, turquoise, agate pearl, moonstone pearl, moonstone, alexandrite pearl, moonstone pearl
July turquoise, onyx ruby ruby ruby, carnelian sapphire
August sardonyx, carnelian, moonstone, topaz sardonyx, peridot peridot peridot, sardonyx ruby
September chrysolite[disambiguation needed] sapphire sapphire sapphire, lapis lazuli zircon
October opal, aquamarine opal, tourmaline opal, tourmaline opal coral
November topaz, pearl topaz topaz, citrine topaz, citrine cat’s-eye
December bloodstone, ruby turquoise, lapis lazuli turquoise, zircon, tanzanite tanzanite, turquoise topaz





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