The History of Birthstones


The nine stones in Aaron's breastplate
Aaron's Breastplate

The establishment of birthstones for each month can be traced back to biblical times in the Book of Exodus in which there is a story of Aaron, the first high priest of the Israelites. He wore a breastplate adorned with 12 different stones that represented the 12 different tribes of Israel which all future high priests wore. According to the hebrew translation

of the scripture, the first three rows were composed of carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, jacinth, agate, amethyst, topaz, onyx and jasper. At that time stones were identified by their color as opposed to their chemical composition so it is difficult to determine which stones were actually on the breastplate. It was believed that these stones had great powers and were used for divination to tell people their ultimate fate. Around the first century, a historian by the name of Joseph made the connection between the 12 stones on the breastplate and the months in a calendar year and the 12 zodiac signs. By the 5th century a historian, St. Jerome, referenced Joseph’s findings and encouraged Christians to collect all 12 stones and adorn themselves with belts and ornaments made from these 12 stones. By the 9th century, people began to wear only one of the stones at a time would give them heightened powers and traditions from Eastern cultures influenced their beliefs.

Sacred Nine Gemstones
Nava Ratna (Nine Gems)

An ancient Hindu text from the 5th century, the Ratna Pariksha, references the correlation between gemstones, Deities and days of the week. Hindu belief systems associate nine gemstones with different celestial forces referred to as “navaratna” in Sanskrit. These historical texts established the tradition of wearing the sacred nine stones and then consulting with a Vedic astrologer for additional stones that one could wear according to their astrological birth chart to cancel negative effects of certain planets and protect one from negative energies projected by others. Fast forward to many centuries later and we have the modern tradition of wearing specific birthstones in America according to the month we were born. The leaders of the jewelry industry were responsible for the ultimate list of what we accept as birthstones today. In the year 1912, the National Association of Jewelers officially established a standard list of birthstones along with each month they represented. The list did consider customs that had evolved over time but also ensured that American jewelers would be able to promote and sell the listed stones in large quantities. in 1952 by the Jewelry Industry Council of America, adding alexandrite to June, citrine to November, pink tourmaline to October, and zircon to December. The list remained unchanged until 2002 when Tanzanite was added to December’s birthstone list and most recently Spinel was added in 2016 to the month of August. Below is the official list of both modern and traditional birthstones that is used by the jewelry industry today.


Month Modern Birthstone Traditional Birthstone

​January

Garnet

Garnet

​February

Amethyst

Amethyst

March

Aquamarine

Bloodstone

April

Diamond

Diamond

May

Emerald

Emerald

June

Alexandrite

Pearl

July

Ruby

Ruby

August

Peridot or Spinel

Sardonyx

September

Sapphire

Sapphire

October

Pink Tourmaline

Opal

November

Golden Topaz or Citrine

Topaz

December

Blue Zircon, Blue Topaz or Tanzanite

Turquoise or Lapis Lazuli


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