What is your birthstone? Most of us have a vague idea of what our birthstone might be. It has been a tradition in many countries and cultures for centuries. Where did the idea for birthstones come from? And why do some months have multiple birthstones?
Where do birthstones come from?
According to George Frederick Kunz in his book " The Curious Tradition of Gemstones ," the idea of gemstones being associated with the months of the year was first attributed to the writings of Flavius Josephus, a first-century Jewish scholar. In Josephus' book “ Antiquities of the Jews ”, he writes about the breastplate of Aaron , the first High Priest of Israel. Aaron's breastplate is first described in the Book of Exodus when Moses is commanded to make sacred garments for his brother, which included a breastplate with twelve stones engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Josephus describes the sacred garment as representative of the universe and of precious stones related to the months of the year or to the signs of the zodiac.
It was not until at least the 16th century in and around Poland that the practice of using a particular gemstone to represent your birth month began to take hold. Until this time, it was more common to collect all twelve stones and use them in rotation based on the idea that they had increased therapeutic effects during their representative month or zodiac cycle. It is believed that the large settlement of Jews in this region at the time probably influenced the tradition.
Who decided the birthstones and their order?
The original request for precious stones was based first on the list of Aaron's breastplate and later on the list of the cornerstones of the New Jerusalem mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Due to multiple text translations and the lack of a standard gemstone name of the time, it is difficult to know the exact gemstones referred to in the Book of Exodus or Revelation, but many lists have been compiled. over the centuries with much similarity.
Interestingly, the first gemstone on the list corresponded to the month of March, probably due to the calendar year that begins with that month in many calendars of the time. These lists were used in the development of the first official birthstone list in 1912 by the National Jewelers Association of America. The list has been modified over the decades to take into account broader tastes and accessibility, leading to some months having multiple birthstones.
No matter your preference, a singular favorite or a collection of twelve, chances are this long tradition will be around for centuries to come. From class rings to Mother's Day gifts to engagement rings, birthstones have found a home in a wide range of jewelry and gifts for everyone.