What are birthstones?

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Birthstone

We inform you that everything about birthstones is not scientific. We are therefore leaving the field of gemological science.
Many people have an interest in this topic, so here is the results of our research to give the most accurate description of birthstones.

A birthstone is a gemstone that represents a person’s month of birth.

Western custom

The first century Jewish historian Josephus believed there was a connection between the twelve stones in Aaron’s breastplate. Signifying the tribes of Israel, as described in the Book of Exodus. The twelve months of the year, and also the twelve signs of the zodiac. Translations and interpretations of the passage in Exodus regarding the breastplate have varied widely. Josephus himself gives two different lists for the twelve stones. George Kunz argues that Josephus saw the breastplate of the Second Temple, not the one described in Exodus. St. Jerome, referencing Josephus, said the Foundation Stones of the New Jerusalem would be appropriate for Christians to use.

In the eighth and ninth century, religious treatises associating a particular stone with an apostle were written, so that “their name would be inscribed on the Foundation Stones, and his virtue.” Practice became to keep twelve stones and wear one a month. The custom of wearing a single birthstone is only a few centuries old, though modern authorities differ on dates. Kunz places 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 also contains many stones which are popular choices, often reflecting Polish tradition.

There are poems which match each month of the Gregorian calendar with a birthstone. These are traditional stones of English-speaking societies. Tiffany & Co. published these poems for the first time in a pamphlet in 1870.

Modern birthstones

In 1912, in an effort to standardize birthstones, the American National Association of Jewelers, now called Jewelers of America, met in Kansas and officially adopted a list. The Jewelry Industry Council of America updated the list in 1952 by adding Alexandrite for June, citrine for November and pink tourmaline for October. They also replaced December’s lapis with zircon and switched the primary/alternative gems for March. The American Gem Trade Association also added tanzanite as a December birthstone in 2002. In 2016, the American Gem Trade Association and Jewelers of America added spinel as an additional birthstone for August. Britain’s National Association of Goldsmiths also created their own standardized list of birthstones in 1937.

Eastern Traditions

Eastern cultures recognize a similar range of gemstones associated with birth, though rather than associating a gem with a birth month, gemstones are associated with celestial bodies, and astrology is employed to determine the gemstones most closely associated with and beneficial to a particular individual. For example, in Hinduism there are nine gemstones in the Navagraha. Celestial forces including the planets, also the sun, and the moon, known in Sanskrit as Navaratna (nine gems). At birth, an astrological chart is also calculated. Certain stones are recommended to be worn on the body to ward off potential problems. Based on the place of these forces in the sky at the exact place and time of birth.

Birthstones by cultures

Month 15th – 20th century U.S. (1912) U.S. (2016) Britain (2013)
January garnet garnet garnet garnet
February amethyst, hyacinth,
pearl
amethyst amethyst amethyst
March bloodstone, jasper bloodstone,
aquamarine
aquamarine,
bloodstone
aquamarine,
bloodstone
April diamond, sapphire diamond diamond diamond, rock crystal
May emeraldagate emerald emerald emeraldchrysoprase
June cat’s eye,
turquoiseagate
pearl, moonstone pearl, moonstone,
alexandrite
pearl, moonstone
July turquoiseonyx ruby ruby ruby, carnelian
August sardonyxcarnelian,moonstone, topaz sardonyxperidot peridotspinel peridotsardonyx
September chrysolite sapphire sapphire sapphirelapis lazuli
October opalaquamarine opaltourmaline opaltourmaline opal
November topazpearl topaz topazcitrine topazcitrine
December bloodstone, ruby turquoiselapis lazuli turquoisezircon,
tanzanite
tanzaniteturquoise
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