A birthstone is, traditionally, a gemstone (precious, or semi-precious, stone) usually mounted in a ring. Each type of stone is associated with a person’s month of birth following the Gregorian calendar.
Nowadays various manufactured crystals are often used instead of the precious stones, with the colors imitating the original stones.
Stones have been believed to possess special virtues, or powers, since ancient times. Each major culture have had some kind of tradition related to stones of various types and colors.
Depending on the culture, different stones have represented the various months, but many of the cultures have some of the same, or similar, stones representing the same months as other cultures.
Early civilizations, such as those in India and Babylon, have attributed gemstones with magical properties and especially to their relationship with the signs of the zodiac. Over time, astrologers assigned gems of certain colors to the twelve signs of the zodiac to help people influence the planets in their favor.
|Aquarius||21 January – 21 February||Garnet|
|Pisces||22 February – 21 March||Amethyst|
|Aries||22 March – 20 April||Bloodstone|
|Taurus||21 April – 21 May||Sapphire|
|Gemini||22 May – 21 June||Agate|
|Cancer||21 June – 22 July||Emerald||Leo||23 July – 22 August||Onyx|
|Virgo||23 August – 22 September||Carnelian|
|Libra||23 September – 23 October||Peridot|
|Scorpio||24 October – 21 November||Beryl|
|Sagittarius||22 November – 21 December||Topaz|
|Capricorn||22 December – 21 January||Ruby|
Birthstones were part of tradition in the Middle East more than 2000 years ago. Twelve different stones signified the twelve tribes of Israel and according to legend people were wearing one stone throughout one month of the year. These stones were engraved with the name of the tribe.
This meant that the stones could not be very hard as the techniques and instruments in ancient times were not suitable for engraving on very hard materials.
A lot of research has been done on the subject of which original stones were used and the only thing that seems relatively certain is the type of stones. The stones were set in four rows in the high priest’s breast plate but in what order is also uncertain.
One source list it as follows:
|First row:||Judah (Ruby)||Issachar (Topaz)||Zebulon (Peridot)|
|Second row:||Dan (Garnet)||Naphtali (Aquamarine)||Gad (Fire Opal)|
|Third row:||Reuben (Sapphire)||Simeon (Emerald)||Levi (Amethyst)|
|Fourth row:||Asher (Chrysoberyl)||Joseph (Diamond)||Benjamin (Pink Tourmaline)|
Through the centuries the tradition has evolved into wearing one stone all the time, representing the month the bearer was born.
As mentioned above there are many different traditions when it comes to what color represents what period, therefore it depends on what cultural group you take the tradition from.
One system is related to the Chinese astrology signs which originated during the Han Dynasty (206-220).
The system of animal signs is based on each animal’s character and living habits:
Wearing a single birthstone is only a few centuries old, although modern authorities differ on when and where it originated.
Kunz places the custom in eighteenth century Poland, while the Gemological Institute of America places it in Germany in the 1560s.
Tastes and confusing, differing, translations have brought the modern custom of birthstones somewhat away from the ancient origin.
In the US a list was created concerning birthstones which actually catered more to taste than tradition. The list was altered slightly in 1952 and 2002, and the resulting list is shown below.
In Britain the National Association of Goldsmiths created their own list in 1937 which differed slightly from the American one.
Modern birthstones by cultures
|Month||15th- 20th century||U.S. (2013)||Britain (2013)||Hindu|
Colors Of Some Birthstones
|Garnet||Deep reddish brown|
|Pearl||Whitish (light amethyst)|
Birthday (day of the week) stones
While this has also been used as synonym of Birth stone (see above), there is a separate list assigned to each day of the week of the recipient’s birth:
|Friday||–||emerald, cat’s eye|
We will come back at a later stage with more information on gemstones, their tradition etc.