Birthstones

The historical custom of wearing a different gem each month gave rise to the tradition of associating a precious stone with each month of the year as a good luck charm.

The popular custom of wearing birthstones, or good luck stones, originated in Poland around the 15th century, but birthstones first became part of Western culture through the breastplate of Aaron (Exodus 28:15-30). Also known as the ‘breastplate of judgment’, this was a religious garment used for ceremonial purposes by Jewish priests. It featured 12 gemstones, representing the 12 tribes of Israel, which also corresponded with the 12 signs of the zodiac and, as reported by the historian Josephus around 200 AD, also the 12 months of the year.

As it can be pretty hard to tell the difference between gems of the same color without the benefits of scientific gemology, gemstones were not always classified by mineral species. As many gems were once confusingly known by the same name based on their color, there is some debate about which gemstones were actually set in the breastplate. This has seen different birthstone lists emerge, depending on where and when they were compiled.

The first ‘official’ birthstone list was issued in 1912 by the Jewelers of America (formerly the American National Association of Jewelers). Included below are the birthstones established in 1952 by the Jewelry Industry Council, which were revised by the AGTA (American Gem Trade Association).

You can choose a birthstone based on a birthday, anniversary or any other significant date. But did you know that in the past it was customary to wear a different gemstone each month, and in Medieval times it was believed that the powers of each gemstone were heightened during its month. The list of birthstones is therefore richly populated - the following table provides a quick overview of the power and energy that may be drawn from the birthstones.

JANUARY

Garnet

January: Garnet

FEBRUARY

Amethyst

February: Amethyst

MARCH

Aquamarine

March: Aquamarine

APRIL

Diamond

April: Diamond

MAY

Emerald

May: Emerald

JUNE

Alexandrite

June: Alexandrite

Moonstone

June: Moonstone

Pearl

June: Pearl

JULY

Ruby

July: Ruby

AUGUST

Peridot

August: Peridot

SEPTEMBER

Sapphire

September: Sapphire

OCTOBER

Opal

October: Opal

Tourmaline

October: Tourmaline

NOVEMBER

Citrine

November: Citrine

Topaz

November: Topaz

DECEMBER

Tanzanite

December: Tanzanite

Turquoise

December: Turquoise

Zircon

December: Zircon

 

The lucky stone for the month of January is Garnet, which may serve, among other things, as a sign of misfortune if the stone loses its splendor; Amethyst, another lucky stone, traditionally protects against inebriation. The beloved Aquamarine is noted for a number of singular properties which, according to the ancients, had a positive influence that could calm the ire of the god of the sea, Poseidon. It is said that mariners used to carry Aquamarine amulets to ensure safe passage across the sea. Diamonds were once claimed to be able to ascertain culpability by certain Hebrew priests. The Emerald, also a stone of the Zodiac, has been ascribed the power to alleviate the eyes.

The three birthstones for the month of June all have different properties: Alexandrite is often ascribed the power to increase intuition; Moonstone is said to allow one to see one’s own future in a dream. In Medieval times, knights believed Pearls protected against misfortune and disaster.

The lucky stone for the month of July, Ruby, is traditionally believed to grant the gift of long life. Peridot has also been ascribed extraordinary powers; that wearing a Peridot pendant could increase the effects of medication, for example. Sapphire was believed to bring peace, wisdom and joy. Throughout history, Opal has been recognized as a stone accompanied by beauty, success and good fortune. Tourmaline, another Zodiac stone and birthstone for the month of October, was said to have various supernatural properties; for example Rubellite, a variety of Tourmaline, was considered the stone of seduction. In the month of November, Citrine protected against bad thoughts, and Topaz held unwanted spells at bay. As Tanzanite was only discovered in 1967, no particular qualities have been ascribed to it yet. In contrast, Turquoise is known for its beneficial properties, such as the power to increase wellbeing. The other lucky stone attributed to the month of December is Zircon, which is said to act as a warning beacon for trouble at the moment it loses its shine.

Gemstone aficionados will thus surely find plenty of reasons to acquire the entire set of gemstones and wear them throughout the year.