History of birthstones
The first-century 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 the twelve signs of the zodiac.: 275–306 Translations and interpretations of the passage in Exodus regarding the breastplate have varied widely, with Josephus himself giving two different lists for the twelve stones.: 130–131 George Frederick 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 (Revelation 21:19–20) would be appropriate for Christians.: 294
In the eighth and ninth centuries, 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.": 299 Practice became to keep twelve stones and wear one a month.: 298 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.: 293
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,: 310 with one author calling the 1912 Kansas list (see below) "nothing but a piece of unfounded salesmanship.": 132
Some poems match each month of the Gregorian calendar with a birthstone. These are traditional stones of English-speaking societies. Tiffany & Co. published these poems "of unknown author" for the first time in a pamphlet in 1870.
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.: 317 The Jewelry Industry Council of America updated the list in 1952: 311 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 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 created its own standardized list of birthstones in 1937. In 2021, Japanese industry associations added ten new types of birthstones.
Eastern culture recognizes a similar range of gemstones associated with birth, though rather than associating a gem with a birth month, gemstones are associated with celestial bodies. 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 associated with the Navagraha (celestial forces including the planets, the sun, and the moon), known in Sanskrit as Navaratna (nine gems). At birth, an astrological chart is calculated. Certain stones are recommended to be worn on the body to supposedly ward off potential problems based on the place of these forces in the sky at the exact place and time of birth.
Birthstones by time frame
|Month||15th–20th century: 315||U.S. (1912): 319–320||UK (2013)||U.S. (2019)|
|February||amethyst, hyacinth, pearl||amethyst||amethyst||amethyst|
|March||bloodstone, jasper||bloodstone, aquamarine||aquamarine, bloodstone||aquamarine, bloodstone|
|April||diamond, sapphire||diamond||diamond, rock crystal||diamond|
|May||emerald, agate||emerald||emerald, chrysoprase||emerald|
|June||cat's eye, turquoise, agate||pearl, moonstone||pearl, moonstone||pearl, moonstone, alexandrite|
|July||turquoise, onyx||ruby||ruby, carnelian||ruby|
|August||sardonyx, carnelian, moonstone, topaz||sardonyx, peridot||peridot, sardonyx||peridot, spinel, sardonyx|
|September||chrysolite||sapphire||sapphire, lapis lazuli||sapphire|
|October||opal, aquamarine||opal, tourmaline||opal||opal, tourmaline|
|November||topaz, pearl||topaz||topaz, citrine||topaz, citrine|
|December||bloodstone, ruby||turquoise, lapis lazuli||tanzanite, turquoise||turquoise, zircon, tanzanite|
|Sign||Dates: 318||Stone: 345–347|
|Aries||21 March – 19 April||bloodstone|
|Taurus||20 April – 20 May||sapphire|
|Gemini||21 May – 20 June||agate|
|Cancer||21 June – 22 July||emerald|
|Leo||23 July – 22 August||onyx|
|Virgo||23 August – 22 September||carnelian|
|Libra||23 September – 22 October||chrysolite|
|Scorpio||23 October – 21 November||beryl|
|Sagittarius||22 November – 21 December||topaz|
|Capricorn||22 December – 19 January||ruby|
|Aquarius||20 January – 18 February||garnet|
|Pisces||19 February – 20 March||amethyst|
Birthday (day of the week) stones
While the term "birthday stone" is sometimes used as a synonym for a birthstone, each day of the week is also assigned a unique gemstone, and these assignments are distinct from the monthly assignments.
|Day of the Week||Stone(s)|
|Friday||emerald, cat's eye|
Garnet, the birthstone for January
Amethyst, the birthstone for February
Aquamarine, the birthstone for March
Diamond, the birthstone for April
Emerald, the birthstone for May
Pearl, one of three June birthstones
Moonstone, one of three June birthstones
Alexandrite, one of three June birthstones
Ruby, the birthstone for July
Peridot, the modern birthstone for August
Sardonyx, the traditional birthstone for August
Spinel, a more recent (2019) alternative birthstone for August
Sapphire, the birthstone for September
Lapis lazuli, the traditional birthstone for September
Opal, one of two October birthstones
Tourmaline, one of two October birthstones
Citrine, one of two November birthstones
Topaz, one of two November birthstones
Turquoise, one of three December birthstones
Tanzanite, one of three December birthstones
Zircon, one of three December birthstones
- Kunz, George F. (1913). The curious lore of precious stones. Lippincott.
- Gleadow, Rupert (2001). The Origin of the Zodiac. Dover Publications. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
- Knuth, Bruce G. (2007). Gems in Myth, Legend and Lore (Revised ed.). Parachute: Jewelers Press.
- Farrington, Oliver Cummins (1903). Gems and Gem Minerals. Mumford. pp. 63–64.
- Grande, Lance; Augustyn, Allison (2009). Gems and Gemstones: Timeless Natural Beauty of the Mineral World. University of Chicago Press. p. 335. ISBN 978-0-226-30511-0.
- National Jeweler Magazine, "JA, AGTA Add Spinel as August Birthstone"
- Osborne, Harold, ed. (1985). The Oxford Companion to the Decorative Arts. Oxford University Press. p. 513. ISBN 978-0-19-281863-8.
- 日本放送協会. 誕生石が新たに10種類増えます 63年ぶりに改定 加わったのは？. NHK (in Japanese). Retrieved 24 February 2023.
- Johari, Harish (1986). The Healing Power of Gemstones: In Tantra, Ayurveda, and Astrology. Destiny Books. pp. 15–34.
- "Tips & Tools: Birthstones". The National Association of Goldsmiths. Archived from the original on 28 May 2007. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
- "Birthstones For Each Month". Gemological Institute of America. Retrieved 5 September 2023.