History of Birthstones
We love birthstones! Every month has their own gorgeous gemstones that can be worn as jewelry, collected, or carried! But... did you know that birthstones are not a modern invention? And did you know that there are many different systems for assigning a stone to each month? Keep reading for the history behind some of the prominent birthstone traditions!!
In our modern culture, birthstones are commonly used in the jewelry industry as a tool for marketing! But in older times, these stones were believed to have special significance for those born during certain times of the year. The birthstones were more closely tied with the zodiac, because the stones were said to help a person align themselves with the powers in the heavens that they were born under. In fact, the concept of stones associated with different months may be older than the concept of birthstones--some experts believed that in some cultures, people would change the stones they wore based on the month, and not limit themselves only to the month they were born in. Some cultures even associate certain stones with each day of the week!
Experts often trace the western concept of birthstones back to Biblical Times. In the Bible, Moses directs that a special breastplate be made for the high priest. This garment included 12 stones, which represented the 12 tribes of Israel. These 12 stones became associated with the Zodiac and the 12 months of the Gregorian calendar. Different cultures used this list and modified it--each had their own list of stones associated with each month, and each culture believed something different about the meaning of the stones.
In 15th century Poland, birthstones became very popular, however, it was more common for people to follow the tradition of wearing twelve different stones--a stone for each month--rather than the stone for the month they were born in. This tradition became so popular that jewelers in Poland began to sell birthstone jewelry; in fact, some people believe that the more modern concept of wearing one's own birthstone developed in 18th century Poland. Experts disagree on this, but most do agree that a lot of more modern birthstone lists, including the one we follow in the United States, were largely influenced by the Polish tradition. Jewelers of America adopted our modern list of birthstones in 1912, because they wanted a standardized list to use in marketing. Since 1912, the list has been updated a few times.
In other parts of the world, different lists of stones developed, which had nothing to do with the Biblical story and Polish tradition, and had more to do with the metaphysical properties of the stones. For example, the Mythical Birthstone list that is still used today originates in Tibet, and is over a thousand years old. Ayurvedic traditions, which are even older, developed their own system of stones that were associated with each month--this has developed into the Ayurvedic Birthstone list which is also still in use. Interestingly, there are patterns that emerge and similar stones in use across the systems, even systems that developed thousands of years apart, in different parts of the world!