Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Birthstones


Traditionally, a birthstone is associated with each month of the year. For example, the birthstone for January is a garnet, while lucky babies born in April get a diamond as their birthstone.

The origin of birthstones is believed to date back to the breastplate of Aaron which contained twelve gemstones representing the twelve tribes of Israel. The current list dates back to 1912 with only one addition since then – the tanzanite was added to December.

There are numerous legends and myths about birthstone healing powers and their therapeutic influence. According to these legends, wearing a gemstone during its assigned month heightened its healing powers. For the full effect, individuals needed to own all twelve and alternate them monthly.

The gemstones featured below are arranged by month. Click on the month you were born to learn the history of your birthstone.

The Birthstones
The Birthstones

A birthstone is a gemstone, usually in the form of personal jewelry and most often in the form of a ring or pendant. Each stone is traditionally associated with various qualities that symbolize the month of birth in the Gregorian calendar.

Traditional birthstones

Ancient traditional birthstones are society-based birthstones. The table below contains many stones which are popular choices, often reflecting Polish tradition

The Gregorian calendar has poems matching each month with its 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.

By her who in this month (January) is born
No gem save garnets should be worn;
They will ensure her constancy,
True friendship, and fidelity.

The February-born shall find
Sincerity and peace of mind,
Freedom from passion and from care,
If they an amethyst will wear.

Who in this world of ours their eyes
In March first open shall be wise,
In days of peril firm and brave,
And wear a bloodstone to their grave.

She who from April dates her years,
Diamonds shall wear, lest bitter tears
For vain repentance flow; this stone,
Emblem of innocence, is known.

Who first beholds the light of day
In spring's sweet flowery month of May
And wears an emerald all her life
Shall be a loved and happy wife.

Who comes with summer to this earth,
And owes to June her hour of birth,
With ring of agate on her hand
Can health, wealth, and long life command.

The glowing ruby shall adorn,
Those who in July are born;
Then they'll be exempt and free
From love's doubts and anxiety.

Wear a sardonyx or for thee,
No conjugal felicity;
The August-born without this stone,
`Tis said, must live unloved and lone.

A maiden born when September leaves
Are rustling in September's breeze,
A sapphire on her brow should bind
`Twill cure diseases of the mind.

October's child is born for woe,
And life's vicissitudes must know,
But lay an opal on her breast,
And hope will lull those woes to rest.

Who first comes to this world below
With drear November's fog and snow,
Should prize the topaz's amber hue,
Emblem of friends and lovers true.

If cold December gave you birth,
The month of snow and ice and mirth,
Place on your hand a turquoise blue;
Success will bless whate'er you do.

History of Birthstones

Western custom
The first century Jewish historian Josephus proclaimed a connection between the twelve stones in Aaron's breastplate, the twelve months of the year, and the twelve signs of the zodiac. Translations and interpretations of the passage in Exodus regarding the breastplate have varied widely, however, with Josephus himself giving two different lists for the twelve stones (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 to use. In the eight and ninth century religious treaties were written associating a particular stone with an apostle, as Revelation stated their name would be inscribed on the Foundation Stones, and his virtue. Practice became to keep twelve stones and wear one a month. Wearing a single birthstone is only a few centuries old, although 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."

Modern birthstones

In 1912, in an effort to standardize birthstones, the (American) National Association of Jewelers met in Kansas and officially adopted a list. The Jewelry Industry Council of America updated the list in 1952 by adding alexandrite to June and citrine to November; specifying pink tourmaline for October; replacing December's lapis with zircon; and switching the primary/alternate gems in March. The most recent change occurred in October 2002, with the addition of tanzanite as a December birthstone. Britain's National Association of Goldsmiths created their own standardized list of birthstones in 1937.