Every month I write about the bling of the month, but I've never really tackled the subject of how birthstones came about, or from where that tradition came from. That is until today when I was looking for information about the subject, and found this great information on Gem Select, the American Gem Society, and Valuable Stones. Here are the highlights. 

The idea of birthstones -- a gemstone assigned to each month of the year -- is thought to be an ancient one, and scholars trace it back to the Breastplate of Aaron described in the Bible in the book of Exodus. The Breastplate was a religious garment set with twelve gemstones that represented the twelve tribes of Israel. The gems were set in four rows of three: sardius, topaz and carbuncle; emerald, sapphire and diamond; ligure, agate and amethyst; and beryl, onyx and jasper.

So how did we get from gemstones representing the twelve tribes of Israel to birthstones? The writings of Flavius Josephus (1st century AD) and St. Jerome (fifth century AD) made the connection between the 12 stones in the Breastplate and the 12 signs of the zodiac. The idea was proposed that each of the gemstones had special powers associated with the corresponding astrological sign, and that wearing these stones at the right time would have therapeutic or talismanic benefits.

But this was not quite the same idea as our concept of the birthstone. Based on this astrological model, one ought to own a collection of the 12 different gemstones assigned to the signs of the zodiac, and wear the appropriate gem during the ascendancy of the corresponding sign. This is more like the Vedic astrological tradition of India, which assigns 9 different gemstones to 9 planets, and prescribes the wearing of particular gems according to your health and the challenges you face in your life.

The idea of each person always wearing a gemstone corresponding to the month of his or her birth is a distinctly modern idea that scholars trace to 18th century Poland, with the arrival of Jewish gem traders in the region. But the modern list of birthstones was not defined until 1912, by the National Association of Jewelers (Jewelers of America) in the USA.

The modern birthstone list has been unchanged since 1912. Only recently have we seen two attempts to change it, both curiously associated with the gemstone tanzanite. In 2002 the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) announced that they had added tanzanite as a birthstone for December, though December already had two birthstones (turquoise and zircon). 

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.

Zodiac signs are the astrological version of the monthly birthstones that symbolize the month of birth. The Birthstone Zodiac signs use the twelve zodiac signs instead of the twelve calendar months. Every sign of the zodiac is ruled by one of the planets in the Solar system and each planet rules over a specific gemstone according to their color. The following birthstone chart, or birthstone list, contain details of each sign and the various gem stones that are the closest to vibrate to their particular sign. The signs of the Zodiac are used to cast horoscopes from astrological calculations which are used as a guide to personality, relationships and business affairs. 

The twelve Zodiac signs represent the "houses" or divisions into which the heavens are charted by the astrologer. The Zodiac signs represent the placement in the sky where the sun was during the time of birth.  Each sign of the Zodiac influences people who were born between certain dates. Life predictions are upon the position of the planets in the "twelve houses " at the moment of the birth. The signs of the Zodiac change on, or about, the 22nd of every month. The gemstones assigned to each of the Zodiac signs are believed to influence both positive and negative personality traits and characteristics.

Because there are so many sources for this information and because the history of birthstones is a bit nebulous, I know that it might sound a little new agey to some.  I personally believe in the magic of gems and love to wear them sometimes according to their  powers.  Hope this info was helpful and clarified some of the history of birthstones.

Love Always
Dani K

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