Did you know that the tradition of birthstones is believed to have Biblical origins? In the book of Exodus, it describes the breastplate worn by Aaron, the first high priest of the Israelites. The breastplate was adorned with 12 different stones, each representing one of the 12 tribes of Israel and would be worn by all future high priests. The stones were said to have possessed great powers and had the ability to tell people their fate.
It wasn’t until around 500 years after Aaron's breastplate was described in the Bible, where the historian Joseph believed there to be a connection between the 12 stones in Aaron’s breastplate, the 12 months of the year, and the 12 zodiac signs. Historian St. Jerome, referencing Joseph, began to encourage the use of these stones by Christians in the 5th century. This established a tradition that would last for centuries, in which people would collect all of the 12 stones to wear at one time in necklaces, bracelets, and other ornaments. By the 8th and 9th centuries, this trend evolved to where people would own a collection of all of the jewels but only wear a single stone each month, where it was believed to have increased powers. This most likely came from eastern traditions believing that birthstones can provide the wearer with protection and powers, as trade between the east and west began to surge during this time period. The modern tradition of wearing one stone for their month of birth did not begin until the 16th century Germany. This was the true beginning of the birthstone tradition we are familiar with today.
Even though birthstones had already become popular worldwide, rooted in history and tradition, there still wasn't a consistent list of birthstones. In 1921, the National Association of Jewelers met to officially standardize the list of American birthstones and the month that they represented. This list combined various customs that had evolved over time, while ensuring the stones they chose would be practical and available in large quantities. Since then, additional stones have been added throughout the years, with the addition of alexandrite to June, citrine to November, pink tourmaline to October, and blue topaz to December. In the 2000's, the gem Tanzanite was added to December’s stones, and just a few years ago spinel was added to the month of August.
Each month, we will highlight the traditional and modern birthstones here. Make sure to stop back to learn more information about the history and folklore surrounding your special birthstone for your birth month!