Each month is assigned a specific birthstone, or for some more than one birthstone, and chances are you know what stone is specific to your month and usually your kids months as well. But do you know how the birthstones came to be? Why do some months have more than one? Was it the jewelry industry that made it up to try and sell more colored stones or are birthstones as old as the beginning of time?
Gemstones have been prized by just about all cultures from around the world since ancient times. Some major civilizations to value gemstones are the Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Incas, Aztecs, Persians, Tibetans and Indians. Often there was a strong belief that these gemstones had special curative powers. It was not uncommon for these special stones to be associated with different people or different times of the year based on their healing powers. As a result of these beliefs, different systems of gemstones developed including:
-Mythical Tibetan birthstones that date back thousands of years.
-Biblical birthstones referenced in the Old Testament and associated with the breastplate of Aaron and the 12 tribes of Israel.
-Ayurvedic birthstones from ancient Indian culture which were believed to have medicinal effects.
– Zodiac birthstones which astrologers assigned to the 12 signs of the zodiac to represent the power of the planets.
So which belief does our modern birthstone system relate to the most? The biblical birthstone system, though it has evolved considerably over time. Initially, there was some debate as to which stones corresponded to which months. Eventually, there was a poem developed naming the stones for each month according to the Gregorian calendar. This became the basis for most English-speaking societies and in 1870, Tiffany’s released the poem.
The modern birthstone list that we have all come to know was not officially adopted until 1912 when the National Association of Jewelers met to compile the list. It has been added to and updated a few times in history with the most recent known list being compiled in 2002.
Unsure what your birthstone is or want to read the poem that was released in 1870? Be sure to catch next weeks Gem Talk where you can read the poem that brought light to these beautiful colored treasures.