Birthstones aren’t just known for their beautiful colors and varying textures—each one is imbued with its own spiritual meaning and symbolism. Some speculate that the idea of birthstones actually has biblical origins—specifically from the mention of the breastplate of Aaron in the Book of Exodus. Aaron, the first high priest of the Israelites, reportedly had a breastplate adorned with 12 different stones, and each one represented one of the tribes of Israel. According to the International Gem Society, “These stones were said to have possessed great powers and had the ability to tell people their fate. According to first-century translations, the first row contained carnelian, chrysolite, and beryl. The second row contained jacinth, agate, and amethyst, and the third row contained topaz, onyx, and jasper.”
Although not all of those stones align with modern-day birthstones, it’s worth noting that minerals during that time were named for their color, not their chemical composition, so, in theory, chrysolite—which was used to describe any gems with gold flecks— could have actually been yellow topaz or peridot (both of which are modern birthstones).
During the first century, the historian Joseph believed there to be a connection between the 12 stones in Aaron’s breastplate, the 12 months of the Julian calendar year, and the 12 different zodiac signs. During the 5th century, historian St. Jerome—referencing Joseph’s beliefs—encouraged Christians to wear all 12 of these stones at once in ornate belts, jewelry and more.
According to the International Gem Society, “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 during a given month, where it was believed to have heightened 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.”
It’s believed that the modern-day concept of birthstones—or wearing just one stone to symbolize your month of birth—didn’t actually catch on until the 16th century. In 1912, the National Association of Jewelers (known today as the Jewelers of America) standardized the list of American birthstones for each month. Below are the birthstones for each month, as well as a beautiful piece of jewelry to go with each.
Birthstones for Each Month
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