Monday, January 8, 2018

The Origins of Birthstones

Various gemstones

What is the story behind the different color birthstone's attributed to each month?  Believed to have certain therapeutic virtues, they first were worn according to the person's affliction rather than their birth month. Many claimed these stones absorbed the earth's energies thus giving them healing and supernatural powers. Religious leaders wore them to summon spiritual guidance, while kings wore them on their breastplates to protect them from harm during battles.  The Egyptians put stones in tombs to buy passage to the afterlife.

A first century historian, Titus Flavius Josephus, proclaimed a connection between the 12 stones on the breastplate of Aaron, a priest and prophet, to the 12 months of the year and their zodiac signs.  Taking from Josephus, St. Jerome said the Foundation Stones were of the New Jerusalem and appropriate for Christians to wear. However, in the eighth and ninth century, religious treaties were specifically written to match a particular stone with an apostle. The practice became to keep twelve stones and wear one a month.  Modern authorities claim that wearing a single birthstone is only a few centuries old.  George Frederick Kunz, an American mineralogist, places the custom in 18th century Poland, while the Gemological Institute of America states it began in Germany in the 1560s.

The National Association of Jewelers met in Kansas in 1912 to create a standard for birthstones.  In 1952, the Jewelry Industry Council of America updated the list; however, the most recent change happened in October 2002  with tanzanite being added as a December birthstone.

Today, a month may have many birthstones, and we wear them to symbolize our birth month, with the hope of their proposed therapeutic properties, or simply because it's our favorite color.  Whatever the reason, they continue to sparkle their way into our lives.