birthstones: a brief history

Ever wonder why you'll see different birthstones listed for the same month according to different sources?


As it turns out, birthstones have a rich and varied history.


While some scholars trace the origin of birthstones back to the Breastplate of Aaron, as described in the Bible, gems set in four rows of three, representing the 12 tribes of Israel, our more modern practice of associating a stone with each birth month likely originated in Poland in the 18th century.


Throughout history, accepted birthstones have varied due to time and place, rotating in and out of favor, with style and availability sometimes determining which stones would reign supreme.


Many systems were based on birth month, while others were rooted in zodiac sign, or even which day of the week you were born.


Birthstones are often be found categorized as such:

ancient:  those that have been widely recognized for thousands of years

traditional: those in use for the last several hundred years

modern: those that have only been widely used in the last 100 years


In 1912, the National Association of Jewelers attempted to standardize a list of modern birthstones.  This list differed somewhat from the ancient and traditional lists, most notably by including only transparent gems.  This allowed jewelers to make "mother's rings" - which feature the birthstones of all a woman's children - in a manner more suited to modern tastes.


And in the years since, new stones have rotated in as well.  For example, tanzanite, discovered in 1967 was added to December's birthstone list in 2002. For some months, you'll find several options. For some months, there seems to be only one (maybe two) widely accepted stones.


As I've been making mini birthstone collections this past year, I've attempted to offer a few different birthstones for each month. Or, in some cases, a widely accepted birthstone in a few different ways.  It's been a fascinating journey to learn more about these stones. And more fascinating still, is hearing people's connections, or lack thereof, to their birthstones.  While some people resonate strongly with their assigned birthstone, others do not (myself included). 


I always think the best way to choose your stones is to notice what calls to you. Trust your intuition. Something inside of you knows what you need. Some stones will call to you for a season, and some for a lifetime. Notice and trust. If your birthstone offers you that resonance, beautiful.  And if not, don't hesitate to move on and adopt a stone that speaks more powerfully to YOU.


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