You’re probably at least peripherally aware of birthstones, or the tradition of associating each month of the year with one or more particular gemstones. This tradition wasn’t started by your Austin jewelry store, Copeland Jewelers – in fact, it dates back centuries and spans several different cultures.
The origins of our modern list of birthstones are somewhat murky, but they definitely have religious roots. A Jewish historian named Josephus, who lived in the first century A.D., claimed to have seen the breastplate of Aaron (the brother of Moses), which is described in the book of Exodus as being incrusted with twelve stones. (There is dispute among historians as to whether the breastplate of Aaron still existed at that time and whether Josephus actually saw another famous breastplate instead.) In any case, Josephus believed there was a connection between the twelve months of the year, the twelve signs of the zodiac, and the twelve stones in the breastplate.
A few hundred years later, the Christian Saint Jerome referenced Josephus when he wrote about the Foundation Stones which are described in the book of Revelation as stones in the New Jerusalem that are each inscribed with the name of one of Jesus’s twelve apostles. Saint Jerome encouraged Christians to associate the stones from the breastplate of Aaron with the apostles, and eventually it became the custom for people to have one of each stone and to wear a different one each month. It was hundreds more years before people began wearing only the stone that corresponded with their birth month, a practice which began in either Germany or Poland (again, historians don’t agree).
Cultures aside from the Judeo-Christian have contributed to our modern idea of birthstones as well; a Hindu text from 1879 lists twelve stones to correspond with rashis, or Hindu zodiac signs. The tropical zodiac (the one most Americans are familiar with) also has a stone associated with each of its signs, and this may be due in part to supposed relationships between certain gems and the planets of the solar system.
In 1912, members of the National Association of Jewelers (now called the Jewelers of America) got together in Kansas and adopted an official list of birthstones, which has been slightly amended over the past 105 years. As of 2016, the official American list looks like this:
January – garnet
February – amethyst
March – aquamarine or bloodstone
April – diamond
May – emerald
June – pearl, moonstone, or alexandrite
July – ruby
August – peridot or spinel
September – sapphire
October – opal or tourmaline
November – topaz or citrine
December – turquoise, zircon, or tanzanite
Many people like to wear jewelry that bears their birthstones, and many high school students choose to wear their birthstone in their class ring. It’s also become common for mothers to wear necklaces or rings featuring the birthstones of all their children – if you’re interested in such a thing, Copeland Jewelers is your source for Austin custom jewelry design. Of course, there are absolutely no rules that say you can only wear your birthstone or that you have to wear it at all! Birthstones are simply a fun tradition and don’t need to be taken terribly seriously. All gemstones are there for anyone to enjoy!