They are gemstones, of course – some precious, some semi-precious. There are different stones for each month. The wearer can benefit from certain attributes attributed to each stone . The correct stone might confer Peace, protection or wisdom. But that’s not even the half of it.
The idea of birthstones dates back at least to ancient Babylon and India (‘ayurvedic’ birthstones). In Tibet, a different system developed – (‘mystical’ birthstones). Each tradition associated different ‘powers’ with stones: birthstones connected to the planets and later to the signs of the zodiac. These attributions changed over time. The ancient Babylonians connected diamonds with Libra, the Greeks with Cancer and the Byzantines with Aries.
Finding your birthstone
Your birthstone depends on which astrological chart you use. Ayurvedic, Traditional, Mystical or Modern charts are available. You might also choose a zodiac stone or a monthly stone. Some months have a choice of stones and a choice of color within that range.
Twelve garnets were sewn onto a breastplate worn by Aaron, a high priest and brother of Moses according to the Bible. Each garnet represented one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Flavius Josephus writing in the first century AD described this breastplate and attributed the stones to the signs of the zodiac. Later on, the Christian church, disapproving of astrology, assigned the stones to holy guardian angels.
Health benefits of birthstones
In eighteenth century Poland it became fashionable to wear your birthstone as an amulet for its supposed therapeutic properties. These were times when the attentions of a doctor were often more likely to kill than cure. A belief in such therapeutic or mystical powers must have been reassuring for many. However things could get complicated. For example Amethyst was said to cure drunkenness, but as this was the birthstone for February, you couldn’t wear one if you were born in that month. And so on. The different systems were not only confusing but could also have been bad for the jewellery business.
This was probably the impetus for the Jewelers of America (National Association of American Jewelers) in Kansas City to come up with the list now used as the ‘modern table’ in 1912. If you just want to wear the stone of your zodiac sign, look up the zodiac stones. It’s a world of choice and can be fun.
Here are the birthstones according to various charts: