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What are Birthstones?

By Alison McAdams
Updated May 16, 2024
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Attributing precious and semi-precious stones and to a set of twelve objects can be traced back to the ceremonial breastplate used by Moses' brother, a Jewish High Priest named Aaron. As described in Exodus 28, verses 15-30, the breastplate was adorned with 12 stones, one for each tribe of Israel. Twelve precious stones were also assigned to each of the Apostles in the New Testament.

By the Middle Ages, sets of stones were matched up with the angels and archangels of the Bible and the signs of the zodiac. In 18th century Poland, single stone amulets for each month of the year were made to be worn as a folk remedy for diseases.

The current assignation of stones to months was established by the American National Association of Jewelers in 1912. Today, birthstones are worn for good luck and to enhance the positive properties associated with each gem.

Birthstones by month:

  • January: Garnet
  • February: Amethyst
  • March: Aquamarine, Bloodstone
  • April: Diamond
  • May: Emerald
  • June: Pearl, Moonstone
  • July: Ruby
  • August: Peridot
  • September: Sapphire
  • October: Opal, Tourmaline
  • November: Yellow Topaz, Citrine
  • December: Turquoise, Blue Topaz
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Discussion Comments
By MrsPramm — On Oct 12, 2014

@bythewell - They did replace some of the stones with more expensive ones. The March alternative of aquamarine (which is a form of beryl, like emeralds are) is more expensive than bloodstone, particularly when it has been cut into a jewel.

More importantly, it is more suitable for modern fine jewelry, which is more expensive and difficult to make, which I imagine was one of the reasons for the refining of the list.

By bythewell — On Oct 11, 2014

@pleonasm - I don't think there is a real deeper meaning to birthstones, but I do think that they can show that someone has tried to personalize a gift. If you've got to buy a birthday present for a person and you don't know anything about them, then picking something with their birthstone at least shows you were trying to match it to what you knew about them.

Although it does seem like some people are luckier than others when it comes to what birthstone they have been assigned. A necklace made from January and February birthstones isn't going to be nearly as expensive as one made from the April birthstone, for example.

Which is kind of surprising actually, because the modern stones were all picked by a society of jewelers and you would have expected them to assign as many expensive ones as possible.

By pleonasm — On Oct 10, 2014

I was always kind of disappointed by the March birthstone of aquamarine because it seemed a little bit too girly to me, and not really a gemstone kind of color. That was before I learned that bloodstones were the alternative, which seem much cooler to me. Although I prefer the other name for bloodstones, which is heliotrope, since they were supposed to be related to the sun.

I guess birthstones don't generally have all that much significance now though, if they ever did.

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