When you ask someone what their birthstone is, they almost always know the answer. Today you see birthstones on necklaces and jewelry, on display, and as reminders to celebrate your birth month all year long. Birthstones are a part of modern society, but each gem has had special significance since ancient times.
The history of this practice dates back to ancient Israel and the Breastplate of Aaron that is described in the book of Exodus. The breastplate was decorated with twelve gemstones that represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Eventually, Christian scholars in the 5th century made the connection between the twelve gems, twelve months of the year, and twelve signs of the Zodiac. They theorized that each gem was connected to a certain month or astrological alignment and that they would receive therapeutic benefits for wearing one during that time.
In order to receive the full benefit, people took to wearing one stone for each month of the year and attributed a different meaning and value to them. Eventually this practice was modified so that a person would only wear the stone for the month they were born in (hence the term birthstone). There was a great amount of disagreement over which stone should represent a calendar month until 1912 when Sears published an “official” list of all the birthstones and the months they represented. Since then there have been a few modifications here and there but the list remains largely unchanged. We wanted to learn the history and significance behind why these stones were chosen in the first place and are still worn today.