History of Birthstones - Gems

The History of Birthstone Jewelry

Ever wonder about the history of birthday jewelry? Or what is the meaning of your birthstone and the history of it? Me too. I hope this blog is informational and helpful. Let’s get started.



Most scholars have traced the origins of birthstones back to the book of Exodus in the Bible.  In this book, a high priest during the time of Moses named Aaron had a special religious garment.  This garment was a breastplate with 12 jewels, each of which was engraved with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel.


The gems on the plate were said to have been chipped off the throne of God.  According to Jewish historians, the breastplate had miraculous powers.  The special powers associated with each gem corresponded with an astrological sign, and wearing them at the right time would have therapeutic or talismanic benefits.


In the Book of Revelation, John discusses the Foundation Stones of New Jerusalem, which scholars believe was based on the earlier breastplate of Aaron.  The number 12 is connected to the early tribes, the number of apostles, and the 12 signs of the zodiac.  Though the pagan belief of gems having particular powers was scorned, the custom of a month associated with a particular birthstone was adopted by early Christians.


The origin of the true modern concept of birthstones is debatable. Whatever the origin, the modern list of birthstones that we reference today was defined in 1912 by the National Association of Jewelers in the USA.  That list doesn’t resemble Aaron’s breastplate, taking over the idea without keeping up the religious tradition.


Birthstone & Meaning


Gemstone Rings


 Meanings: Friendship, Devotion, Compassion, Female Empowerment

History: In Rome, garnets were widely traded gemstones, and carved garnet signet rings were used to stamp the wax that sealed the contracts on important documents. In the Middle Ages, from about 475 to 1450 AD, red garnets were favored by the nobility and the clergy. And garnets have long been thought of as a traveler’s stone – Noah’s Ark is said to have had a garnet lantern to help navigate during the night.



Meanings: Clear-headed, Calm, Peacefulness, Enlightenment

History: The early history of amethysts is tied to both the spiritual quality of amethysts and the folkloric and begins with Greek legends that associated amethyst with Bacchus, the god of wine (which the color of the stone resembled). It was believed that wearing amethyst prevented drunkenness, leading to a broader meaning of clear-headed and quick-witted thinking in battle and business affairs.



Meanings: Tranquility, Happiness, Courage, Insight, Hope

History: In the Middle Ages, aquamarine was believed to guarantee a happy marriage and then in Medieval times, the stone was thought to reawaken the love of married couples. It is still believed that it soothes relationships and in addition to being the March birthstone, it is the gemstone associated with the 19th anniversary.



Meanings: Enduring Love, Permanence, Stability

History: The Greeks called diamonds adamas, meaning unconquerable. While primitively cut diamonds existed during the 14th-16th centuries, it was during the 17th century that the stone became more obtainable, when the jewelers of King Louis XIV of France brought back diamonds from the famed Golconda mines in India.



Meanings: Hope, Prosperity, Serenity

History: The ancient Egyptians prized emeralds; the Spanish brought emeralds to India during the 16th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Mughal emperors were huge fans of emeralds.



Meaning: Purity, Love, Union, Fertility, The Cycles of Life.

History: In Hindu folklore, it is believed that the story of Krishna (or Vishnu) plucked the first pearl from the depths of the ocean and gave it to his daughter Pandaia on her wedding day as a symbol of love, union, and purity. Ancient Greek legends vary from the thought that pearls were the tears of the gods, to believing that wearing pearls would prevent women from crying on their wedding day.



Meanings: Passion, Desire Invincible, Wisdom, Everlasting Love

History: Rubies were first found in Myanmar (Burma)—a source since 600AD and were revered by great European adventurers, gem hunters, and merchants such as Marco Polo and Jean Tavernier. These vibrantly saturated stones from pinkish red to pigeon blood were believed to hold the power of life. Warriors carried the red gem in the belief that it would make them invincible in battle.



Meanings: Compassion, Friendship, Creativity, Balance

History: The Ancient Egyptians called peridot “the gem of the sun” and it was worn as a talisman to ward off evil. Some historians believe that Cleopatra’s legendary emerald collection might have been peridot instead.



Meanings: Loyalty, Faithfulness, Fidelity, Truth

History: Medieval kings wore sapphires around their necks as a defense from harm and by the 11th century, sapphires were chosen for ecclesiastical rings. In Roman times it was believed if someone were untruthful, the sapphire’s color would change.



Meanings: Foresight, Good Fortune, Hope Purity, Wisdom

History: Opals were prized throughout various cultures and thought to bring good fortune, good health, and foresight. The Romans ranked opals as second only to emeralds and believed these gems symbolized hope and purity. The Ancient Greeks believed that opals brought prophecy. The word opal derived its name from “opalus”, which means “to see a change in color”.



Meanings: Confidence, Clarity, Integrity, Optimism, Rejuvenation

History: Topaz was mined originally on the island in the Red Sea called Topazios, which is now called St. John’s Island or Zabargad. The name topaz comes from the original name of the island and also in Sanskrit, topaz means “fire” which connects it to the birthstone’s rich yellow-orange color.



Meanings: Good Luck, Protection, Success, Tranquility, Wisdom

History: The earliest turquoise stones originated in Persia and were known for their pure, robin’s egg blue color. The gem also gives off a bluish-green hue, depending on what country/mine produces it. Turquoise was named after the French expression pierre torques, or “Turkish stone”, due to the trade route the stone traveled from Turkey to Medieval Europe. Revered as a talisman since it was first found, it has been carved into amulets that brought good fortune and protected the wearer from evil and harm.


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