Know Your Birthstone Colors

What Are Birthstones


According to Tiffany’s chief mineralogist in the 19th Century, G. F. Kunz, the tradition of assigning a gem to each month of the year, and that each gem was believed to possess special powers for the people born in that month, can be traced back to the first hundred years after the birth of Christ.

In 90 AD the famous Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote: “And for the twelve stones, whether we understand by them the months, or the twelve signs of what the Greeks call the zodiac, we shall not be mistaken in their meaning.”

Later in 400 AD, the translator of the Bible into the Latin ‘Vulgate,’ Saint Jerome wrote of the same association between the twelve stones of the breastplate and the twelve months of the year in his letters to Saint Fabiola. Moreover, both Josephus and Saint Jerome supposed the gems and months to be linked to the twelve signs of the zodiac and their astrological constellations.

However, aside from these two documentations, there is no remaining proof as to the first incidences of people actually wearing gems as birthstones. That was until Kunz, put forward his treatise, believing that the tradition of wearing birthstones started in eighteenth century Poland.

Kunz was of the opinion that the growth of the belief in birthstones in Poland was because of the large established Jewish community, whom always maintained a close relationship with the gems and the story of the twelve gemstones of the breastplate. In his treatise, ‘The Curious Lore of Precious Stones,’ Kunz writes;

“The lively interest always felt by the Jews regarding the gems of the breastplate, the many and various commentaries their learned men have written upon this subject, and the fact that the well-to-do among the chosen people have always carried with them in their wanderings many precious stones, all this seems to make it likely that to the Jews should be attributed the fashion of wearing natal stones.”

Kunz speculates that prior to the Jewish influences in Poland up until the eighteenth century there is very little evidence supporting that gems were being used as birthstones as we know them. Later on in the same chapter Kunz then draws a parallel between the order of the Polish birthstones of that period and what has become the accepted order we have today.

According to Kunz the order of the Polish gems of the eighteenth century were:

  • Garnet was the birthstone of January

  • Amethyst was the birthstone of February

  • Bloodstone was the birthstone of March

  • Diamond was the birthstone of April

  • Emerald was the birthstone of May

  • Agate and Chalcedony were the birthstones of June

  • Ruby was the birthstone of July

  • Sardonyx was the birthstone for August

  • Sardonyx was also the birthstone for September

  • Aquamarine was the birthstone for October

  • Topaz was the birthstone for November

  • Turquoise was the birthstone for December
  • On comparing the aforementioned list with the list we use today, it becomes clear that the present list is based on the Polish list of birthstones. But who gave us the current list of gems? It’s not surprising to find out, that in fact the Birthstone tradition has its roots firmly planted in the commercial world of free enterprise. In fact, the current list of gems as birthstones was decided upon by America’s National Association of Jewelers in a meeting that took place in Kansas City, in 1912.

    It is also beneficial to know your birthstone colors before buying them.

    Birthstones of January February and March