This blog was originally going to just be about the stones, but the thing with being interested in something is, you start to think, why is it? Where does it come from? So I decided to do some digging and share it with you.
The first known use of having 12 stones for the 12 months of the year was in the middle ages, where people would try and gain the 12 stones to wear and to gain all the special qualities which they felt they had. At that time, although they had a vague idea of 1 stone per month, there was no set month or the idea of owning only the month you were born in. It was thought the more you had, the greater your protection. No one knows where this tradition or superstition had come from, but the nearest known ideas are thought that the concept of 12 stones holding power and significance comes from the stones Aaron was assigned to wear when he was first set as a priest for the Israelites in Exodus.
Then the story mostly goes cold until the 18th century, although there was a hint by Josephus apparently that these 12 stones from Aaron could be linked with the months of the year and with the zodiac. In the 18th century there are records of Jewish jewellers moving to Poland, who brought the idea of birthstones with them. They were still thought to all be collected and worn, sometimes just wearing the month’s stone at that time.
Then we reach America and the 20th century. Yes, of course, really its a rather modern phenomenan as we know it. The current list was set in 1912 by the National Association of Jewelers (well, they are American). This means that, although some of the stones from Aaron are included, many others are added. After Tiffany’s bought the rights to the Tanzanite mines when it was found in the 1960’s, they fought to have it included as a birthstone and then also to represent new beginnings.
Since then birthstones have been advertised widely and is a really handy way to help you find a birthday present for someone. These are the known Western stones, but there are also zodiac stones, Tibetan stones and Hindu stones lists.
January – Garnet; a red quartz, although it can come in all shades through the orange and red and even green!
February – Amethyst; a purple quartz, which comes through from lavendar to deep purple, with a clear green version known also as prasialite.
March – Aquamarine; a blue Beryl with shades from milky through to a sea blue (hence its name)
April – Diamond; the hardest gemstone around and in a number of colours. Don’t worry, clear quartz is also often used too.
May – Emerald; a green Beryl, also with a variety of shades from pale to so-deep-it-almost-looks-black.
June – Pearls and Moonstone; I know, greedy!! Pearls can now come in a variety of colours, some can be natural colours and they also come in different shapes. Moonstone was so named, as the Romans thought the moon was trapped in it. Don’t worry, it isn’t, but it does have an amazing rainbow of colours caught inside its soft white colour.
July – Ruby; a red corundum, though able to be found in paler, though rich red to a deeper red (rarely as dark as Garnet).
August – Peridot; in Britian it is said without the “t” on the end, though the Americans do. A spring green, though it can look a little more like an olive green, due to the level of iron in the stone.
September – Sapphire; an any-coloured-but-red corundum. Yes, a red Sapphire is a Ruby! Although blue sapphires are famous, canary yellow and green and pink tones are also very beautiful.
October – Tourmaline and Topaz; Tournaline is a little known stone, but is known as a rainbow stone, as it also comes in all sorts of colours (including red) and is very shiny. There are clear versions of this stone, but also as a solid colour. Topaz also comes in many colours and is usually clear as a stone.
November – Citrine; a yellow quartz, it varies from a paler, lemon colour through to a rich, almost orange colour. A beautiful cheery colour as the nights lengthen.
December – Turquoise and Tanzanite; yes, they sneaked Tanzanite in there. It is the gem of a generation, as the 1 mine in the world is gradually emptying and new veins aren’t found. Turquoise is a blue/green stone, brought through Turkey in “olden days”, which gave it its name of “stone of Turkey”. Some can be pure colour, though the copper veins through it are valued in the nuggets found.
Don’t forget there are also gemstones associated with wedding anniversaries, not just coral, sapphire, emerald, ruby, silver or gold! So now you have no excuse not to think of a present, just come to me and we can discuss that special gift!