History of Birthstones & How They Got Their Meaning

Birthstone Jewelry
Birthstones are believed to bring health and good fortune

What is the History of Birthstones?

The history of birthstones can be traced back thousands of years. There are several interpretations as to how birthstones came to correspond with specific birth months and different cultures have different beliefs regarding this.

Gemstones in the Bible

According to the book of Exodus in the Bible, a Hebrew high priest named Aaron was ordered by God to create a breastplate with twelve gemstones. These twelve gemstones have been linked to today's modern birthstones. The stones were set in four rows of three and were mounted in gold filigree settings. There were twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes. The stones were:

  • Sardius, topaz and carbuncle
  • Emerald, sapphire and diamond
  • Ligure, agate and amethyst
  • Beryl, onyx and jasper

Gemstones and the Apostles

During the eighth and ninth centuries, Christians assigned stones to represent the twelve apostles:

  • Simon Peter - jasper
  • Andrew - ruby
  • James and John - emerald
  • Philip - carnelian
  • Bartholomew - peridot
  • Thomas - aquamarine
  • Matthew - topaz
  • James - sardonyx
  • Thaddeus - chrysoprase
  • Simon - zircon
  • Matthias - amethyst
  • Paul - sapphire


In the Bible's book of Revelations, the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem are listed in order of the Roman calendar they included:

  1. Jasper
  2. Sapphire
  3. Chalcedony
  4. Emerald
  5. Sardonyx
  6. Sardius
  7. Chrysolyte
  8. Beryl
  9. Topaz
  10. Chrysoprasus
  11. Jacinth
  12. Amethyst

Astrological Birthstones

It is believed that the astrological birthstone list was Tibetan in origin. The Tibetans attributed mystical powers to each gemstone. For example, they believed that if you wore an amethyst, that regardless how much you drank, it would protect you from drunkenness. Thousands of years ago in India, the Ayurvedcic Indian Medicine list was created. Stones were given mystical and medicinal powers. Some were ground up and actually ingested while others were worn.

Modern Birthstones

As of 1912, the Jewelers of America Association formalized a modern birthstone list that is not only accepted in the United States but worldwide. The following list is the one currently used today to identify the particular stones associated with each month:

Other Special Gemstones

Some believe that you should wear the specific gemstone that corresponds with the day of the week that you were born on:

  • Sunday - topaz
  • Monday - pearl
  • Tuesday - ruby
  • Wednesday - amethyst
  • Thursday - sapphire
  • Friday - carnelian
  • Saturday - turquoise

There is also a belief that by wearing certain stones on certain days of the week will bring you good luck:

  • Yellow stones on Sunday
  • Pearls on Monday
  • Rubies on Tuesday
  • Sapphires on Wednesday
  • Garnets on Thursday
  • Emeralds on Friday
  • Diamonds on Saturday

Wearing Birthstones

The history of birthstones and how they are worn stretches back over many centuries. The idea of a person wearing their birthstone became popular during the fifteenth or sixteenth century in Poland. The traditional belief was that everyone wears the specific birthstone assigned for each month since the powers of the gemstone were heightened during its month. To get the total effect, it was thought that individuals needed to own an entire set of twelve gemstones and rotate them monthly.Gemstones are worn today for beauty and are often chosen for aesthetic reasons. It is still common to wear your own birthstone or one of someone significant to you. Birthstone jewelry also makes a great personal gift for someone special. There are endless jewelry options available whether it is a necklace, bracelet, earrings, a ring or even worry stones. New gemstones are always being discovered and fashion often dictates what gemstones are hot for each particular season. No matter what stones you like or decide to wear, birthstones are always fashionable.


History of Birthstones & How They Got Their Meaning