Emeralds are the birthstone for May, but how did this come about? Why is it meaningful for us to have our birth month represented by a natural gemstone? There is an extensive history around gemstones and how they became what we consider birthstones today.
The idea of birthstones can be traced back to the Breastplate of Aaron described in the Bible in the book of Exodus 28:17-21. The Breastplate was worn as a religious garment by Hebrews’ high priest. It was set with twelve gemstones that represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Some people of Jewish heritage may still wish to elect to wear birthstones based on his/her tribal name.
Over time, gemstones became associated with the twelve signs of the zodiac through the writings of Flavius Josephus (1st century AD) and St. Jerome (fifth century AD). They proposed that each gemstone had special powers associated with astrological signs and that wearing these stones at the right time would have therapeutic benefits. As the years progressed, astrologers designated gems of certain colors to the twelve signs of the zodiac to help people influence the planets in their favor.
|Aquarius||January 21 – February 21||Garnet|
|Pisces||February 22 – March 21||Amethyst|
|Aries||March 22 – April 20||Bloodstone|
|Taurus||April 21 – May 21||Sapphire|
|Gemini||May 22 – June 21||Agate|
|Cancer||June 21 – July 22||Emerald|
|Leo||July 23 – August 22||Onyx|
|Virgo||August 23 – September 22||Carnelian|
|Libra||September 23 – October 23||Peridot|
|Scorpio||October 24 – November 21||Beryl|
|Sagittarius||November 22 – December21||Topaz|
|Capricorn||December 22 – January 21||Ruby|
In 18thcentury, Jewish gemstone traders arrived in Poland and introduced the idea of people wearing a gemstone corresponding to the month of his or her birth. The modern list of birthstones was defined in 1912 by the National Association of Jewelers (Jewelers of America) in the USA and has been unchanged since then, although there have been two attempts to do so. Here’s a modern chart of birthstones.