The first century Jewish historian Josephus believed there was a connection between the twelve stones in Aaron’s breastplate, the twelve signs of the Zodiac and the twelve months of the years. Translations and interpretations of the passage in Exodus regarding the breastplate have varied widely, with Josephus himself giving two different lists for the twelve stones. George Frederick Kunz, mineralogist and gem expert argues that Josephus saw the breastplate of the Second Temple, not the one described in Exodus. St. Jerome, referencing Josephus, said the Foundation Stones of the New Jerusalem, (Revelation 21, 19 -20), and would be appropriate for Christian use. Throughout history, interpretations, opinions and the like can change the real honest to goodness truth about any historical event, and this is one of those examples. People often ask, how did the birthstone originate and the history as you can see will differ according to the “experts”. Mr. Kunz gave his opinion on the origin of “birthstones”, and you can take his word, or do some research yourself if it is of interest to you.
George Frederick Kunz was vice president of Tiffany & Co. at the ripe old age of 23, in 1880 until his death in 1932. He was an avid gem collector and traveled the world in search of gemstones. He discovered the stunning peach/pink gemstone, Morganite, in the beryl family of stones, along with emerald and aquamarine, and named it for J.P.Morgan, the financier who was also an avid gem collector. The pink/lavender gemstone Kunzite, another stunning gemstone in various shades of pink to lavender was named for George Kunz himself by GIA. To this day Mr. Kunz has an outstanding reputation in the gemstone and mineral world. At this time GIA is updating his biography.
As stated there are other opinions of the “birthstone”. In the eighth and ninth century, religious treatises associating a particular stone with an apostle were written, so that “their name would be inscribed on the Foundation Stones, and his virtue. The practice became to keep twelve stones and wear one a month. The custom of wearing a single birthstone is only a few centuries old, though modern authorities differ on dates. Kunz places the custom in eighteen century Poland, while the Gemological Institute of America starts it in Germany in the 1560s. A lot of the material I have read does give Poland the credit for modern day birthstones.
The truth is taste, customs, and confusing translations that have nothing to do with the historical origins is really how we now have the “birthstone” and that makes more sense than anything else, plus the fact that they do know many of the birthstones were based on Polish traditions. Now we have not just one stone but along the way, other stones have been added to give some months 3 birthstones and this for sure has absolutely nothing to do with any historical explanation. I am interested in who decided to add all these different stones to the months. Many of the birthstones they do know were based on Polish traditions when each month had one gemstone.
If would seem some of the birthstone additions were based on the popularity of a certain gemstone, case in point, Tanzanite being the gemstone find of the century was added to December, why? I am guessing and this is pure conjecture on my part, it is as simple as giving more recognition to Tanzanite than it already has. And this should make December babies very happy.
For sure there are probably countless reasons for the birthstone, and it is kind of fun to have a “birthstone”. Now the problem is if you don’t like the original birthstone, you now have a choice and if you don’t like any of those, be patient another gemstone will be added I am sure at some point in the future. It is funny that there are a lot of people who don’t really care about gemstones but almost everyone I have talked to knows what their birthstone is. We all see ads by jewelers with categories for birthstones, they have sets with rings, pendants, and earrings. So there is a large consumer population that likes “birthstones”. I do not have the space for all 12 months, and I do not want to leave “anyone” out so I will do another blog on birthstones.