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The Ancient History of Birthstones

- 17 February 2014, 03:02

The History of Birthstones began long before we considered them birth-stones. Historically, precious gems were used to protect and heal the wearers.

Zircon is the oldest of the birthstones. This mineral has been mined, sampled and dated, and the earliest samples have been dated back to 4.4 billion years ago. The earth itself is dated back to 4.56 billion years ago. Zircon began forming right along with the beginning of the earth itself. Zircon comes in many colors including green, blue, brown, red, golden-yellow. It is also found in a colorless form. In its colorless form, it can be passed off as a diamond, and is used as a fake diamond fairly often.

On the other end of the spectrum, the newest birthstone to be found is the gem Tanzanite. It was found in the Mererani Hills of the Manyara Region in 1967. To this day, this is the only place in the world that Tanzanite can be found and mined. It is extremely rare, and permits to mine the mineral are also rare, which makes for a very expensive gemstone. It is found in three colors, blue, violet and brown. The gem is usually heat treated to reach the most beautiful colors of blue and violet.

Gem historians believe that the original twelve birthstones originated on the breastplate of Aaron, the High Priest of Israel. He was instructed by God to create a breastplate with twelve precious gems inlaid in the chest. The twelve gems were aligned in four rows of three gems. The twelve stones represented the twelve tribes of Israel. The specific gems might not be exactly the same as the birthstones as we know them, but based on the color, they match very closely.

A second theory suggests that the birthstones were chosen to represent each of the twelve apostles in The Bible.

The zodiac calendar plays a major role in birthstone history. Astrologers were often consulted when someone was sick, because gemstones were said to have healing powers. As time went on, certain gemstones were assigned, by color at first, to the zodiac calendar months. Wearing the birthstone of your birth month was said to give special powers and protection to the wearer. The zodiac calendar does not match the modern day calendar exactly.

Aries – Diamond – March 21 – April 19
Taurus – Emerald – April 20 – May 20
Gemini – Pearl – May 21 – June 20
Cancer – Ruby – June 21 – July 22
Leo – Peridot – July 23 – August 22
Virgo – Sapphire – August 23 – September 22
Libra – Opal – September 23 – October 22
Scorpio – Topaz – October 23- November 21
Sagittarius – Turquoise – November 22 – December 21
Capricorn – Garnet – December 22 – January 19
Aquarius – Amethyst – January 20 – February 18
Pisces – Aquamarine – February 19- March 20

Healers to use gemstones in everyday practice help cure their patients. Some gems were used for digestive troubles, while others were used as antidotes to poison. Opals were used to identify the sick and dying, because the opal would gradually turn colors as a person’s body heated up or cooled down. Aquamarine was used on a regular basis to cure insanity.

The modern day birthstone chart was adopted in 1912 by the National Association of Jewelers. The list has been updated twice sine that time. Once, it was updated to add and remove some gems, the second time it was changed to add Tanzanite to the list of birthstones. The birthstone list as we know it is very similar to the original zodiac birthstone chart. The changes are mostly due to modern day jewelers wanting to give each month and affordable or acquirable stone.

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