History of Birthstones


Birthstones are a wonderful way to personalize jewellery and other items. Almost everyone knows their birthstone, or do they? Most of us know the modern list created in 1912 by the National Association of Jewelers (Jewelers of America), but did you know that there are alternative birthstones? They have been around for thousands of years, and they vary in different parts of the world.

      There are ancient birthstones, and some stones were popular in antique jewellery, but they became rare, or styles changed, and new stones became popular. Each type of gemstone can vary in color too, so you can choose what suits you.

   The history of Birthstones is fascinating! There are so many stories and theories about how they started, but the most common story I have heard goes back thousands of years to the twelve gemstones placed in the Breastplate of the high priest, from the book of Exodus in the Bible and Torha. These twelve gemstones represented the twelve tribes of Israel.

    I have heard that the same twelve gemstones were later associated to the twelve zodiac signs, then they were associated with the twelve disciples of Jesus, then the Catholic church used the gemstones to represent the Saints, then from the feast of the saints, the gemstones were associated with each month of the year and then became the birthstones for each month.

   Some of the birthstones and Zodiac stones vary from country to country and stones also come in many colors. Some of the names of stones have changed over the years and are different due to language and cultural differences.

     I have been fascinated by gemstones written about in ancient scriptures, especially the twelve stones from the book of Exodus 28:15. God told Moses to create a breastplate for Aaron to wear as the high priest and the names of each of the twelve tribes of Israel were to be carved in each stone. 

  Gemstones are mentioned all thought the bible and it’s interesting to read about their meanings and symbolism. From the nine gemstones in the garden of Eden, the twelve gemstones of the high priest, the twelve foundations stones, the streets of gold, the gates of pearls, etc, it’s fascinating and really inspiring for a jewellery artist or for anyone interested in gemstones.

​Exodus 28:15: And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work; after the work of the ephod thou shalt make it; of gold, of blue, and of purple and of scarlet and of fine twined lined, shalt thou make it

 16 Foursquare it shall be being doubled; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof.

 17 And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones;  the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle; this shall be the first row. 

18 And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. 

19 And the third row a ligure, and agate, and an amethyst. 

20 and the fourth row a beryl, and a onyx, and a jasper; they shall be set in gold in their inclosings. 

21 And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes.

     I was inspired to create jewelley with these stones, but it was confusing because the names of the stones varied in different translations of the bible, some of the scripturas mention stones with names that are no longer used. The main thing in common to all these lists is the color of the stones. I spent years reading and learning as much as I could, and I still don't have all the answers, no one knows the exact stones used. 

   I wrote about these stones years ago and kept the information on my website, but I thought I would create a list of stones from some different translations of the bible and show you how closely these stones and colors match out traditional birthstones of today.

There are four rows of three stones in the breast plate and this list is from the left to right, from top to bottom.

Row 1

1- (first stone, row one) The first stone listed is a Sardius in the KJ version, a red Carnelian in the NLT, NLT second edition, Carnelian in the NIV, a red Quartz in the GW translation.

   The Sardius was thought to be a Garnet, or a red Carnelian and the traditional January Birth month color is Red to Orange, the traditional Birthstone is Garnet or red Carnelian.

January Birthstone color: Red & Orange.

January Birthstone is Garnet (Ancient Hebrew, Russian, Polish,) Jacinth (Italian), Hyacinth (Russian), Rose Quartz (popular Alternative).

2- (second stone, row one) The second stone listed is Topaz in (KJ & GW), pale green Peridot (NLT & NLT Second Edition), Chrysolite (NIV).

    Topaz is a blue or colorless, grey, yellow stone, Crystallite is a yellow to green stone.

February Birthstone color: Purple, Lavender

February Birthstone: Amethyst (Ancient Hebrew, Russian, Polish, UK), Iolite (Iolite), Blue Quartz, Pearl (Ancient 15th century), hyacinth (pre 20th century)

3- (third stone, row one) The third stone listed is listed as a Carbuncle (KJ & NLT), Emerald (GW & NLT second edition) and a Beryl (NIV & NLT)

    The carbuncle is thought to be a type of garnet. Most garnets are red, but they are also green. The emerald is green, and the emerald is a green Beryl. I think it could also be a blue green type of Beryl called Aquamarine.  

March Birthstone color is Green or Aqua Blue.

March Birthstone: Aquamarine (Modern), Bloodstone (Ancient Hebrew, Traditional UK), Jasper (Russian, Hebrew), Jade (Tibetan)

Row 2:

4- (first stone, row two) The fourth stone listed is Emerald (KJ 7& NLT), Turquoise (NLT Second Edition, GW & NIV).

April Birth month color is clear or white.

April Birthstone is: Diamond (Traditional, Ancient Polish), White Sapphire, Sapphire (Hebrew, Russian, Arabic), Opal (Tibetan), Clear Quartz, Crystal, White Quartz, Mother of Pearl

5- (second stone, row two) The fifth stone listed is Sapphire (KJ, NLT & GW), Lapis Lazuli (NIV), Blue Lapis (NLT Second Edition).

  Sapphire is usually blue, but the blue is rare, and the natural colors vary from green, yellow and red. Blue Lapis is called blue Lapis Lazuli and it is blue.

May Birth month color is Green

May Birthstone is: Emerald (Italian, Spanish, Roman, Hebrew, Russian, Polish),  Carnelian (Hebrew), Agate (Hebrew, Italian, Spanish, Roman) Green Onyx, Green Jade, Jade (Japanese), Sapphire (Tibetan), Carnelian & Chalcedony (Hebrew), Chrysoprase, Beryl (Ancient)

6- (third stone, row two) The sixth stone listed is Diamond (KJ & NLT), white Moonstone (NLT Second Edition), Crystal (GW), Emerald (NIV).

June Birth Month color is white or pale purple, lavender

July Birthstone is Pearl, Moonstone (Tibetan), Emerald (Italian, Ancient Hebrew & Roman), Chalcedony (Russian, Polish & Arabic), Agate (Russian, Polish & Arabic), Alexandrite, Opal (Modern)

Row 3:

7- (first stone, row three) The seventh stone listed is a Ligure (KJ & NLT), orange Jacinth (NLT), Jacinth (GW & NIV).

    The color is thought to be a reddish orange and the Jacinth stone is a reddish orange Zircon. Some say it could be a reddish variety of Tourmaline called Rubellite or a Ruby, also called a red Sapphire. 

July Birth Month color is red.

July Birthstone is Ruby (Tibetan, Russian, Polish), Onyx (Hebrew, Italian, Roman), Sardonyx (Russian), Jasper, Carnelian (Arabic)

8- (second stone, row three) The eighth stone listed as Agate in all the translations (KJ, NLT, NLT Second Edition, GW and NIV).

August Birth Month color is Green.

August Birthstone is Peridot, Green Jade, Carnelian (Ancient Hebrew, Roman, Italian), Sardonyx (Polish & Arabic), Alexandrite (Russian), Diamond (Tibetan)

9- (third stone, row three) The ninth stone listed is Amethyst in the (KJ, NLT, GW and NIV) and purple Amethyst in the (NLT Second Edition).

September Birth Month color is blue.

September Birthstone is Sapphire, Lapis Lazuli, Sardonyx (Roman & Polish) Chrysolite (Ancient Hebrew, Russian, Italian, Arabic), Agate (Tibetan), Peridot & Olivine (Polish) Topaz: Italian, Hebrew, Russian), Diamond

Row 4:

10- (first stone, row four) The tenth stone listed is Beryl (KJ, NLT, GW), blue green Beryl (NLT Second Edition), Topaz (NIV).

October Birth Month color is:

October Birthstone is: Aquamarine (Polish, Roman, Hebrew, Arabic), Jasper (Tibetan), Beryl (Italian & Russian), Opal & Pink Tourmaline (Modern), Rose or Pink Zircon, Rose Quartz, Pink Cubic (alternative).

11- (second stone, row four) The eleventh stone listed is Onyx in all translation (KJ, NLT, NLT Second Edition, GW and NIV).

November Birth Month color is: Black, Grey, Yellow

November Birthstone is: Topaz (Ancient Hebrew, Russian, Arabic, Roman, Italian, Polish), Smokey Quartz (Alternative to Smokey Topaz), Pearl (Tibetan), Citrine & Yellow Topaz (Modern)

12- (third stone, row four) The twelfth stone listed is Jasper (KJ, NLT & NIV), green Jasper (NLT Second Edition), grey Quartz (GW).

December Birth Month color is: Blue, Turquoise Blue

December Birthstone is Turquoise (Modern & Ancient Polish & Russian), Blue Lapis Lazuli (Ancient), Ruby (Hebrew, Russian, Polish, Italian, Roman, Arabic), Onyx (Tibetan), Chrysoprase (Russian), Modern: Zircon, Blue Topaz, Tanzanite.


I hope you have fun reading this list, I hope it inspires you to learn more and to choose a birthstone that suits your personality and one that makes you happy.

You can read my List of Birthstones

Please contact me with any questions.

Have a blessed day.




©Jacqueline Neves, Anything’s Possible Jewellery