The birthstone tradition has its origins in the Middle East, dating back more than 3000 years. Like many old traditions, this one evolved in a grey zone between history and myth. In the days of Moses, the sacred breast plate of the High Priest bore twelve colours, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The semi-precious stones corresponding with these colours have, through the centuries, been awarded mystical powers such as the ability to ward off evil, protect the bearer in battle, or cure blindness. Following the exodus of Israelites from Egypt, legend says, people wore each of the stones for one month in the year; a practice that evolved into choosing just the one stone that represented the month of the wearer’s birth.
Amethyst, onyx and topaz are the only three stones that remain of the original twelve, as time, geography and the intervention of contemporary marketing campaigns has altered the list of birthstones. Though the stones we choose most often reflect the months of the Gregorian calendar, other cultures have evolved their own list of gems. For a change of pace, take a look at the Ayurvedic, Arabic, Hindu, Italian, Polish, Roman, Russian or Zodiac list of birthstones. There is also the lesser-known day-of-the-week gemstone list (you can learn what day you were born with a quick internet search) to round out your options.
In 1912, the American National Association of Jewellers updated our generally-accepted birthstone list, which was modified again in the 1930s. In 2002, Tanzanite was added as a December stone, likely in a bid to increase the demand for this gemstone that was discovered in Tanzania about 50 years ago. If the semi-precious stone you have always associated with your month of birth does not resonate with you, perhaps it is time to search a different list and adopt a new birthday gem mounted on a bracelet, ring, or pendant.