Rolling With The Stones: Part I

Birthstones seem to have a biblical source, with the roots tracing back to the book of Exodus in the Bible and specifically on the breastplate of Aaron. This specific breastplate was adorned with 12 gemstones — emerald, sapphire, diamond, topaz, carbuncle, sardius, agate, ligure, amethyst, onyx, jasper, and beryl  — that each represented the twelve tribes of Israel at the time.

Aaron's Breastplate
“There were twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.” (Exodus 28:17-20)

The first century Jewish historian Josephus believed there was a connection between the twelve stones in Aaron’s breastplate, the twelve months of the year, and the twelve signs of the zodiac. 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.” Practice became to keep twelve stones and wear one a month. The modern variation we know today came about in the 18th century in Poland whereby Jewish gem traders marketed selling each gemstone based on a person’s birth month.

Garnet — January

The name “garnet” originates from the medieval Latin granatus, meaning “pomegranate,” in reference to the similarity of the red color. Garnets have been used since the Bronze Age as gemstones and abrasives. Necklaces studded with red garnets adorned the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Signet rings in ancient Rome featured garnet intaglios that were used to stamp the wax that secured important documents. The clergy and nobility of the Middle Ages had a preference for red garnets.

Garnet - January
Garnet — January

Although garnet is commonly associated with the color red, these gemstones can be found in a rainbow of colors — green (tsavorite and demantoid), orange (spessartine and hessionite), purple (rhodolite), yellow (mali and topazolite), pink (malaya), red (almandine and pyrope), black (melanite). There are even opaque garnets that are usually cut as a cabochon (pink hydrogrossular and green grossularite). The color variety of garnet gives people born in January many color options. Legend says garnets light up the night and protect their owners from nightmares. Garnets have long been carried by travelers to protect them against accidents far from home.

Amethyst — February

The name “amethyst” derives from the Greek word amethystos, which means “a remedy against drunkenness,” a benefit long ascribed to the purple birthstone. Because of its wine-like color, early Greek mythology associated the gem with Bacchus, the god of wine. Amethyst was also believed to keep the wearer clear headed and quick witted in battle and business affairs. Renaissance Europeans thought it calmed lovers overrun by passion.

Amethy — February
Amethy — February

It is the world’s most popular purple gem — and that enhances its status as a birthstone. The color of amethyst spans a range from violetish purple, to purple, to reddish purple. The purple color of amethyst can be so light that it is barely perceptible, or so dark that a faceted gem can be nearly opaque. Not only is this gem known for its beautiful color, but it is also widely available in different shapes and sizes — which makes it more affordable. Amethyst complements both warm and cool colors, helping it look fabulous set in both yellow and white metals. This unique ability enhances almost every color in your wardrobe.

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