Birthstones

The first century Jewish historian Josephus proclaimed a connection between the twelve stones in Aaron’s breastplate, the twelve months of the year and the twelve signs of the zodiac. The Breastplate of Aaron, referred to in Exodus 28:17-20.

The precise list of birthstones however can be found in Revelation 21:19-20 where the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem are listed, in the order of the Roman calendar:

And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. . .

 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;

 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.

The custom of actually wearing birthstones first gained popularity in Poland in the fifteenth century. Tradition suggested everyone wear the birthstone for each month, since the powers of the gemstone were heightened during its month. For the fullest effect, individuals needed to own an entire set of twelve gemstones and rotate them monthly.

Month Traditional Birthstone(s) Modern Birthstone(s) Mystical Birthstone Ayurvedic Birthstone
January Garnet Garnet Emerald Garnet
February Amethyst, Hyacinth, Pearl Amethyst Bloodstone Amethyst
March Bloodstone, Jasper Aquamarine Jade Bloodstone
April Diamond, Sapphire Diamond Opal Diamond
May Emerald, Agate Emerald Sapphire Agate
June Cat’s Eye, Turquoise, Agate Moonstone, Pearl Moonstone Pearl
July Turquoise, Onyx Ruby Ruby Ruby
August Sardonyx, Carnelian, Moonstone, Topaz Peridot Diamond Sapphire
September Chrysolite Sapphire Agate Moonstone
October Opal, Aquamarine Opal, Pink Tourmaline Jasper Opal
November Topaz, Pearl Topaz, Citrine Pearl Topaz
December Bloodstone, Ruby Turquoise, Zircon, Tanzanite, Blue Topaz Onyx Ruby

Gemstones in the Breastplate of Aaron

A biblical accounting of the gem stones in the breastplate of the high priest.

“Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the LORD.“

– Exodus 28:29 NIV

The Breastplate of Aaron is of interest to gem lovers because it is an early accounting of the use of gemstones as both decoration and symbol. Aaron is the brother to Moses and the leader of the tribe which is appointed as high priests.

The breastplate is described (Exodus 28:15-20) as the “Breastplate of Judgment” or “Breastplate of Decision” and is adorned with twelve gems-one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. The gemstones were to be attached in four rows of three and each gem was to have the name of a tribe inscribed upon it.

Each translation of the verses varies and produces a different interpretation of a modern gemstone name that equates to the ancient biblical descriptions of the stones that adorned the four rows on the breastplate. Here is list of a few of the popular translations.

New International Version (NIV)

Row 1: ruby, topaz, beryl
Row 2: turquoise, sapphire (or lapis lazuli), emerald
Row 3: jacinth, agate, amethyst
Row 4: chrysolite, onyx, jasper

King James Version (KJV)

Row 1: sardius, topaz, carbuncle
Row 2: emerald, sapphire, diamond
Row 3: ligure, agate, amethyst
Row 4: beryl, onyx, jasper

New King James Version (NKJV)

Row 1: sardius, topaz, emerald
Row 2: turquoise, sapphire, diamond
Row 3: jacinth, agate, amethyst
Row 4: beryl, onyx, jasper