Birthstone Traditions

Almost every culture around the world has associations of gemstones and minerals with seasons of the year, the elements, zodiac signs, months, and other cycles. These associations have roots in each culture’s spiritual traditions, and also depend on which stones and minerals were known and available to that culture.

In the United States and much of the western world, birthstone traditions were based on European culture, often with Greek, Roman, Jewish and more ancient roots, and often related to the zodiac and alchemical magic. Particular stones are still associated with each of the 12 signs of the zodiac that loosely correspond to birth month (ie, “sun sign”).

In 1912, the National Association of Jewelers (now called Jewelers of America) adopted an official list of birthstones, and expanded upon it in 1952, 2002, and 2016, giving birth to the American Traditional birthstone associations. Other western countries followed suit and adopted their own “official” birthstone lists. These lists focus on the relatively expensive, mostly colored, gemstones sold by higher end jewelry stores.

Similarly, in the eastern world, each culture has its own birthstone associations. Two of these are the Mystical and the Ayurvedic.

  • Mystical birthstones are based on Tibetan birthstone charts dating back to thousands of years of Tibetan spiritual traditions.
  • Ayurvedic birthstones are based on Indian traditions dating back to at least 1500 BC, associating specific stones with certain healing powers as well as birth astrology.
When you start researching the non-traditional birthstone associations, you will soon realize that each month or zodiac sign has many possible birthstones. The good news is, if you don’t like your “official” birthstone, you can safely pick a stone that resonates with you.