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Gem of the Month

Since December is finally winding down, let’s take a break from our review of 2014’s jewelry designers to focus on the months themselves.

Most of us know our birthstones—gems and jewels that for some reason represent the month of our birth. Some of us have even been told not to wear stones from other months. (October’s opals especially are said to bring bad luck upon their non-October-born wearers.)  Tiffany & Co. even published a series of poems that list the months along with each of their respective jewels.

It may or may not surprise you to learn that these month-to-stone connections are not ancient or of divine origin. It appears that the list we have today (sans the recent changes mentioned below) was coined no earlier than 1912.  And, in fact, birthstones of specific months have changed periodically: in 1952 the Jewelry Industry Council of America tweaked the established birthstones list by adding extra stones to June, November, and October, and switching December’s stone entirely.

But although the specific birthstones may be arbitrarily chosen, the tradition of birthstones itself is deeply rooted in a number of cultures. In Western cultures, it is believed to date back to the twelve stones of the breastplate the High Priest wore in the Jewish Temple; in Eastern cultures, to the twelve signs of the zodiac. So the next time you want to insist on a topaz necklace for your December birthday, you can assure people that this tradition of yours has more than stood the test of time.


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