For the past few months I have been posting, on Facebook, references to gemstones of the month and of the zodiac.
After years of ignorance, I have discovered what is believed to be the origins of our ‘gemstones of the month’. Some of you may know this and wonder why I didn’t, others might find it interesting.
Arran, brother of Moses, as High Priest, wore a breastplate which contained, in four rows of three, twelve different minerals/stones engraved with the names of the sons of Jacob, who became the progenitors of the tribes of Israel.
As this happened approximately 3500 years ago there is a great deal of debate as to what the 12 stones were.
In the 5th century AD St. Jerome wrote about the connection between the breastplate of Arron and the twelve months of the year. However it wasn’t until the16th century that people in Poland started wearing a birthstone of their particular month.
One thing is for sure the stones are not the same as we recognise today. What we know as Sapphire hadn’t been discovered, the name had probably been used for Lapis Lazuli. Diamond wouldn’t have been cut-able let alone engrave-able, and they wouldn’t have been able to engrave on Pearl.
Here is one opinion of what was, thought to have been, on this religious artefact:
1st row: Cornelian. (Sometimes spelt Carnelian) A member of the Quartz group. Flesh red/brown red. Cut flat.
Chrysolite. A name applied to Peridot. Yellow green, olive green
2nd row: Turquoise.
Sapphire. Applied to many stones in antiquity especially Lapis Lazuli
3rd row: Jacinth. A red Zircon or Hessonite Garnet. Brown/orange.
Agate. A member of the Quartz group. Banded in various colours. Cut flat.
Chrysophrase. Another member of the large Quartz group. Apple green. Cut flat.
4th row: Beryl. A group name that includes Emerald and Aquamarine. Colours gold, yellow green, yellow, pink.
Lapis Lazuli. Also called Lazurite. Blue. Cut flat.
Jasper. Quartz group. All colours mostly striped or spotted. Cut flat.
Now we have commercial considerations. It is fairly certain stones like Carnelian, Jasper, Chrysophrase and Agate would have been used. They would have been found locally and be engrave-able. But, other than a signet ring, who is going to get excited about a piece of jewellery with one of those set in it?
Here is a Western, modern day, interpretation. (There are many)
Only six, of what were originally thought to be in the Breast Plate, survive.
June: Moonstone or Alexanderite
December: Zircon or Tanzanite.
Although some of the charts agree across the board others don’t at all. If you fancy seeing how complicated it is go to Wikipedia put in ‘Priestly Breastplate’ and read the interpretations of languages, new and old, over the centuries.
What we call astrology began thousands of years ago.
The year began as the sun aligned with the equator ‘spring’.
Celestial bodies were observed with the naked eye 7 (a week)
Lunar cycles were noted 12 (a month) after which time spring would arrive again.
The changing night sky was observed, as the lunar cycles passed, and constellations named. (I doubt if then someone had the bright idea of associating a particular gemstone to them).
If it had been kept that simple (okay it wasn’t that simple) our first month would begin on the 20/21st MARCH, perfectly in tune with the ZODIAC.
However it didn’t stay simple, firstly they had a ten month year! Then Julius Caesar’s mates sorted out a twelve month calendar, the JULIAN, not around astrology but political concerns, making no allowances for leap years.
By the sixteenth century we were in such a mess ten days had to be removed from the calendar. We now had the GREGORIAN calendar. Zodiac periods and the months have no alignment whatsoever and jewellers have two bites of the cherry. Gemstones of the MONTH and Gemstones of the ZODIAC.
View STONES for lists of the associated gemstones