By Yaĝé Enigmus
Gemstones that hold special meaning can be found in almost every human culture. When selecting a gemstone as a birthstone, the origin of the birthstone list used can be as significant as the stones themselves. Eastern traditions offer a number of choices when looking for the right stone to make into custom jewellery or give to a loved one. Among these are two lists of stones from the Indus Valley Civilization, one from Tibetan beliefs, and two from East Asian traditions.
Within Hindu beliefs, certain stones possess special properties and are reflections of various astrological forces. A number of these stones are associated with the twelve lunisolar months of the Hindu calendar. In the Hindu system of medicine known as Ayurveda, certain stones are believed to also possess medicinal properties and a number of these stones have also been paired with the twelve months. These lists are thought to date to around 1500 B.C.E. in the early days of the Indus Valley Civilization. Unlike the contemporary practice of wearing a single stone to match the month in which one was born, different stones from these lists would have likely been worn at different times based on the astrological concerns or health of the wearer on a given day or during a given month. In more recent times these lists have been adapted to produce versions that use the twelve months of the Gregorian calendar.
Below is a contemporary Gregorian adaptation of the Hindu birthstone list:
*“Serpent Stone” is likely a form of serpentine
**“Shiva-Linga” and “Shiva-Lingam” are names for a sacred flesh-brown coloured stone found in the Narmada River; these stones are largely composed of basalt, jasper, and iron oxide
Below is a contemporary Gregorian adaptation of the Ayurvedic birthstone list:
In Tibetan culture there exists a list of birthstones for the twelve months. These stones are believed to possess metaphysical powers, and were carved into protective talismans meant to provide blessings and good fortune to those born in a given month who wore or carried it. This list is known as the ‘mystical birthstones’ and dates back to at least 1000 C.E., but may be even older. Today’s list uses Gregorian months, but it is unknown whether or not these stones were originally matched to the months of the Roman/Julian calendar or used a calendar system native to central Asia.
Below is the contemporary mystical birthstone list:
In the kingdom of Siam, previously known as Mueang Thai and known today as Thailand, certain gemstones and coloured fabrics were considered to be ideal for wearing on different days of the week. This list of stones has existed since at least the end of the 19th century when the name ‘Siam’ was officially adopted by the region, but its true age is unknown.
Below is the contemporary understanding of the Siamese birthstone list:
|Day of the Week||Siamese Birthstone|
East Asian cultures have long exhibited a fascination with gemstones that display optical phenomena, with Chinese culture being known to place special value on such gems. Seven gemstones of this type have been paired with the days of the week in a list known as the ‘phenomenal birthstones’. Western academics documented this list at the beginning of the 20th century, but its true age, how it was first used, and the culture from which it originated are unknown.
Below is the contemporary understanding of the phenomenal birthstone list:
|Day of the Week||Siamese Birthstone|
Birthstones and birthstone jewellery are great for sending a personalized message that has roots in cultures from all over the world. Countless options are available when selecting a birthstone, so one needn’t worry about being restricted to a single choice. Each person has a number of different birthstones that match their birthdate in some way, making the process of designing bespoke jewellery for oneself or a loved one quite tailorable to the preferences of the individual and the message one wishes to send.