MODERN WESTERN SYSTEM: According to the Gemological Institute of America (ref. G.I.A. Colored Stones Course, Assignment #41, “Birthstones”), the origin of the Western system of birthstones can be traced to the Breastplate of the High Priest. In the Bible, Moses handed down rules governing the Breastplate of Judgment which contained 12 gems, each engraved with the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Another arrangement of the 12 gems is described in the Book of Revelation as the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem. The order in which these 12 gems were given was used to determine the succession of birthstones for the months.
On August 12, 1912 the American National Retail Jewelers’ Association arbitrarily substituted a new list of birthstones, adding to or changing many of the traditional stones to others which were more commercially viable. In 1938 the American Gem Society adopted this list (with the addition of citrine) for use by its members. In 1952 a variation of this list was approved by the American National Retail Jewelers Association (ANRJA), National Jewelers Association (NJA), and the American Gem Society (AGS). Thus the official list of birthstones was established as follows:
In light of the above, it is obvious that the currently recognized Western birthstone system has nothing to do with any astrological science. It should also be noted that the signs of the zodiac change on or about the 22nd of each month. Therefore it is impossible to establish a list of birthstones based on the months. According to the Tropical system of astrology prevalent in the West, zodiac or birth signs are determined by the position of the Sun in one’s horoscope. In the Sidereal system this is determined by the position of the Moon. But in both systems, the zodiac sign is important, not the month of one’s birth. Each sign of the zodiac (rasi ) is ruled by one of the planets and each planet in turn rules over certain gemstones according to their color. In Asia these birthstones are known collectively as NAVARATNA or the nine (astral) gems.
ANCIENT ASTROLOGICAL ASIAN BIRTHSTONES SYSTEM: The only logical system of birthstones is based upon the planet ruling one’s zodiac sign.
The following list of BIRTHSTONES has been known and accepted throughout Asia since ancient times:
* According to B.V. Raman and other authorities, since Rahu and Ketu are aprakasha or shadowy planets, they will reflect the qualities of the lord of the (zodiac) sign they are in. If Rahu is in located Leo, a sign ruled by the Sun, look to the position of Sun in the chart and expect similar effects for Rahu. Note: Other natural stones can be substituted according to color. These secondary choice gems are known collectively as “Uparatna ” or alternate stones. These secondary choice jewels are listed in chapters III and IV.
The most important difference in the use of astrological gems by the two systems is that in the Eastern system gems are recognized as possessing unique planetary powers which may be prescribed for specific purposes. We must first look to see which planets (if any) are in their “own sign” (sign ownership), or are “exalted” (maximum strength) or in “mulatrikona “(trine), or at least in a “friendly sign.” All of these “auspicious” planetary sign positions give positive results and will be beneficial to “strengthen.” Prescribing gems to “pacify” afflicted planets has not proven beneficial in our experience. Planets which are in a harmful “condition” in one’s horoscope should not be made stronger, except when under the watchful eye of a “selfless” Sidereal astrologer.
In the next Chapter we will discuss the “powers” of fine gemstones, planet by planet.