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Ruby, the Birthstone of July

U5546 | medium | left | play | “Ruby ID: U5546 – Weight: 1.07 Carats – Origin: Mozambique” Rubies are the birthstone of July. The middle of summer when the summer heat climbs to intense levels. Campfires roar to life in the evenings, with the sky painted in a variety of reddish hues.

While rubies are limited to the dominant color red by definition, they can have colors modifying the red like purplish red, orangish red, and pinkish red. Between all the parts of color with hue, tone, and saturation, finding matching reds is very difficult.

Depiction of the Breastplate

Origin of Birthstones

The idea of birthstones in the west stems from the legendary breastplate of Aaron from antiquity, said to convey God’s will. The breastplate was described as being arranged in four rows of three gems each, with a specific order.

It is to be square – a span long and a span wide – and folded double. Then mount four rows of precious stones on it. The first row shall be Carnelian, Chrysolite and Beryl; the second row shall be Turquoise, Lapis Lazuli and Emerald; the third row shall be Jacinth, Agate and Amethyst; the fourth row shall be Topaz, Onyx and Jasper. Mount them in gold filigree settings. There are to be twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.

Exodus 28:16-20

Issues with Historical Accuracy

Unfortunately which specific gems were used in the Breastplate of Aaron are largely unknown. Aside from translations going back and forth between various languages, the original text often describes these gems in terms of their color instead of what they are. All clear, red gems were rubies, all green gems were emeralds, blue gems were sapphires, etc. Distinction beyond color for different gems is a relatively recent development starting in the late 1800s.

A particularly famous example of this is the Black Prince Ruby. Everyone believed it to be a ruby for the longest time, as indicated by the title. It is in fact an unusually large piece of spinel. Issues with historical accuracy noted, the connection between the 12 zodiac signs, 12 months of the year, and the 12 gems in the breastplate was not noted until much later. No widespread popularity was found in this connection until the 18th century.

Official Birth Months

What eventually became the official list of birthstone gems was published in 1912 by the National Jewelers of America, though there are a variety of lists. Usually the selected gems are arranged based on color instead of by actual gemstone. Some lists also go by the zodiac signs, though there is overlap between the months

January Garnet
February Amethyst
March Aquamarine
April Diamond
May Emerald
June Alexandrite, Pearls, Moonstone
July Ruby
August Peridot, Spinel
September Sapphire
October Opal, Tourmaline
November Citrine, Topaz
December Turquoise, Blue Zircon, Tanzanite
Birthstone Months

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