January Birthstone – Garnet
Garnet, as a precious stone, carries the following meanings:
Garnets have a history of being exchanged as gifts between friends to demonstrate their affection for each other and to insure that they would meet again.
Having a distinct gemstone assigned to each month of the year can be traced back to the Breastplate worn by Aaron, which is described in the book of Exodus.
“And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones: the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this shall be the first row. And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be set in gold in their inclosings. And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes.” Exodus 28:17-21 KJV
The first century Jewish historian Josephus proclaimed a connection between the twelve stones in Aaron’s breastplate and the twelve months of the year.
The idea of wearing a gemstone corresponding to the month of a person’s birth is a modern one that scholars trace to 18th century Poland, with the arrival of Jewish gem traders in the region. The modern list of birthstones has been unchanged since its initial definition in 1912 by the National Association of Jewelers in the USA.
Garnet is the only recognized birthstone for January, but the garnet family encompasses a diverse range of colors. The color red occurs most frequently, but there are also garnets showing different shades of green, pale to bright yellow, fiery orange and fine earth- and umbra-shades. Blue is the most rarely seen garnet color.
The Gregorian calendar has poems (of unknown author) matching each month with its birthstone:
By her who in January was born
No gem save garnets shall be worn
They will ensure her constancy
True friendship and fidelity.