December Birthstones: Tanzanite, Zircon and Turquoise

Tanzanite December Birthstone Ring

With December birthdays, we find three birthstone jewelry options: Tanzanite, Zircon, and Turquoise. Appropriate enough, all three of these wintry gemstones offer beautiful shades of blue. The oldest of the three is zircon, the first gemstone mined out of the three is turquoise, and the most recently discovered of the three is tanzanite. They all offer more than affordable birthstone jewelry options and are quickly becoming viable alternatives to diamond jewelry.

Tanzanite Symbolism and Meaning

Stemming from its only locale in the world, tanzanite gets its name from the country Tanzania. Unlike other months, the December birthstone of tanzanite has a shorter history, going undiscovered until 1967.

Despite its recent discovery and lack of ancient folklore, tanzanite’s rich color and immense beauty make it one of the most popular gemstones of the modern world. Because of its rarity and limited availability, tanzanite will likely be passed down for generations as a precious heirloom.

Tanzanite Color

Formed of the mineral zoisite, tanzanite is a vivid blue gem found in only one place in the world. When small amounts of the mineral vanadium mix with high temperatures, the blue color develops. The December birthstone ranges in hue, and normally includes shades of purple and lavender. And while some tanzanite contains brown tints, the gemstones are usually cut and treated to reduce that effect.

Measuring between 6.5 and 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness, tanzanite is slightly less durable than other gemstones. No cause for concern, tanzanite can be worn daily in earrings and necklaces, though rings should probably be saved for special occasions. Proper care helps maintain the life and beauty of tanzanite jewelry.

December Birthstone Tanzanite on the Mohs Hardness Scale

Tanzanite Origins

Uncovered by Maasai herders in 1967, the vibrant blue stones were unexpectedly discovered in the Merelani Hills in Arusha, Tanzania. The herders shared their discovery with Manual d’Souza, a local fortune prospector, who registered the location with proper mining claims. The only place in the world tanzanite can be found is within a few miles of this original deposit.

Because Tanzanite is only available in a tiny area on Earth, December’s primary birthstone is a rare and precious gem.

Tips for Purchasing Tanzanite Birthstone Jewelry

When choosing tanzanite birthstone jewelry, you will want to look at a few characteristics of the gemstone prior to your purchase. The cut, carat weight and size, color, and clarity are all important considerations to make.

While diamonds have more of a standard cut and very similar shapes, tanzanite is cut to showcase its unique color and beauty. Each tanzanite is cut in such a way as to enhance the natural beauty and brilliance of each gemstone.

The carat size of tanzanite varies like its dimensions and is measured by the weight as well as the face-up dimensions of the gemstone.

The color of each tanzanite gemstone is also unique and typically has two different colors showcased at one time. Typically these colors are of a blue variety and could be a mix of blue with violet.

Most tanzanite gemstones also do not have any obvious inclusions that you can see with just the eye.

You will find that tanzanite is much rarer than diamonds because of the minimal locale in which it is found. It is also not as tough or as durable as other gemstones so when you wear tanzanite in different forms of jewelry, it is vitally important that you exercise caution while wearing the jewelry and protect it from hitting against anything or it could easily become damaged.

Caring for Your Tanzanite Birthstone Jewelry

Tanzanite can remain stunning and beautiful for much longer if you properly care and maintain the gemstones. Avoid any cleaning that may involve vibrations of any kind and use a small brush with warm, soapy water to clean the upper and underside of the gemstones. You will then rinse the tanzanite well and allow it to dry.

Always avoid using any oils or harsh chemicals because these substances can seriously damage the gemstone and negatively impact its value.

Zircon: Secondary Birthstone

An alternative to tanzanite, zircon is another stunning blue gemstone that December born folks have a special connection with. While zircon is available in a range of colors, the blue variety tends to be associated as a secondary December birthstone.

Abundant within the Earth’s crust—and dating back over 4 billion years—Zircon is a widely available mineral of the nesosilicate group. It rates a 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness, meaning it holds up well for everyday jewelry. Zircon deposits can be found in Cambodia, Tanzania, Thailand, Sri Lanka, the United States and Canada—though the largest deposit (37% of the world supply) comes from Australia.

Throughout time, Zircon has been believed to provide wisdom and prosperity. In the Middle Ages, it was thought to aid in sleep quality and ward off evil spirits. During the Victorian era, blue zircon was a prized gem, often adorned in necklaces and other decorative pieces. In the early 20th century, heat treatment became a popular way to enhance the blue color of zircon for jewelry. Legend has it that zircon brings compassion and confidence to all wearers.

A Few Tips When Buying Zircon Birthstone Jewelry

Zircon is not as common as some other gemstones. However, it is a naturally sparkly gemstone and can be compared in many different ways to diamonds. Green zircon is the most sought-after color and happens to be the rarest color you can find.

When purchasing zircon, you will want to consider the cut of the gemstone because of its dispersion and light performance. The right cut into a brilliant shape can help maximize and enhance its appearance and beauty and make it look almost indistinguishable from diamonds.

You will also find higher levels of clarity when it comes to zircon, and only small imperfections are common and are often only visible through means of magnification. You can also find zircon that has been heat treated to enhance its overall transparency.

Zircon is known as a diamond simulant and can be very hard to distinguish between a diamond and zircon which makes it a more affordable option for engagement rings, wedding rings, necklaces, bracelets, stud earrings, and pendant jewelry options.

Turquoise: Tertiary Birthstone

Those born in December not only benefit from two exquisite gemstones, but also a third blue beauty: turquoise.

One of the oldest and most beloved gemstones, turquoise has been admired since ancient times. Pharaohs in Egypt wore turquoise stones around their necks, and Native Americans fastened them to special pieces of their wardrobe. Aztecs adorned their ceremonial masks and weapons with turquoise, as did kings and warriors of many kingdoms. For centuries, it’s been believed that turquoise brings health, wealth, protection and good luck to wearers.

The stunning gemstones—which range in color from soft to darker greenish blues—are composed of hydrated phosphate of aluminum and copper. Originally discovered in Ancient Persia (known as Iran today), turquoise deposits are located in the United States, Northern India, Afghanistan, Australia, Northern Chile and Turkestan. Often formed in arid regions, turquoise found in Arizona leads the world in quality and value.

Because turquoise measures a 6 on the Mohs scale of durability, it is perfect for special occasion jewelry as opposed to everyday wear.

Turquoise Birthstone Jewelry

When purchasing turquoise, it is in your best interest to be able to distinguish between real turquoise and imitation turquoise gemstones. True turquoise will carry more of an opaque appearance with a wax-like luster.

Since turquoise is very soft, it must be stabilized before it can be used in any jewelry. The stabilizing compound it is submerged in will harden the stone. There are also treatments that can be done to enhance its appearance.

Before purchasing turquoise, be sure to inquire about any treatments that have been used on the stone and make sure to find out if the stone is, in fact, real turquoise.

Taking Care of Turquoise Birthstone Jewelry

Turquoise jewelry is soft and can be very fragile, so it is important that you refrain from wearing your December birthstone jewelry when you know you will have to do some hard work. You will also want to keep it out of extreme weather conditions and avoid using jewelry cleaners.

To clean turquoise jewelry, simply wipe it down with clean and warm water and a soft cloth. It is also recommended that you store your turquoise jewelry separately from your other jewelry as not to scratch or damage the stone.

Fun Facts

  • The Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. hosts an extensive collection of tanzanite, including one stone of over 122 Carats.
  • Tanzanite was given its name by Tiffany & Co. after the gemstone was discovered as zoisite in 1967. The name “zoisite” sounded too similar to “suicide,” so the company marketed the gem with a name to reflect its origin: Tanzania.
  • Beyoncé was gifted a stunning tanzanite ring of over 10 Carats by her husband Jay-Z.
  • Ancient records indicate that turquoise jewelry was fashioned as far back as 3000 BC, as evidenced in ancient Egyptian tombs, including that of King Tut.
  • Many celebrities flaunt turquoise jewelry for special appearances, including Cameron Diaz, Megan Fox, Sarah Jessica Parker and Sofia Vergara.

Gift Ideas

No matter which December birthstone you choose—whether tanzanite, zircon or turquoise—these vivid blue gems are bound to garner attention. Consider a gift that’s designed especially for the one you love.

Whether you want to pair the stones with sterling silver, gold, or white gold, any type of metal would make the perfect setting for December birthstone jewelry in the form of women’s watches, pendants, bracelets, or even men’s jewelry.

Tanzanite Jewelry

The blue color of tanzanite is especially eye-catching in a ring. Consider a cushion cut with a halo setting, a pear-shaped stone or one with a rose gold setting.

For pendants and necklaces, choose from a simple tanzanite pendant or a more extravagant piece like this pear-shaped necklace.

Tanzanite bracelets are usually classic and simple in design, like this one with diamonds or this one set in sterling silver.

For earrings, tanzanite options include:

Turquoise Jewelry

For a turquoise pendant, consider a simple button design or one with a more edgy look like this sunburst turquoise necklace—which can be paired with these matching earrings.

Or go stylish with a natural turquoise ring or a set of turquoise studded earrings.

With a special December birthstone design, you’re bound to surprise your loved one. Also check out November’s topaz and January’s garnet birthstones.

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