The Birthstones of December: Tanzanite, Zircon, and Turquoise
Attention to everyone born under the wintry skies of December! We’re thrilled to share some sparkling news with you: Your birth month is adorned with not one, but three stunning birthstones! Embrace the enchanting hues of December with Tanzanite, Zircon, and Turquoise, each celebrated for their captivating blue shades. Dive into a journey of discovery as we explore the rich symbolism, fascinating history, and unique characteristics of these mesmerizing gemstones. Let’s unravel the stories behind Tanzanite, Zircon, and Turquoise together!
Tanzanite, Zircon, and Turquoise Loose Gemstones
Why does December have three birthstones?
December dazzles with not one, but three unique birthstones: Tanzanite, Zircon, and Turquoise, each with a rich history that has cemented their association with this festive month. While most months are graced with one or two birthstones, December is among the exclusive few that boast a trio of gemstones, adding to its special allure.
The intriguing world of birthstones is divided into two categories: modern and traditional. Modern birthstones, which became standardized in the 1950s by the Jewelers of America, are the most commonly recognized today. In contrast, traditional birthstones hark back to earlier associations, popular in the early 20th century and even earlier. However, as times have changed, some of these traditional gems have become rarities, leading to newer, more accessible modern counterparts for certain months.
Now, let’s delve into the gemstones of December. Among its three stones, can you identify which are considered modern and which hold the traditional title? December’s selection includes two modern birthstones and one traditional gem. Take a guess and see if you can unravel this sparkling mystery!
Features of Tanzanites
One of the modern birthstones for December is Tanzanite. The name ‘tanzanite’ was initially coined as a more market-friendly alternative to its scientific name, ‘blue-violet zoisite’.
This rebranding was introduced to the market in 1968 by Tiffany & Co.’s marketing department, drawing its name from the gemstone’s geographic origin, Tanzania.
Tanzanite is actually a variety of the mineral zoisite and has risen in popularity due to its exquisite blue-purple or blue-violet color. This rare blue hue of zoisite was discovered in 1967. Since then, techniques to enhance its beautiful color through heat treatment have been developed. Zoisite contains traces of vanadium, which, when subjected to high heat, transforms into the cherished blue-purple color prevalent in today’s market.
Natural purple and blue Tanzanites are the most rare and valuable.
Additionally, Tanzanite exhibits the phenomenon of pleochroism, which allows the stone to display different colors when viewed from various angles. However, to eliminate the natural brown hues of zoisite during its transformation into Tanzanite, precise and skillful cutting is essential to reveal its stunning blue and purple hues.
The History and Symbolism of Tanzanites
Tanzanite, a rare and captivating gemstone, can only be naturally found and sourced near Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Its scarcity means its value is heavily influenced by the production levels of mines in this region. Interestingly, production has been on the decline over time.
The first discovery of tanzanite stemmed from the search for sapphire deposits in Tanzania. In 1967, a Masai tribesman stumbled upon these unique blue gemstones and informed a local fortune hunter, Manuel d’Souza, who was instrumental in claiming some of these mines. Initially mistaking them for sapphire, d’Souza unknowingly played a pivotal role in uncovering one of the world’s newest gemstones.
Tanzanite is revered across various cultures for its believed properties and powers:
- It’s thought to possess the ability to transform negative energy into positive energy.
- With the growing interest in manifestation practices, this gemstone is believed to stimulate one’s determination and willpower.
- It’s also associated with finding internal balance in power and self-actualization.
- Tanzanite is often linked to the throat, third eye, and crown chakras, purportedly enhancing communication and psychic abilities.
Celebrating both the 24th wedding anniversary and December birthdays, tanzanite is a symbol of balance and natural beauty, making it an exquisite gift for these special milestones.
Maintaining and Caring for Your Tanzanites
Tanzanites rank between 6 and 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Given that this scale goes up to 10, it’s clear that tanzanites require extra care due to their relatively moderate hardness.
To better understand this scale, consider that quartz, commonly found in dust particles floating in the air and settling on surfaces in your home, has a hardness of 7 – 7.5. These tiny quartz particles are abrasive enough to dull the polish on your table or the finish on your car. On the other end of the scale, diamonds are the hardest gemstones with a hardness of 10, while the softest, like talc, can be scratched even by a fingernail. Each mineral can only be scratched by substances of a higher hardness level, which means tanzanite jewelry should be worn cautiously.
Despite their hardness, your precious gemstones still deserve careful maintenance to retain their sparkle and pristine appearance. Therefore, it is not advisable to wear tanzanite pieces for everyday use.
For cleaning tanzanite, use mild soap and warm water with a soft cloth. It’s important to avoid bleach, harsh chemicals, and abrasive cleaners when cleaning your jewelry at home. This includes avoiding lotions and sanitizers. Tanzanite should also be protected from high heat and sudden temperature changes, as these can cause internal cracks in the gemstone. Moreover, it is recommended to never clean tanzanite with ultrasonic or steam cleaners and to avoid prolonged exposure to heat and sunlight.
For more detailed care, including professional cleaning and polishing, we invite you to explore our Gemstone Services.
Features of Zircons
The other modern birthstone for December is Zircon.
The origin of the name ‘zircon’ is still a subject of debate. Some believe it comes from the Persian word ‘zargun,’ meaning ‘gold-colored.’ Others think it derives from the Arabic word ‘zarkun,’ meaning ‘cinnabar’ or ‘vermilion.’
It’s important to note that zircon is often confused with cubic zirconia, although they are completely different gemstones.
Zircons are available in a variety of colors, including red, orange, yellow, green, blue, brown, and even colorless. The colorless form of zircon, known for its multicolored flashes of light — often referred to as ‘fire’ — can sometimes be mistaken for a diamond. However, zircon is more brittle. This colorless variety is also known as ‘Matura Diamond.’
The most valuable color of Zircon is blue.
The most commonly found zircon is brown-red in hue and enjoys considerable popularity. Blue zircon is the most valuable due to its striking appearance, while green zircon is exceptionally rare and thus highly prized. Many high-quality zircons, especially those in blue, gold, or colorless varieties, are heat-treated to enhance their color.
Like many gemstones, the varied colors of zircon are attributed to impurities and the presence of different minerals within the gemstone. Some impurities, such as uranium, can render the stone slightly radioactive. This radioactivity is stabilized through heat treatment.
The History and Symbolism of Zircons
The history of the zircon gemstone stretches back 4.4 billion years, making it one of Earth’s oldest minerals. One of the most abundant sources of zircon is found in the diverse landscapes of Sri Lanka, featuring mountains, jungles, and streams. Australia also plays a significant role as a zircon supplier, contributing 37% of the global supply. Other notable sources include Thailand, Tanzania, Cambodia, Canada, and the United States.
Throughout different times and cultures, zircon gemstones have been attributed with various symbolic meanings and powers:
- In the Middle Ages, zircons were thought to induce deep sleep and ward off evil spirits.
- According to Hindu beliefs, wearing zircon with hessonite garnet can bring wealth, wisdom, and good health.
- Zircon is said to enhance meditation and psychic intuition.
- Similar to its modern gemstone counterparts, zircon is believed to transform negative energy into positive energy.
- In various cultures, zircon is thought to aid in organization.
With blue zircon being associated with the 4th wedding anniversary and yellow zircon with the 11th, this stone symbolizing positivity and organization makes an excellent gift not only for these specific anniversaries but also for those celebrating a December birthday!
Maintaining and Caring for Your Zircons
Zircons have a hardness of 6 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale. As mentioned earlier, minerals can only be scratched by substances with a higher level of hardness. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid wearing zircon jewelry during activities like cleaning, gardening, and sports to prevent damage.
For home care, we recommend cleaning zircon with warm water, mild soap, and a soft brush, such as a toothbrush with soft bristles, or using a soft cloth. Just like with tanzanite, it’s best to avoid using steam cleaners, ultrasonic cleaners, and to protect the gemstone from prolonged exposure to sunlight and high heat.
To learn more about our professional cleaning and polishing services, please visit our Clean & Polish Services page for additional information.
Features of Turquoise
The traditional birthstone for the month of December is Turquoise. The name ‘turquoise’ originates from the French phrase ‘pierre turques,’ meaning ‘Turkish stone.’ This refers to the stone’s introduction to Europe via Turkey.
In ancient Egypt, it was known as ‘mefkat,’ meaning ‘delight’ or ‘joy,’ and was also referred to as the ‘Turkish blue’ stone.
Turquoise is renowned for its unique blue and green hues. The blue color in this gemstone comes from traces of copper, while the green is derived from traces of aluminum, iron, and chrome. Turquoise forms when rainwater causes copper to dissolve in the soil, leading to the creation of deposits that combine aluminum, phosphorus, and these other minerals.
Turquoise is the only gemstone that has a color named after it.
The well-known cracks in turquoise gemstones are referred to as its ‘matrix,’ which often resemble webs and veins. However, the more matrices and cracks a piece has, the lower its value. The color of turquoise can also be altered through dyeing or chemical enhancement with epoxy or acrylic resin; this process not only enhances its color but also solidifies its relatively low hardness.
The History and Symbolism of Turquoises
The first turquoise deposits were discovered in an ancient Egyptian mine on the Sinai Peninsula. The Nishapur district in Iran has been a productive source of turquoise for more than 1,000 years. Significant deposits are also found in the Hubei Province in Central China and in New Mexico, United States.
Turquoise has been a valued and cherished gemstone for millennia, with various properties and beliefs associated with it across different cultures:
- In Nepalese and Tibetan cultures, turquoise was believed to have descended from the heavens, earning it the moniker ‘sky stone.’ It was commonly gifted to children for protection and safety.
- Native American cultures held turquoise in high regard, considering it sacred and believing it aided in spiritual growth through its metaphysical properties.
- The Apache believed that turquoise could be found at the end of a rainbow and that attaching it to a bow could enhance the accuracy of one’s aim.
- In European tradition, turquoise is a traditional gift for ‘forget-me-not’ rings.
- Across many cultures, this gemstone has been believed to bring good fortune and health. It is considered a national treasure in Tibet, revered not only for its protective properties against evil but also for its believed ability to ensure well-being.
- Generally, turquoise is thought to promote peace for its wearer.
With turquoise being associated with the 11th wedding anniversary, this stone symbolizing good fortune, peace, and protection makes an excellent gift for those celebrating such milestones as well as for a December birthday!
Maintaining and Caring for Your Turquoises
Turquoise gemstones rank between 5 and 6 on the Mohs scale of hardness, which is significantly lower compared to the hardness of other December birthstones. As mentioned previously, a mineral can only be scratched by substances with a higher level of hardness.
The color of turquoise gemstones can change when exposed to sunlight, as high heat can cause both discoloration and breakage in the stone. It is not recommended to wear your precious turquoise pieces when handling acids and chemicals. These can be commonly found in makeup, cleaning products, and even in the natural oils of your skin.
For cleaning turquoise jewelry at home, use mild soap or detergent in warm water, similar to the recommended method for other December birthstones. Importantly, turquoise should never be cleaned using steam or ultrasonic cleaners.
To learn more about our professional cleaning and polishing services, please visit our Clean & Polish Services page for additional information.
Originally Published October 7, 2019, Updated and Expanded December 8, 2023
Replacing Your Missing Tanzanite, Zircon, or Turquoise
Thinking about restoring a sentimental birthstone piece for a loved one? You’ve come to the right place to revive those precious memories.
Gemstones add life and brilliance to any piece of jewelry, yet they are also the most prone to damage. Whether it’s a loose, lost, or scratched Tanzanite, Zircon, or Turquoise, we take the restoration of your treasured items seriously. No matter the gem or the type of damage, we are committed to making your jewelry sparkle as brightly as the day you received it.
Our team of specialists is expertly equipped to source every type of gem needed for your treasured item. We understand that your gemstones are unique and require specific care and attention. Our Professional Stone Sourcing team ensures that all of your gems, even those that may sometimes go unnoticed, are replaced with stones that perfectly match the quality and caliber of your piece.
Visit our Gemstone Replacement Services page to learn more about how we can restore the brilliance of your Tanzanite, Zircon, or Turquoise jewelry.
The Ultimate Birthstone Guide
“If you were born in December, your month’s birthstones are Tanzanite, Zircon, and Turquoise.
If you didn’t already know, there are some months that have multiple birthstones, whereas some only have one. Traditional birthstones are gemstones that were most commonly associated with its respective month in the early 20th century and even beyond, with Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers associating these gemstones with the star signs. Those that are more commonly known in this day and age are the modern birthstones, which were officially named by the Jewelers of America in the 1950’s.
If you would like to learn more about birthstones in general, visit our Ultimate Birthstone Guide!“
Clean & Polish Services
“A basic clean, polish, and inspection is part of the routine care and maintenance needed to keep your jewelry looking like new. The inspection process includes looking for loose stones, bent prongs, and any damage to the metal or stones that need to be repaired.”
Stone Setting Repair
“A stone setting repair can be a simple re-tipping of a worn prong (which is considered routine care and maintenance) or the complete rebuilding/replacing of a damaged prong. In the case of severe damage, the entire head of the ring may need to be replaced.
Regardless of whether or not the prongs are compromised due to normal wear and tear or a result of accidental damage, we can provide the routine care and maintenance in order to ensure you do not lose a stone in your setting.”
Gemstone Replacement Services
“The process of a Gemstone Replacement is simple enough, yet requires trained eyes to be able to make a flawless switch. We aim to leave no trace of our work, which means not only will your setting be perfected, but the gemstone we choose will complete your jewelry piece effortlessly.”
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