The Birthstones of December: Tanzanite, Zircon, and Turquoise
We’re calling all those born in the month of December! We have good news for you: December has three birthstones! The gemstones associated to the last month of the year are Tanzanite, Zircon, and Turquoise, which all happen to have a blue shade, at least for the colors that they’re most known for. Continue to learn more about the symbolism, history, and features about the Tanzanite, Zircon, and Turquoise gemstones!
Tanzanite, Zircon, and Turquoise Loose Gemstones
Why does December have three birthstones?
December is associated to three different birthstones, Tanzanite, Zircon, and Turquoise, gaining its association throughout history. The months of the year differ in the amounts of birthstones that they’re associated to, each month usually having 1-2 birthstones, a select few having up to three gemstones.
There are different numbers of birthstones per month as there are the associated gemstones that are classified as either modern or traditional. The more common of the two types are modern birthstones, which were officially named by the Jewelers of America in the 1950’s. Traditional birthstones are the gemstones that were more commonly associated with its respective month in the early 20th century and even beyond. Many of these traditional birthstones have become too rare and are not as available on the market in this day and age, and therefore some months have modern birthstones that differ from its traditional associations.
So if there are three birthstones, which ones are listed as modern and traditional? December has two modern birthstones and one traditional birthstone. Can you guess which are what?
Features of Tanzanites
One of the modern birthstones for the month of December is the Tanzanite. The name “tanzanite” was actually originally the scientific name of “blue-violet zoisite.”
However, since that name was not very marketing friendly, the its more modern name was introduced to the market in 1968 by Tiffany & Co’s marketing department.
The name “tanzanite” was derived from its geographic origin of Tanzania.
Tanzanites are actually a verity of the mineral zoisite, rising in popularity due to its exquisite blue-purple or blue-violet color. This rare blue color of zoisite was discovered in 1967, and since then, ways to heat treat its beautiful color have been introduced. Zoisite has traces of vanadium, and when mixed with high amounts of heat, it will turn into the blue-purple color that is treasured in today’s market.
Natural purple and blue Tanzanites are the most rare and valuable.
Tanzanite also has the phenomenon of pleochroism, which allows the stone to display different colors from different points of views and angles. However, in order to get rid of the natural brown colors of zoisites when it is heat-treated into Tanzanites, the stones itself must be cut properly and with skill in order to show its hues of blue and purple.
The History and Symbolism of Tanzanites
The only place that natural tanzanite can be found and sourced is from Tanzania, near Mount Kilimanjaro. Due to its scarcity, its value depends on the production of the mines in these areas, however, production has slowed down over time.
The first discovery on tanzanite was actually from the hopes of finding a sapphire deposit in Tanzania. In 1967, a Masai tribesman found these blue gemstones and eventually informed a local fortune hunter, Manuel d’Souza who eventually claimed some of these mines. Thinking that these gemstones were sapphire, he actually was one of the first to claim the discovery of one of the world’s newest gemstones.
The tanzanite gemstone was believed to have many properties and powers from many different cultures:
- This birthstone is said to have the power to transform negative energy into positive energy.
- The popularity of “manifestation” has increased recently, and this gemstone goes along hand-in-hand as is said to help stimulate one’s will for it.
- Another property includes being able to find internal balance in power and actualization.
- Some consider it to be associated with the throat, third eye, and crown chakras, therefore, aids in the relation to communication and phychic capacity.
With the tanzanite being the gemstone associated with the 24th wedding anniversary, this stone of balance and natural beauty is a great gift for those celebrating those milestones as well as a December birthday!
Maintaining and Caring for Your Tanzanites
Tanzanites have a hardness of 6 to 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Since the scale is out of 10, it is safe to say that they do need extra care as they do not have the highest level of hardness.
To put the scale of hardness into perspective, quartz has a hardness of 7 – 7.5 and are present in the particles of dust seen floating in the air and settling on uncleaned objects in your home. These particles have the hardness that is able to remove the polish from your table and the finish from your car. Diamonds have a hardness of 10, which is the hardest gemstone, and the softest includes talc, which is a gemstone that even your fingernail can scratch. These minerals can only be scratched by the hardness level above it, so tanzanite jewelry owners should wear your tanzanite with caution.
Your precious gemstones still deserve care and maintenance to keep it looking as sparkly and pristine as possible, so it is not recommended to wear your tanznaite pieces for daily wear.
Tanzanite should be cleaned gently with mild soap in warm water with a soft cloth. Avoid bleach, chemical, and abrasive cleaners when touching up your jewelry at home, including lotion and sanitizer. It is best to avoid high heat and sudden temperature changes as these may caught internal cracks inside the gemstone. It is also recommended to never clean your tanzanites with ultrasonic and stem cleaners, as well as to avoid heat and sunlight exposure.
To learn more about our professional gemstone services, such as a professional clean and polish, feel free to check out a Gemstone Services.
Features of Zircons
The other modern birthstone for the month of December is Ziron.
The zircon gemstone has multiple sources for the origin of its name, which is up for debate even today.
There are some who believe that it comes from the the Persian word “zargun,” which translates to “gold-colored.” Other scholars believe that it derives from the Arabic word “zarkun,” which means “cinnabar” or “vermilon.”
The name of zircon also is often confused with another gemstone, the cubic zirconia, although being completely different.
Zircons actually come in many different colors, ranging in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, brown, and even colorless. The colorless form of the zircon gemstone can even flash multicolored forms of light, coined “fire,” which can also cause some to confuse it with diamond, however, zircon is more brittle. Colorless zircon is also known as “Matura Diamond.”
The most valuable color of Zircon is blue.
The most common form of zircon is of its brown-red hue, which is also very popular. With blue being the most valuable color of zircon, green is also very valuable as this color form is the rarest natural occurring. These high-quality and high-valuable gemstones are also mostly heat-treated in order to get its forms of blue, gold, or colorless forms.
Like most gemstones that have different varieties of color, the cause of the color difference is due to impurities and the presence of different minerals in the gemstone itself. Some of these impurities, like uranium, can be slightly radioactive, which is stabilized when the stone is heat-treated.
The History and Symbolism of Zircons
The history of the zircon gemstone dates back 4.4 billion years ago, being one of Earth’s oldest minerals. One of the most productive sources of zircon can be found in Sri Lanka in its landscape full of mountains, jungles, and streams. Australia is also one of the highest producing zircon sources, providing the world with 37% of its supply. Other sources of zircon can be found in Thailand, Tanzania, Cambodia, Canada, and the United States.
Zircon gemstones also were believed to have many different symbolism and meanings in different times and cultures:
- Zircons were thought to help guide those into deep sleep in the Middle Ages. In that era, it was also believed to scare off evil spirits.
- Zircon can bring its wearer wealth, wisdom, and good health when worn together with hessonite garnet according to the Hindu religion.
- The zircon gemstone is said to be used to also help meditation and psychic intuition.
- Like its other modern gemstone counterpart, zircons are also known to transform negative energy into positive energy.
- In other cultures, some believe that this gemstone aids in organization.
With the blue zircon being the gemstone associated with the 4th year of wedding anniversaries and the yellow zircon being associated with the 11th, this stone of positivity and organization is also alternatively a great gift for those celebrating those milestones as well as a December birthday!
Maintaining and Caring for Your Zircons
Zircons have a hardness of 6 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. As previously stated, minerals can only be scratched by the hardness level above it. So it is best to avoid wearing these types of jewelry pieces for daily wear, especially for cleaning, gardening, and even playing sports.
At home, it is recommended to be cleaned with warm water, mild soap, and a soft brush, such as a toothbrush with soft bristles, or a soft cloth. It is also recommended to avoid steam cleaners, ultrasonic cleaners, sunlight, and high heat just as it it is recommended for tanzanite.
To learn more about our professional cleaning and polishing services, visit our Clean & Polish Services page for more information.
Features of Turquoise
The traditional birthstone for the month of December is the Tuquoise. The name “turquoise” actually comes from a French phrase “pierre tourques” meaning “Turkish stone.” This references the introduction of the stone to Turkey from Europe.
It is referenced as the “Turkish blue” stone and “mefkat” by Ancient Egyptians, meaning “delight” and “joy.”
Turquoise is known for its distinct color of blue and green. The color of blue in this gemstone actually comes from traces of copper and the green hue comes from traces of aluminum, iron, and chrome. The turquoise gemstone actually forms when rainwater causes copper to dissolve in the soil, creating these deposits combining 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 known as its “matrix,” resembling webs and veins. However, the more matrices and cracks there are, the lower the value of the turquoise. The color of Turquoise can also be altered through dye or chemically enhancement through epoxy or acrylic resin; this process is done to enhance its color and solidify its relatively low hardness.
The History and Symbolism of Turquoises
The first turquoise was discovered in an Egyptian mine located in the Siani Peninsula. Iran’s Nishapur district has been one of the productive mines for more than 1,000 years, and can be found in the Hubei Province in Central China and New Mexico, United States.
The turquoise gemstone has been valued and cherished for millennia, having many different properties and beliefs associated to it:
- The gemstone was believed to come from the sky from the heavens above and was coined as the “sky stone” by the Nepalese and Tibetan people. It was often gifted to children for protection and to keep them safe.
- In Native American culture, it was highly treasured and sacred; turquoise was believed to aid them in spiritual growth through metaphysical properties.
- The Apache also believed that turquoise could be found at a rainbow’s end and that attaching it to a bow could increase the accuracy of one’s aim.
- The European tradition is a traditional gift as well, with a name of “forget me not” for rings.
- In many different cultures, this gemstone was believed to guarantee good fortune and health. It is the national treasure of Tibet, having this belief in addition to protection from evil.
- In general, the turquoise gemstone is also to promote peace for its wearer.
With the turquoise being the gemstone associated with the 11th year of wedding anniversaries, this stone of good fortune, peace, and protection is also alternatively a great gift for those celebrating those milestones as well as a December birthday!
Maintaining and Caring for Your Turquoises
Turquoise gemstones have a hardness of 5 to 6 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This falls relatively way below the hardness of the other December birthstones. As previously stated, minerals can only be scratched by the hardness level above it.
The turquoise gemstone can actually change color in sunlight as high heat can cause discoloration and breakage in the stone itself. It is not recommend to wear your precious turquoise pieces when handling acids and chemicals, which can be commonly found in makeup, cleaning products, and even in the oils of your skin!
Cleaning your turquoise jewelry at home involves using mild soap or detergent in warm water, just like the other December birthstones. Turquoise should also never be cleaned in steam or ultrasonic cleaners.
To learn more about our professional cleaning and polishing services, visit our Clean & Polish Services page for more information.
Originally Published October 7, 2019, Updated and Expanded December 12, 2022
Replacing Your Missing Tanzanite, Zircon, or Turquoise
Thinking about restoring a loved one’s sentimental birthstone piece? You’re in the right place to restore their precious memories.
Gemstones provide life and brilliance to any piece of jewelry, yet have the highest potential to damage. Whether it be a loose, lost, or scratched-up Tanzanite, Zircon, or Turquoise, we take restoring the life of your treasures seriously. Any gem, any damage, we’ll make your jewelry sparkle as bright as the day you got it.
We have a team of specialists in place to properly source every type of gem needed for your treasured item. We understand your gemstones are unique and require specific attention. Our Professional Stone Sourcing team makes sure that all of your gems, even the ones that sometimes go unnoticed, are replaced by stones of the right caliber for your piece.
Visit our Gemstone Replacement Services page to learn more about restoring the brilliance of your Tanzanite, Zircon, or Turquoise.
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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