Birthstones of December
Tanzanite, Zircon, and Turquoise
Tanzanite was added to the birthstone list by the American Gem Trade Association in 2002, the first gemstone added since 1912. The gemstone is an exotic, vivid blue, kissed by purple hues. Tanzanite has the beauty, rarity and durability to rival any gemstone.
Tanzanite is mined only in Tanzania at the feet of the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. Legend has it that the gem was first discovered when some brown gemstone crystals lying on the dry earth were caught in a fire set by lightning that swept through the grass-covered hills. The Masai herders driving cattle in the area noticed the beautiful blue color and picked the crystals up, becoming the first tanzanite collectors.
One of the most popular blue gemstones available today, tanzanite occurs in a variety of shapes and sizes and also provides a striking assortment of tonal qualities due to remarkably strong trichroism. Rarely pure blue, tanzanite almost always display its signature overtones of purple. Tanzanite can also appear differently when viewed under alternate lighting conditions. The blues appear more evident when subjected to fluorescent light and the violet hues can be seen readily when viewed under incandescent illumination. In smaller sizes, tanzanite tends toward the lighter tones and the lavender color is more common. While in larger sizes, tanzanite typically displays deeper, richer color.
Zircon is a popular gemstone that has been used for nearly 2000 years. It occurs in a wide range of colors and has a brightness and fire that rivals those of diamond. Zircon should not be confused with cubic zirconia, which is a man-made material. In the middle ages, zircon was said to aid sleep, bring prosperity, and promote honor and wisdom in its owner. The name probably comes from the Persian word zargun which means “gold-colored.” The fiery, brilliance of zircon can rival any gemstone. The affordability of its vibrant greens, sky blues, and pleasing earth tones contributes to it’s growing popularity today.
Zircon is mined in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, and other countries. Because it can be colorless, green, blue, yellow, brown, orange, dark red, and all the colors in between, it is a popular gem for connoisseurs who collect different colors or zircon from different localities.
Turquoise is among the oldest known gemstones- it has been mined since 3,200 BC. Isolated from one another, the ancient people of Africa, Asia, South America and North America independently made turquoise one of their preferred materials for producing gemstones, inlay, and small sculptures. It graced the necks of Egyptian Pharaohs and adorned the ceremonial dress of early Native Americans. This robin egg blue hued gemstone has been attributed with healing powers, supposedly promoting the wearer’s status, wealth, well being, and luck.
Turquoise is an opaque, light to dark blue or blue-green gem, the finest color is an intense blue. Turquoise forms best in an arid climate, and that determines the geography of turquoise sources. Most of the world’s turquoise rough is currently produced in the southwestern United States, China, Chile, Egypt, Iran, and Mexico. In these areas, rainfall infiltrates downward through soil and rock, dissolving small amounts of copper. When this water is later evaporated, the copper combines with aluminum and phosphorus to deposit tiny amounts of turquoise on the walls of subsurface fractures.
Turquoise may contain narrow veins of other materials either isolated or as a network, these can be black, brown, or yellowish-brown in color. Known as the matrix, these veins of color are sometimes in the form of an intricate pattern, called a spider web. Some turquoise localities produce material with a characteristic color and appearance. People who know turquoise can often, but not always, correctly associate a stone with a specific mine.