Birthstone of the Month – December

December 13, 2012 at 10:04 am Leave a comment

For those born in the month of December …  you have three different birthstones to choose from!  According to the American Gem Society – Turquoise, Zircon and Tanzanite are all associated with December.

the story behind turquoise … Turquoise

“Turquoise is considered by some to be a symbol of good fortune and success, believed to bring prosperity to its wearer.

In the language of chemists and geologists, turquoise is known as “copper aluminum phosphate.” Turquoise is often found in weathered igneous rock that contains copper minerals, where it crystallizes in veins and nodules. The gemstone usually develops in rock near water tables, located in semiarid and arid environments. The chemicals in turquoise come from adjacent rock, leached out by rain and groundwater.

Turquoise is a relatively soft gemstone, and can be easily scratched and broken. This porous opaque stone is easily discolored by oil and pigments, and changes color when it loses some of its water content. A sky blue shade in turquoise is due to the presence of copper, while iron gives it a greener tone. Ochre and brown-black veins in the stone occur during the formation of turquoise, caused by inclusions from nearby rock fragments or from oxide staining. The most valued variety of turquoise is an intense sky blue color, like the color of a robin’s egg. Hard, relatively non-porous compact stones have the best appearance because the stone can be finely polished. Pale and chalky varieties however are sometimes impregnated with oil, paraffin, liquid plastic and glycerin to give it a good polish.

turtle-tassel necklace

This stone can be found in Armenia, Kazakhstan, China, Australia, Tibet, China, Mexico, Brazil, and Egypt. In Iran, where some of the best stones are found, turquoise is the national gem. The American southwest-Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and California-are primary producers of turquoise. Much of the specimens have a light color, and are porous and chalky-only about 10% is of gem quality.

Its name is believed to originate from the French phrase “pierre turquoise” meaning “Turkish stone” because turquoise was brought to Europe by Venetian merchants who first acquired it in Turkish bazaars. It is also considered by some as a love charm. When received as a gift, the turquoise symbolizes a pledge of affection. Shakespeare used this lore in “The Merchant of Venice’. In it, Leah gave a turquoise ring to Shylock when he was a bachelor, hoping it would win his affections so he would ask her to marry him. In Russia, the turquoise is popularly used in wedding rings.

costa azul turquoise single wrap bracelet

Turquoise is one of the earliest known stones to be used in jewelry. Pharaohs of Early Egypt wore them. A tomb excavated in 1900 contained the mummified remains of Queen Zer, who ruled in 5500 B.C.; found on her arm were four magnificent turquoise bracelets. Beads dating back to 5000 B.C. have been found in Mesopotamia (now Iraq). In Iran, turquoise was the national gemstone, adorning thrones, daggers, sword hilts, horse trappings, bowls, cups, and ornamental objects. Senior officials wore turquoise seals decorated with pearls and rubies. In the 7th century A.D., turquoise pieces inscribed with passages from the Koran and Persian proverbs were valued amulets. It was used as jewelry in ancient Siberia, around the Fifth and Sixth century B.C. During the Middle Ages, they were popularly used as decoration of vessels and covers for manuscripts. And it was again popular as jewelry during the Renaissance. It has also been found in ancient burial sites in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Mexico and Central America. The Incas crafted beads and figurines out of it, and the Aztecs made pendants and ritual masks.

Turquoise has a rich history in the American southwest. Native Americans have been using this gemstone to create magnificent jewelry and ornamental pieces for the past several thousand years. It was called “Chal-cui-hui-tal”, meaning “the highest and most valued thing in the world”. The Zuni, Hopi, Pueblo and Navajo Indians made magnificent necklaces, ear pendants and rings. The blue in turquoise symbolized the Heavens, and green symbolized the Earth. The stones were used by medicine men to work charms. The Navajo believed that turquoise pieces, thrown into a river while offering a prayer to the rain god, would bring much needed rain. Apache lore held that a turquoise attached to a bow or gun would ensure accurate aim.

There are many superstitions associated with the turquoise. In the Third century, it was believed to protect its owner from falling off a horse. A change in color revealed the infidelity of a wife. Twelfth century Arabian writings said “The turquoise shines when the air is pure and becomes pale when it is dim.” They also believed that its color changed with the weather. Persians said that the reflection of the new moon on a turquoise stone brought good luck, and guarded against evil. It was said to have a healing effect on the eye-merely looking at it strengthened the eye, while placing it on an inflamed eye brought a cure. A 15th century philosopher attributed its change of color to its ability to attract poisons. It was a barometer of its user’s health, turning pale in illness and losing color in death, yet regaining its original beauty in the hands of a new and healthy owner.”

(as quoted from EarthSky.org with turquoise nugget photo from Gemstone-Guide.com)


Zircon …

zircon“Derived from the Arabic words zar and gun, meaning gold and color, zircon is found in a wide range of colors such as: blue, yellow, orange, brown, green, colorless, and red (the most prized color). For many years colorless zircon was used to imitate diamonds.  Folk wisdom grants zircon the power to relieve pain, whet the appetite, protect travelers from disease and injury, to ensure a warm welcome, and to prevent nightmares guaranteeing a deep, tranquil sleep.  Major sources of zircon are the Chanthaburi area of Thailand, the Palin area of Cambodia, and the southern part of Vietnam.”

(as quoted from the AmericanGemSociety.org with photo from Minerals.net)


Tanzanite …

tanzanite“Discovered in the late 1960s in Tanzania, and found exclusively in this tiny area of the world, tanzaniteexhibits a rich violet-blue color for which the gemstone is treasured; often it is heat-treated to achieve this color.  Colors range from blue to purple, and tanzanites that are medium dark in tone, vivid in saturation, and slightly violet blue command premium prices.  As tanzanite can be less expensive than sapphire, it often was purchased as an alternative.  However, it has increased in popularity and now is valued more for its own beauty and brilliance than as a sapphire substitute.”

(as quoted from the AmericanGemSociety.org with photo from Minerals.net)

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