December's Birthstones: Turquoise, Zircon and Tanzanite

December's Birthstones: Turquoise, Zircon and Tanzanite

December babies have to share their birthdays with a lot of things, so it seems only fair that they should have three stones to choose from.


Let’s start with Turquoise. We can date turquoise back to 3000BC when Egyptians would set the stone in all manner of things; including necklaces, rings, carved inlay and scarabs. Most notably, Tutankhamen’s burial mask was very ornate and covered in turquoise. Since Egypt is synonymous with turquoise it seems only right that the oldest turquoise mines are found there; in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. The Greek Goddess Hathor is the patron saint of mining and protector of the desert, a turquoise mine stood next to an ancient temple dedicated to her. The Egyptians called turquoise ‘mefkat’ which meant joy and delight. Next came the Ancient Persians who used turquoise to decorate extensively and would often engrave the stone with Arabic script. They would use it to decorate palaces, it was particularly popular to cover domes in the stone; because of it’s sky blue colour representing heaven. This inspiration can later be seen in buildings like the Taj Mahal. Persians also believed that turquoise offered guaranteed protection therefore they would adorn their daggers and horse’s bridles with it. Their name for turquoise was ‘pirouzeh’ which meant victory. Persians would wear turquoise jewellery, often as a necklace or around their turbans. They believed it offered protection by changing colour to warn of pending doom - although we now know that from science that turquoise can change colour due if it exposed to sunlight or solvents. Aztecs also cherished the stone for it’s protective power and used it on ceremonial masks, knives and shields. When Turkish traders introduced this ‘Persian Blue’ stone to Europe via the Silk Road in the 13th century, they influenced the gemstones name. The word turquoise derives from the French ‘pierre turquoise’ meaning ‘Turkish stone’. Apache Indians believed that attaching turquoise to firearms and bows would improve accuracy.



 Turquoise used in ways described above



Onto zircon… Zircon is the oldest mineral on earth dating back more than 4.4 billion years! Zircon is found in the Earth’s crust and is most common in sand deposits and crystallised magma. Because of the stone’s chemical make up, it has survived many geological events, such as erosion and pressure shifts. Zircon contains a radioactive element called uranium which over time changes the stone’s chemical structure and even colour. This gives scientists important clues and information about our planet. During the middle ages, people believed that zircon could induce sleep, ward off evil and bring prosperity and wisdom. Blue zircon became very popular during the Victorian era and often adorned English estate jewellery from the 1880s. During this time a more cloudy or smoky appearance was popular with the stone, particularly used in mourning jewellery. Further down the line in the 1920s it became customary practice for stones like zircon to receive heat treatment to enhance their colour. The stone also became popular within the ceramics industry at the time. Zircon sometimes has a bad representation due to the colourless stones being used as diamond replacements in the early 1900s. It has been long replaced in that role by many much more convincing lookalikes like moissanite - however the name ‘zircon’ still leaves people doubting their stone a lot of the time. Gemologist George Kunz - Tiffany’s famous gem buyer - was a notable fan of zircon and even proposed to change it’s name to ‘starlite’ to promote the fieriness of the gem but the name never caught on! 


Last but not least; Tanzanite. This gemstone is actually rarer than diamonds due to it being found in only place - you guessed it - Tanzania! Tanzanite’s story is a short one as it was only found very recently. Maasai herders found a collection of blue crystals in the Merelani Hills near Arusha whilst tending to their livestock in 1967. They notified a prospector named Manuel d’Souza, who promptly spoke to the government to begin mining. Initially d’Souza thought the stone was blue sapphire but it was later identified as a variety of zoisite - a mineral that has been around since the early 1800s. It was Tiffany & Co who recognised the stones potential to rival more expensive sapphires and agreed to become tanzanite’s main distributor. Instead of publicising ‘blue zoisite’ Tiffany changed the gemstones name to ‘tanzanite’ to highlight it’s exclusive geographical origin. It was introduced with a promotional campaign in 1968. Tanzanite does not have the long history as many other gemstones do but with a limited source and it’s popularity rapidly growing - we’d say get in there quick!


So, if you are a December baby then lucky you - 3 gemstones to choose from!

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