December birthstone: Blue Topaz. December Birthstone Color is Blue.
By Devorah Isenberg
What is the birthstone for December?
There are actually three different stones associated with being the birthstone of December: the blue topaz, turquoise, and tanzanite. All three of these very different have one thing in common: a unique blue color that makes them perfect for use in birthstone jewelry or many kinds of fashionable and creative jewelry. But each of these stones also has unique characteristics and properties that make it special, so before choosing a December birthstone gift for yourself or a loved one, get to know each of these stones so you’ll be able to pick the perfect gemstone gift.
December birthstone: Blue Topaz
The most famous birthstone for December is the blue topaz, a variation on the common gem topaz. Topaz becomes blue when it is heated, a process that can happen naturally or artificially, and results in three shades of blue that varies in its intensity. The more intense and deep the color is, the more valuable the blue topaz is, although the most deep shade, London Blue, never occurs in nature and is only produced by gemological produces. Slight changes in the mineral composition, however, can create topaz with hues of green, yellow or pink.
The cool blue shade of the blue topaz
, reminiscent of a clear mountain lake or a crisp, cold December sky, has made it a favorite for all kinds of jewelry for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks felt that its cooling effect could have the power of calming the temper and balancing one’s mental state. Some people believed that a topaz could even cool boiling water, perhaps because of its resemblance to a chunk of cold blue ice! Even today, blue topaz is said to represent love and loyalty, making it a romantic present as well as the perfect birthstone for December, the gift-giving month! Blue topaz
is very well suited for use in fashionable jewelry like chandelier earrings
and cocktail rings
because it has a gem hardness level of 8 on the Mohs scale, making it durable and strong.
December birthstone: Turquoise
Even people who are not gem experts can usually identify turquoise, a uniquely opaque stone with a unique shape and appearance. While turquoise is so called because it was imported to medieval Europe via Turkey and Turkish traders, it is perhaps better known as the primary stone used in Native American and New Mexican jewelry. It is also one of the birthstones for December, and makes a gorgeous gift for anyone who loves an earthy, natural look. Although turquoise is associated with the New World, it is one of the oldest stones to be used in jewelry, and was considered sacred by many ancient civilizations.
Today, with the introduction of high-quality synthetics, some gemologists have devalued the turquoise and other opaque gems, but the truth is that genuine turquoise has a unique look that true jewelry aficionados love. In fact, this pastel-colored stone has been treasured since ancient times. The rulers of ancient Egypt treasured the turquoise—in fact, the iconic burial mask of King Tut is inlaid with turquoise, among other gems. Long before it was the birthstone of December, turquoise was treasured by the Aztecs, Persians, Mesopotamians, Indian and Chinese.
However, in Western culture, the turquoise did not see wide use in jewelry and ornamentation until the 14th century, and especially the Italian Renaissance. Turquoise made its way to India and Japan later in history, but was received well there too. All of these cultures treasured the turquoise, and, noting its color-changing properties, many believed that the turquoise could help monitor the wearer’s health and protect him from unhealthy forces. In Persia, enormous amounts of turquoise were used to decorate mosques, palaces and government buildings—individual stones were also engraved with Arabic script, set into gold, and worn as jewelry.
The Aztec Indians were especially known for their use of turquoise in ceremonial and religious ornaments. They created masks, mosaics and knives with inlays of turquoise, gold, coral and shells that had special mystical significance—archeologists have discovered a wealth of such objects preserved by the dry desert area of the Southwestern United States. Other Native Americans in the region used turquoise as an amulet to protect hunters, as jewelry, and most importantly, perhaps, as in important economic marker of value that allowed these tribes to develop a sophisticated economic system amongst themselves. While many people associate Native American jewelry with the combination of silver and turquoise, silver was in fact a European import that does not show up in Native American ornamentation until the late nineteenth century.
Today, turquoise is often cut into cabochons, or more commonly, into roughly hewn or tumbled gems that are used in fashion jewelry such as bracelets and necklaces. Since the stone is completely opaque, turquoise is not faceted, but is cut in such a way as to highlight its naturally mottled color and lovely texture. The color-changing property that was once thought to be an indicator of health is now understood to be caused by chemical changes due to light, chemicals, or contact with the skin.
December Birthstone: Tanzanite
Until recently, the question, what is the December birthstone, could be answered only two ways. In 2002, however, the American Gem Trade Association officially added tanzanite, a new gemstone, to the birthstone December list. Tanzanite
is a blue-lavender stone primarily mined in Tanzania that was discovered only in 1967 and has since been associated with the virtues of contentment and understanding—powerful symbolism for a beautiful new stone. The tanzanite is said to have better fire, and therefore more sparkle, than similar stones like the tourmaline or peridot, and it is hard and durable enough for use in many kinds of jewelry settings.
Tanzanite has a unique attribute called trichroism—meaning it can appeal alternately deep blue, violet, or burgundy depending on the orientation of the crystal structure and the cutting of the stone. When it is mined, tanzanite is usually a deep red, but once it has been heated to 600 degrees, it gradually transforms into a violet blue. While tanzanite has made some impression on the gemstone market, it remains a rare stone, and is still found mostly in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, deep in the heart of Tanzania.
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