December has a whopping three birthstones, all in soothing shades of blue: the brilliant teal of blue zircon, the perfect violet of tanzanite or the blue-green of turquoise.
Zircon—not to be confused with cubic zirconia, everyone’s favorite faux diamond— is a fascinating mineral that comes in a variety of colors, the most famous being Blue Zircon, which comes in lovely shades of blue and blue-green. It’s highly refractive, being one of the only gemstones that displays fire—the rainbow colors you see as light splits. Along with diamonds, it’s one of the only gemstones with this property that is durable enough for normal wear.
WHERE IS ZIRCON FOUND?
Gem-quality zircons are found in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam; however, zircons in some form or another are found on all continents including Antarctica!
ZIRCON MEANING & ANCIENT LORE
- Zircons are some of the oldest stones on earth. Because some stones contain radioactive elements uranium and thorium, zircons have been found that are 4.4 billion years old— almost as old as the Earth itself! Don’t worry, though— they’re still safe to wear.
- Zircon is one of the few precious stones mentioned in the Bible—called jacinth or hyacinth.
- Zircon can sometimes display chatoyance—the gemological term for a cats-eye effect.
Discovered in Tanzania in 1967, tanzanite remains one of the rarest gemstones on the market—all of the world’s tanzanite comes from four square miles! Deep blue and blue-violet stones are highly prized. Tanzanite is the blue form of the mineral zooisite.
WHERE IS TANZANITE FOUND?
Only in Tanzania (East Africa), of course!
TANZANITE MEANING & ANCIENT LORE
- Tanzanite is one of the few stones that is trichroic—it shows three separate colors depending on how you tilt the stone. Tanzanite can show flashes of blue, violet and red.
- Tanzanite is named after its country of origin; it was given that name by Tiffany’s, who launched the stone in the late sixties.
- At 508.06 carats, the Ophir Tanzanite is the largest cut gem tanzanite in the world.
Famous for its rich teal color, turquoise is found in arid regions, where copper-rich water seeps through cracks in a rock along with aluminum and phosphorous. It is a popular component in Native American art and jewelry. Some of the finest turquoise comes from Arizona including the legendary “Sleeping Beauty” turquoise.
WHERE IS TURQUOISE FOUND?
Turquoise is found in Pakistan, Mexico, Iran, Chile, China, Tibet. and the southwestern United States.
TURQUOISE MEANING & ANCIENT LORE
- Some of the oldest jewelry in the world is made of turquoise—jewelry in Ancient Egyptian tombs has been found, dating back four thousand years!
- The Egyptians called Turquoise “Mefkat”, their word for delight or joy.
- The shade of color in turquoise is caused by trace amounts of metal—blue is caused by copper, green by iron, and the less desirable yellow by zinc.
BUYER’S GUIDE: ZIRCON, TANZANITE AND TURQUOISE
Blue Zircon is priced based on the intensity of color—richly saturated teal and blue are more highly prized.
The rarest and most in-demand zircons are the uncommon green zircons.
Cut is always important, but especially so with zircon. Poorly cut blue zircon can look foggy or blurry.
The most important factor in tanzanite is color—cheap, plentiful tanzanite in pale blue and lavender has flooded the market— make sure you get the good stuff! High-quality tanzanite should have a deep, rich color.
Fine tanzanite should be free of eye visible inclusions. Never be afraid to examine your stone closely!
Tanzanite is rather brittle for everyday wear—if you want it in a ring, consider a protected style like bezel setting; be sure to wear it with care.
Turquoise is one of the most easily and frequently imitated gems—what looks like fine turquoise could be dyed howlite, or even a polymer coated quartz! Make sure you trust your source. Additionally, a lot of real turquoise is treated with dyes and fillers to improve its appearance and marketability—ask questions so you know what you’re buying!
When wearing turquoise, be careful because it is porous, soft, and very vulnerable to chemicals.
AT HOME CLEANING
If you’d like to clean your jewelry at home, simply mix lukewarm water with a little mild soap, and use a soft bristle brush to clean the stone. After cleaning, dry with a soft cloth. For deeper cleaning, allow the piece to soak for 10 to 20 minutes, and then follow the remaining steps of the above procedure.
Source: GIA (Gemological Institute of America)