The month of DECEMBER now has three birthstones that can be worn to recognize this birth month. In addition to Blue Zircon (faceted) and Turquoise (cabochon), the fall of 2005 introduced TANZANITE as the first newly named birthstone in 50 years for the month of December.
Blue Zircon, Turquoise and Tanzanite DECEMBER BIRTHSTONE
Zircon: Brilliant but
Hindu poets tell of the Kalpa Tree, the ultimate gift to the gods, which was a glowing tree covered with gemstone fruit with leaves of zircon. Zircon has long had a supporting role to more well-known gemstones, often stepping in as an understudy when they were unavailable.
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," although zircon comes in a wide range of different colors.
Natural zircon today suffers for the similarity of its name to cubic zirconia, the laboratory-grown diamond imitation. Some don't realize that there is a beautiful natural gemstone called zircon.
Zircon occurs in a wide range of colors but for many years, the most popular was the colorless variety which looks more like diamond than any other natural stone due to its brilliance and dispersion.
Today the most popular color is blue zircon. Most blue zircon, which is considered an alternate birthstone for December, is a pastel blue, but some exceptional gems have a bright blue color. Zircon is also available in green, dark red, yellow, brown, and orange.
Zircon is mined in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Australia, and other countries.
Zircon is one of the heaviest gemstones, which means that it will look smaller than other varieties of the same weight. Zircon jewelry should be stored carefully because although zircon is relatively hard, it can abrade and facets can chip. Dealers often wrap zircons in individual twists of paper so that they will not knock against each other in a parcel.
The wide variety of colors of zircon, its rarity, and its relatively low cost make it a popular collector's stone. Collectors enjoy the search for all possible colors and variations.
Ancient and yet always at the height of current fashion: that is Turquoise for you. Its brilliant sky-blue belongs to the all-time favorite trend colors in the world of fashion and jewelry.
In many cultures of the Old and New World this gemstone has for thousands of years been appreciated as a holy stone, a good-luck-charm or a talisman. It is a virtual "peoples’ gemstone”. The oldest proof for this lies in Egypt, where in tombs from the period around 3000 B.C. there were found artifacts set with Turquoise. In the ancient Persian Kingdom the sky-blue gemstones were originally worn around the neck or on the hand as protection to ward off unnatural death. If the stones changed their color, there was an imminent danger for the wearer. However, in the meantime it has been uncovered that Turquoises may in fact change their color, but this reaction is not necessarily an indication of danger impending. The reason for the color change is rather the influence of light, cosmetic products, dust or even the ph-value of the skin, which may all trigger off chemical responses.
Turquoise will protect and let you enjoy life
In earlier times Turquoises were sometimes thought responsible for the material wealth of their bearers. For example, Persian philosopher Al Kazwini wrote: "The hand wearing a Turquoise and using it as a sealing stone, will never be poor.” Turquoises were loved as ornaments decorating turbans, often set in a border of pearls, in order to protect the wearer from the "evil eye”.
They were used as talismans decorating daggers, scimitars or the horses’ bridles. Turquoise came to Europe only during the time of the crusades. And from this period comes the name "Turquoise”, meaning simply "Turkish stone”.
Also in South, Middle and North America Turquoise has always been enjoying a special position among gemstones. For example, the ancient Aztecs in Mexico used to decorate their ceremonial masks with this stone, a "holy stone” in their belief. The North American Indians, who are still producing quite a few pieces of traditional silver jewelry set with Turquoises today, believed that the gemstone the color of the sky would establish a direct connection between the sky and the lakes.
At all times in history Turquoise was worn as protection to ward off the influence of dark and evil powers. In former times thought to protect riders and horses from accidental falls, they are nowadays considered the ideal good-luck stones for aviators, flight staff and other professions which need special assistance to ward off accidents.
In the contemporary teachings of the Healing Power of Stones, wearing Turquoise is recommended to solve the problems caused by a depressed outlook on life. The bright and happy color is supposed to lend self-confidence to subdued personalities, and it is also very popular as a token of friendship, since Turquoise is reputed to be responsible for faithfulness and reliable relationships.
The blue from copper, the green from iron
Turquoise is a copper aluminum phosphate achieving hardness six, thus considerably softer than quartz. It occurs naturally in all shades ranging from sky-blue to grey-green, usually in such locations where copper is hidden in the soil in high concentrations. However, only the best quality Turquoises show the real turquoise color, which in ordinary stones is normally rather pale, blue-green or greenish. The blue color is caused by copper, while the green color is caused by iron or chromium. Often the material is veined or shows spots, which depending on the respective occurrence are brown, light grey or even black. These vivid, more or less regular patterns are called the spider web. The micro-crystals are really tiny and almost not discernible with the bare eye. Usually turquoise occurs as encrustation, in veins or as nodules or nuggets. The most famous occurrences are situated in the USA, Mexico, Israel, Iran, Afghanistan and China. The most beautiful of Turquoises in wonderful light blue are found in Northern Iran.
Turquoise is only rarely facetted. Usually it is shaped as cabochons or as beads, or even given a fancy cut.
Wax will lend Turquoise resistance
Turquoises are relatively soft gemstones and thus quite sensitive. Since the color may also fade out in the course of wearing, today even the top qualities receive a waxing and subsequent hardening treatment. This procedure will make the sensitive gemstone sturdier. Turquoises which have been sealed with artificial resin are also available in large amounts and at competitive prices. Their color appears fresh, and they show a high resistance. But one should be careful, because many of these stones have been additionally dipped in color before being sealed, and this coloring is a kind of treatment which according to the rules set down by ICA must be indicated. In addition, there are also so-called "reconstructed” Turquoises, which have been assembled from pulverized Turquoise.
Due to their high sensitivity, then, almost all Turquoises have been treated to preserve their beauty, however, the kind of treatment differs considerably. It makes sense, then, that naturally beautiful stones which have simple been waxed or hardened with artificial resin achieve higher prices and are more valuable than such stones, which have received color-enhancement. Valuable Turquoise jewelry should therefore best be purchased from a jeweler you can trust.
A piece of sky in your hands
The best Turquoise quality shows a clear and light sky-blue. The color is highly appreciated, with or without the fine regular spider web lines. The quality decreases with the increase of green in color, and the increase of spots and irregularities in the spider web.
Turquoise should be protected from cosmetics, heat and bright daylight. The gemstone does not really appreciate sunbathing. It is recommended to clean it from time to time after wearing with a soft cloth.
The color of a Turquoise will make you feel happy and relaxed, for it combines the light blue of the sky with the invigorating green of the seas. It is so unique that the language took the stones’ very name to describe it: Turquoise. So if you decide on a Turquoise, you will hold a piece of the sky in your hands.
Tanzanite is a very special and unique gemstone. World-wide it occurs only in one specific location. Its blue color which shimmers in a slightly purplish hue is magnificent indeed. Because of its unusually attractive flair it was easy for New York Jeweler Tiffany’s to make it one of the most sought-after and popular gemstones in the world.
Its name reminds of the world-wide unique occurrence in the east-African state of Tanzania. Africa – the name of this continent does not immediately remind us of gemstones. Nevertheless, Africa is a continent from where many splendid and beautiful stones find their way to the world markets. An example for this is Tanzanite, which was enthusiastically celebrated after its discovery in 1967 as "Gemstone of the 20th Century” The gemstone experts literally held their breaths when they were shown the first deep blue crystals mined in the Merelani Hills near Arusha in the north of Tanzania. Millions of years ago, metamorphous slates, gneiss stone and quartzite shaped impressive flat insular mountains on the wide planes near Mount Kilimanjaro. In the core of these unusual rises there are stored the valuable crystals. For a long time they remained hidden for the eyes of men, until one day some Massai-herdsmen passing by noticed crystals sparkling in the sun and picked them up.
Today at Merelani the popular crystals are searched for in several, usually smaller mines, to some extent by means of modern methods. Generally only smaller grains are being found, but now and then the miners strike a lucky vein and produce a larger crystal – much to the pleasure of the mine-owners and the numerous Tanzanite enthusiasts everywhere in the world.
The Tanzanite trade is managed by many, usually small-scale licensed traders who have built up good business relationships with gemstone firms in Germany, India, Israel and the USA. An estimated 90 per cent of all Tanzanite traders are registered members of the International Colored Stone Association ICA and thus dedicated to the respective high ethical standards of ICA. In this way, then this exclusive gemstone is not brought to the world markets via suspicious back-street dealers, but in spite of its rarity is distributed via reliable and trustworthy official channels to well-reputed gemstone-cutters, and then passed on to the most important jewelers all over the world.
Actually only a blue Zoisite ...
Tanzanite is in fact the blue variety of Zoisite gemstone. However, the hydrated calcium aluminum silicate mineral achieves only hardness 6.5 to 7 on the Moh’s scale, and is thus not very resistant. Therefore it should be worn with care, never be cleaned by ultrasonic method and never come into contact with acids.
When New York Jeweler Company Tiffany was presented with the first Tanzanites right after they had been discovered, they were immediately convinced: this gemstone is a sensation! However, they recommended finding a new name for the blue beauty, since the gemologically correct denomination "blue Zoisite" reminded unfortunately of the word "suicide". So Tiffany's suggested the name Tanzanite instead, derived from the place of occurrence, and the new name quickly became established on the market. And it was in fact the firm of Tiffany’s who introduced the stone to the public in a spectacular promotional campaign two years after it had been discovered.
... but what a spectacular color!
Spectacular and magnificent is the deep blue of Tanzanite, ranging from ultramarine to a light purplish blue. The most coveted color is a blue which shows a purplish hue shimmering around it, which is extremely spectacular in sizes above ten carats. Typical for Tanzanite is the appearance of several colors in one and the same stone: depending on the perspective, the stone appears blue, purple, or dun yellow. Most rough crystals, however, show a disturbingly large proportion of brownish-yellow, but the cutter may cure this by carefully heating the stone in an oven to about 500°C. In the course of this heating , utmost concentration is demanded, for it is essential to determine the moment when the color turns blue. Heating is therefore a treatment which is generally accepted in the trade, however, the rough stone has to be as free of inclusions as possible, as otherwise the process will lead to fissures in the stone.
Working with Tanzanites is a task which will cause even experienced cutters to tread carefully, as the cleavage of the gemstone is very high in one direction. The exclusive stone is cut in any imaginable shapes and forms, from classical round cuts to imaginative designer cuts.
Tanzanite is always fascinating because of its unusual appeal that will hold everybody in its thrall. The deep blue with the slight purple shade is one of the most extravagant colors available. It symbolizes immaculate but unusual elegance. Whoever purchases such a unique gemstone wants to be set apart from the masses. Wearing it communicates self-confidence and individuality. The almost magical color of a perfectly cut Tanzanite is not only attractive on young women, it also emphasizes the individuality of a mature woman.
For Tanzanites in especially good qualities and larger sizes almost any price will be paid by now. What is it that makes this stone so coveted? Is it only the spectacular color? Well, it seems we must also take the exclusive origin into account here. As the stone is found on one special location only in all the world, it is especially valuable. After all, the desire to own something unique and rare has always been a decisive criterion for assessing the value of special gemstones.
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