If you were born in the month of December, you have the luxury of having not just one or two birthstones to choose from, but three! Generally there is an official birthstone and then sometimes there is an official alternate, like in the case of June having both Alexandrite and Pearl represent the month. For December babies, they have the option of three official birthstones, Turquoise as well as the alternates, Zircon and Tanzanite. So how did these gemstones come to be the prized stones for December? Find out below.
Turquoise was the original birthstone to be added to the list of birthstones in 1912 by the National Association of Jewelers and remains the most traditional and ancient of all the December birthstones; it is by far the oldest! Turquoise mining dates as far back as 3000 B.C. in Egypt, and was used widely in ancient jewelry from many different time periods. This brightly colored opaque gem gets its name from the French word “Turkish,” which dates back to the Crusades when large exports of turquoise came out of Turkey and was traded in Europe.
Zircon is the alternate birthstone for December and has been since some time in the 1920’s. Many people confuse this gemstone with blue topaz which is also sometimes marketed as being a birthstone choice for December. Though there are striking similarities between the two, zircon is a unique mineral both in material and in beauty.
Zircon comes in a wide variety of colors, but generally it is clear, brown, or green in tone. Seemingly out of no where, this gorgeously colored aqua variety of zircon emerged in great quantities and was marketed as blue zircon. Many in the jewelry industry were suspect of this incredibly brilliant and bright stone, so inquiries were made as to its origin. Turns out that a heating procedure was discovered that would turn dull colored zircon gems into this incredible and unique blue shade. Instead of the population discarding this stone upon learning that it was heat treated, they instead embraced it. The best examples of this blue zircon are found from this time period in the 1920’s.
Sadly with the rise of the less expensive blue topaz, blue zircon and zircon in general is not as widely known to the general public anymore. This is certainly a shame because zircon is one of the more diverse, durable, and distinguished gems available today.
Tanzanite is still such a new discovery in the gemstone world since first sightings of the gem were in the late 1960’s in Tanzania. Likewise it is the most recent and final addition to the official birthstone list put together by the National Association of Jewelers. In 2002 it was added to the list with the hope that it would help enhance tanzanite sales across the country. There are a few things that set tanzanite apart from a lot of other gems on the market today, one of them being the unique violet-blue color that is like a cross between a ceylon sapphire and lilac amethyst. Another appealing quality about tanzanite is its perceived rarity, since Tanzania is the only place the gem has been discovered to date. The stone has become iconic of the late 20th century, and hopefully it will have a long history to follow it.
4. Lapis Lazuli and Blue Topaz
Two other non-official birthstones of December are lapis lazuli and blue topaz. Both have been marketed by the jewelry industry as a birthstone alternative, but neither are officially recognized.