The December birthstone list is somewhat more unusual than that of other months of the year because the modern birthstone chart has three gemstones for December instead of just one or two, like most months have.
They are Turquoise, Blue topaz and Tanzanite. Besides the current stones, other traditional birthstone gems include Zircon and a stone with a funny, exotic name: Lapis Lazuli.
Turquoise is the oldest and most popular of December’s birthstones. It was found on artifacts dating back 5000 years, in ancient Egypt, Sumeria and Mesopotamia. Its name means “Turkish Stone” in French because that’s where the first deposits of turquoise were first found in the ancient world, before the first mines in Egypt, and it is the route that the gemstone took when it was introduced in Europe.
The Egyptians were the first who to recognize the value of Turquoise and use it as a precious stone. The tomb of Tutankhamen was packed with turquoise jewelry, the stone being used on it sarcophagus and mortuary mask. Most likely, Cleopatra used ground-up turquoise for her eye paint.
Millennia later, Turquoise became a sacred stone for Tibetans and Native Americans who used it extensively in their specific religious rituals officiated by the shamans. Both Tibetans and the Native Americans believed Turquoise to promote spiritual and mental clarity and also help build trust, understanding and kindness within the community.
Unlike other precious stones, Turquoise was not a stone only for rituals or for the rich. It is believed that ancient warriors wore turquoise rings that they believer would save them from falling off the horse. Many cultures believed that turquoise helped children have a healthy night sleep preventing nightmares and also protecting against harm.
The Native Americans in the southwest used turquoise as money, believing it would bring animals to the hunter, riches to the warriors and overall happiness.
Turquoise ranges in color from sky blue to green. Very often, to enhance this color, jewelers use a lair of wax coat of the gem which means that the color is not permanent.
This December birthstone is relatively easy to scratch so you need to avoid hits and also hot water and household chemicals.
When shopping for turquoise jewelry, make sure you avoid “Vienna Turquoise”. It sound exotic and refined, but in reality it is just a cheap class imitation.
Modern Turquoise sources are Iran, China, Australia, Afghanistan, Mexico and the US.
The second of the modern December birthstones is Blue Topaz. Its name comes either from the Sanskrit word “tapas” which means fire, the symbol of love and fidelity, or the greek word ‘topazos’ which means “green gemstone”.
As a precious stone, Topaz became known only in the classical era. In the middle ages, the name topaz was used to name any yellow gemstone. Only later did it receive it’s proper destination, describing the current stone.
In its pure form, Topaz is colorless. However, skilled jewelers can turn it into just about any color with a little treatment, such as green, pink, blue and pink.
Traditionally, it was believed that topaz had healing powers, could dispel sadness, anger and nocturnal fears, to warn its wearer of poisons and protect him or her from sudden death. There are also a few weird beliefs, like if you wore a topaz ring, you could put your hand in hot water and not be harmed. I wouldn’t rely on that though.
According to some translations of the bible, Topaz is an apocalyptic stone. The Romans dedicated Topaz to their God, Jupiter.
Today, the Portuguese crown has a huge Topaz stone called that weighs 1680 carats. For a long time, it was thought that it actually was a diamond.
This December birthstone is more durable than turquoise, but you still need to avoid sudden temperature changes and rough surfaces.
In 2002, the American Gem Trade Association officially added tanzanite to the modern list of birthstones for the month of December.
It was first discovered in 1967 in Tanzania by a local Masai shepherd and it would soon become ‘the stone of the 20th century’, being popularized only two later by Tiffany’s with a massive marketing campaign.
Tanzanite has a beautiful, intense blue color. It varies from ultramarine blue to light violet-blue. In sizes over 10 carats, the effect is impressive. Some tanzanite crystals need to be treated at 500 degrees Celsius to enhance their color and resistance.
Tanzanite is so popular today both because of its fascinating color but also because of its rarity, the only known deposits being in Tanzania, at Merelani.
Without a long history like that of the other December birthstones, tanzanite does not have any powerful, mysterious powers associated to it. But what it lacks in history, it compensates with beauty.