Alternate December Birthstones: Tanzanite & Zircon

In addition to Turquoise, December recognizes two other birthstones: Tanzanite and Zircon. Continue reading to learn more about the December birthstones.

Tanzanite 

Tanzanite is relatively new to the galaxy of colored stones. The origin story of Tanzanite only dates back to 1967. A Masai tribesman stumbled upon a cluster of highly transparent, intense, violet-to-blue crystals weathering out of the ground in Merelani Hills, located in northern Tanzania. The tribesman then alerted a local fortune hunter named Manuel D’Souza, who quickly registered four mining claims.

D’Souza was really hoping that he had just stumbled upon a new sapphire, when in all actuality he had discovered the world’s newest gem. Within a short period of time, there were 90 more claims within the same 20 mile radius. No one was quite sure what the beautiful crystals were, but everyone wanted to lay claim to the profits they would surely produce.

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Necklace with three bi-color Tanzanite, weighing 22.6 ctw, and two round brilliant cut diamonds, weighing 0.14 ctw. Priced at $3,600.

Tanzanite didn’t get its name until a year later in 1968 when Tiffany & Company saw its potential as an international seller, and made a deal to become its main distributor. They named the gem after the country it comes from, Tanzania. Tanzanite quickly became very popular with leading jewelry designers and customers with an eye for beautiful unique gems.

In nature, Tanzanite only sometimes occurs as a blue stone, it is actually often golden to brown in color. Shortly after being found, it was discovered that the color can be changed by heating the stone to 600 degrees Celsius and gradually cooling it. Without heating, Tanzanite would be unmarketable. Tanzanite is pleochroic, meaning the purple, gray, blue, and violet tones within the stone vary depending on the angle at which the stone is viewed. Stones may also appear to be more violet in incandescent light. Tanzanites color is caused by the amount of chromium present in the stone. Tanzanite occurs in schists and gneisses as well as in metasomatic rocks together with garnet, vesuvianite and actinolite. It is only found in very limited quantities, in fact its main source, the Merelani Hills, is nearly depleted. However small amounts have also been found in Sweden, New Hampshire, Pakistan, South Africa, Kenya, Norway, Austria, and Italy.

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Tanzanite and diamond 18k yellow gold pendant suspended on a 16” 14k yellow gold chain with lobster clasp.

As mentioned before, Tanzanite changes colors when it is viewed from different directions. This shifting of colors is said to facilitate raising consciousness. It aids in realizing your own ideas and transforms destructive urges into constructive ones. The gemstone opens an awareness of the comparison between how one lives and how one could choose to live more consciously. Those who wear it will become aware of their calling. This is a stone for highly developed beings who have not yet recognized their strength and fearfully close their hearts to it. On the level of sub consciousness, it helps us to better come to terms with ourselves.

Zircon

Many people have heard of Zircon but have never seen it. This is mostly because of colorless Zircon’s wide use as an imitation for diamond in the early 1900s. It was long ago replaced in that role by more convincing look-a-likes, but its name still means “imitation” to many people. Unfortunately, Zircon is often confused with cubic zirconia, the laboratory grown imitation diamond, because of its similar name. As such, many people are unaware of the existence of this natural, beautiful stone.

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Necklace with a 14k white gold Zircon and diamond enhancer.

Zircon is the oldest mineral on Earth and is found in the crust of the Earth. It occurs as a common accessory mineral in igneous rocks, in metamorphic rocks, and as grains in sedimentary rocks. It is a common constituent of most sands and has been used for thousands of years. Zircon is found in Cambodia, Madagascar, Canada, Ukraine, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Australia. Australia leads the world in zircon mining, producing 37% of the world’s total supply of the mineral.

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Enhancer with three diamonds on bail, one prong set diamond in center, and one square cushion Zircon weighing 1.94 carats. Priced at $1,350.

Blue Zircon is considered an alternative birthstone for December and is the most popular color of Zircon today. Blue Zircons can range in color from a pastel blue to a very bright blue. Zircon can also be orange, yellow, red, green, gray, brown, and colorless. The difference in color of Zircon found is caused by impurities, some of which can be minimally radioactive. These radioactive stones must of course be stabilized before they can be used as gemstones for safety reasons. The color of Zircon can actually be changed using heat treatment. For example, common brownish red to brownish yellow Zircons can be transformed into colorless and blue Zircons by heating them to 1500-1800 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat treatment is also used to increase the transparency of the stone. Blue Zircon was a particular favorite in Victorian times, when fine gems were often featured in English estate jewelry dating from the 1880s. Gemologist George Kunz, Tiffany’s famed gem buyer, was a notable Zircon advocate. He once proposed the name “starlite” to promote the gem’s fiery nature. The name never caught on.

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Blue Zircon and diamond enhancer on a 16” 14k white gold box chain with lobster clasp.

In the Middle Ages, this gem was thought to induce sound sleep, drive away evil spirits, and promote riches, honor, and wisdom. Zircon is now believed to have the ability to increase one’s self-confidence, and to aid the wearer in loving the self as well as others, as it opens up the heart and brings compassion. It is known to be a grounding stone that inspires and motivates and gives guidance when guidance is needed, therefore helping to achieve one’s goals. The stone has also been known to bring prosperity, especially with stones that contain golden or yellow colors.

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