We’ve made it nearly a full year and the Holidays are just around the corner. Time has certainly flown. It feels like just yesterday we were discussing November’s Birthstones – Citrine and Topaz, and now we’re into December.
Tanzanite and Turquoise are the main December birthstones, although Zircon and Blue Topaz can be used as substitutes. For the purpose of conserving time and article length we’ll stick with the two most popular.
Tanzanite is a relatively “new” gemstone whose discovery came about it 1967 by Maasai tribesmen/herders in the Merelani Hills near Arusha, Tanzania. Manuel d’Souza, a a Portuguese fortune hunter traveling in search of rare ruby and sapphire, was alerted by the Maasai and filed mining claims hoping the found stones were a sapphire deposit. Instead what he found was a never seen before color of the mineral zoisite and within a short time more than 90 more mining claims were filed within a 20-square-mile area.
Even though no one knew what they really found, it was Tiffany and Co. who recognized its international sell-ability and struck a deal to become the stone’s main distributor. In 1968 they named the gem after its country of origin and promoted it with a large publicity campaign launching the gem into popularity in a short amount of time.
Tanzanite is most valued for it’s deeply saturated blue with violet hues. If you’re wanting a Tanzanite but looking to save a little on the cost, one can opt for a paler shade. The cut of the stone will also determine the price. Displaying different colors from different angles, an optical phenomenon known as pleochroism, gem cutters will often try to emphasize the blue over the violet even if that means creating a smaller finished stone due to the blue being a more desirable and valuable color.
When shopping for Tanzanite keep in mind that due to it’s limited and finite source, the price and availability can fluctuate drastically.
Moving to the opposite end of the age spectrum, Turquoise has been around for thousands of years and worn by ancient Egyptian rulers, carved by Chinese artisans, and utilized by the Native Americans.
Turquoise made its way from Turkey to Europe in the 13th century via the Silk Road, and received its name from French term for Turkish stone “pierre tourques”. Today the United States is the world’s largest turquoise supplier with Arizona leading in both value and quality.
In some Turquoise you might find pices of host rock or “matrix” appearing as webs or patches. In some Turquoise you might find pieces of host rock or “matrix” appearing as webs or patches and while this can reduce the value of the stone, the “spiderweb” patterned Turquoise from the Southwest is considered attractive.
When shopping for turquoise, color typically determines the value. The most sought after color is bright to nearly sky blue. The greener tones tend to lower the value depending on designer. Turquoise also has varying degrees of porosity, texture and hardness with a stone that’s too soft or chalky losing color over time. Some stones are treated to increase strength, color, and smoothness.
While we’re getting a little too close to the holidays for intricate custom orders, consider picking up a gift certificate for a loved one! We’re happy to help find the perfect stones and settings or design something specifically for you.