Turquoise, Tanzanite, and Blue Topaz
 Zircon, Lapis Lazuli
 December’s Birthstones

Beliefs, Mythology

Turquoise often thought to symbolize luck and success. It also is said to aide in mental and spiritual clarity.

Tanzanite is found in only one area of the world, Tanzania, near Mt. Kilimanjaro. A relatively recent discovery, they were first found and used in the 1960s by the Masai tribe.

Blue Topaz – Topaz is typically associated with love and affection, and is linked with strength and facilitates healing. It is also thought to help defend from greed.

Zircon was thought to induce sleep and drive away evil spirits.

For Lapis Lazuli, check out this guest blog post detailing its history and lore.

Color

All of the December stones have a blue hue:

Turquoise is the beautiful shade of blue that now bears the same name.

Tanzanite is a royal purple, closer to blue.

While Blue Topaz is the color for December, Topaz isn’t limited to one color. Topaz is available in a variety of colors including green, red, gold and pink.

Zircon comes in many colors, but the most popular is blue.

Lapis Lazuli is a rich blue color, used in ancient paints and rituals.

Etymology

Turquoise is derived from its first documented users, the Turks. The color derives its name from the stone.

Tanzanite is named for the only country in the world in which it naturally exists: Tanzania.

Blue Topaz – Topaz traces its origins to an ancient gem mine on an Island bearing a similar name, but is also thought to have come from the Sanskrit word for fire.

Zircon not to be confused with the more metallic zirconium, Zircon gets its name from

Lapis Lazuli literally means “Stone of Blue.”

Hardness

Turquoise 5 – 7

Tanzanite 6.5

Topaz 8 (defining mineral for this hardness – regardless of color)

Zircon 7.5

Lapis Lazuli 5 – 5.5

World Application

Turquoise has had many decorative uses over its history, including jewelry, masks, and talismans.

Tanzanite and Topaz only have jewelry applications.

Zircon is used in jewelry, and in ceramics.

Throughout history, Lapis Lazuli has had many uses, both decorative and religious.

Click here to view our Turquoise Inventory

Click here to view our Tanzanite Inventory

Click here to view our Topaz Inventory

Click here to view our Zircon Inventory

Click here to view our Lapis Lazuli Inventory

Birthstones and Meanings

Every month of the year has been associated with a Gemstone, referred to as Birthstones. These associations date back to Biblical times. The origin of birthstones is believed to date back to the breastplate of Aaron, Moses’ brother, which contained twelve gemstones, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel (Exodus 28 & 39). These stones were first associated with the signs of the zodiac, and then to the months of the year.

The legends and myths about birthstones are numerous. They are attributed healing powers and therapeutic properties. Legend follows that wearing a gemstone during its assigned month increases its healing powers. One could rotate the stone worn monthly, or simply wear all twelve, all of the time.

The modern list we use today was initially formulated in 1912 with the late addition of tanzanite to December in 2002. Different cultures have different lists, and the lists used by Jewelers are frequently inconsistent. We’ve provided a listing below to help you determine which stone is the right birthstone for you.

Birthstones by Month

MonthModern Traditional
JanuaryGarnetGarnet
FebruaryAmethystAmethyst
MarchAquamarineBloodstone
AprilDiamondDiamond
MayEmeraldEmerald
JunePearl, MoonstoneAlexandrite
JulyRubyRuby
AugustPeridotSardonyx
SeptemberSapphireSapphire
OctoberOpalTourmaline
NovemberYellow TopazCitrine
DecemberTurquoise, Blue Topaz, TanzaniteZircon, Lapis Lazuli

How are Gemstones Formed?

Gemstones are specific chemical formulations of minerals. These minerals form in the mostly in the Earth’s crust with the exception of 2 which form in the mantle: diamond and peridot. The mantle (~80% of the Earth’s mass) consists mainly of molten rock (magma) and has a solid outer layer. Regardless of formation location, all gemstones are mined in the crust.

The Earth's layers

Gems Formed in the Earth’s Crust

How are gems formed in the Earth’s crust?

Water.

Rain is an important component in the Rock Cycle. Erosion breaks down and moves rocks. This function makes rainwater essential to the formation of gems and minerals in the crust.

Water filters through the ground, and picks up acidity as it travels. Add some heat or get the right chemical mix, and it becomes corrosive, giving the travelling water the capability to dissolve rocks and minerals. At some point, the water can’t carry anything else, causing it to leave deposits behind in cracks and pockets it passes through. Erosion also uncovers gemstones formed deeper which were brought to the surface from volcanic eruptions.

If conditions are right, water may mix with just the right ingredients to cause a chemical reaction. This type of mineral creation is how gems such as azurite, malachite, opal, and turquoise are formed.

Lionel Herget Turquoise

Gems Formed in the Earth’s Mantle

We only have a limited knowledge of the Earth’s mantle, but evidence tells us that at least two gemstones are formed there: diamond and peridot. This is because they need extreme heat to crystallize. Geological studies have brought scientists to believe that the initial formation of peridot occurred somewhere between 20 and 55 miles underground, and diamonds from even deeper, between 110 and 150 miles underground. These new formations in the mantle would have been melted and destroyed if they weren’t brought to the surface by a swift, powerful eruption.

Volcano Diagram
photo from bfwest01 on Glogster

Types of Gemstone Deposits and Formations

There are various types of deposits and formations of gemstones (precious and semi-precious stones). The most important are as follows.

Magmatic Crystallization

As magma cools, it produces crystals of various minerals. Like diamond, some minerals are gemstones brought to the surface by eruption. Other examples of this type include moonstonetopaz, and corundum (like ruby).

Pegmatite

Near the end of magmatic crystallization, a thin, silicate liquid is left over. If this liquid is pressed into the rock surrounding it, pegmatites are formed with very large crystals, including gemstones such as: berylquartz, spodumenetourmaline, and topaz.

Vein Deposits

After pegmatites have crystallized, the remaining material is a hot water (hydrothermal) mix of chemicals. This material seeps into fissures and cracks in rocks and solidify in Veins of minerals like benitoiteemerald (green beryl)red beryl, and topaz.

Placer Deposits (Gem Gravel)

Minerals with a higher hardness can withstand the normal wear and tear of the world, and come out unscathed when the rest of the rock around them erodes away. Frequently, these are left behind in riverbeds and collect into gravels as found in Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), India, Montana, and other locations around the world. These gravels include precious and semi-precious gemstones including: chrysoberyl, diamond, garnetquartz, rubysapphire, and zircon.

Chemical Precipitates

Malachiteopalrhodochrosite, and turquoise are all chemical precipitates, formed when liquid chemical solutions meet with a catalyst. When the two meet, a reaction takes place, and a solid is created. This solid is called a precipitate. For example, turquoise is formed when an acid containing copper meets volcanic rock containing aluminium and phosphorous.

Metamorphic Deposits

Corundum, garnet, and kyanite are examples of what happens to rock that undergoes high temperature and/or pressure. The composition of the base material is reorganized, forming a new material.

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Southwestern Gem & Mineral Society Business of the Month!

During the next several months we will be loading more and more of our stock to the website and I hope to share my passion with you. And maybe, just maybe, convince you to take your general interest in Geology to the next level. I have veered into the gemologist side to go with my passion of identifying the stones that I cut and polish. More on that later.

I hope that you will find our jewelry unique, high quality, and well-priced.

This story was captured by the Southwest Gem and Mineral Society when I was chosen to be in their spotlighted business of the month:

BUSINESS OF THE MONTH

Lone Star Gemstones by Sturdevant.

As a boy in Sierra Vista, Arizona – not too far from Tombstone, the Bisbee Open Lavendar Pit mine and tons of jaspers, agates, geodes and turquoise – Wayne took a shop class in lapidary.

From then on he and a buddy spent the rest of their weekends combing the Huachuca Mountains for anything they could cut and work. Between their Jr and Sr year they spent a season working at the old Lionel Herget Turquoise Mine just east of Tombstone.

He recalls the “stupid” days of playing catch with blasting caps and dynamite as well as blowing up unsuspecting tarantulas.

Miraculously, he still had all his fingers and toes and went on to win a Blue ribbon at the Arizona State Fair for polished cabachons (he was the only entrant in his age class).

After high school he studied geology at the University of Arizona. He joined the Air Force after his first year of college and always carried his stones and buckets of rocks with him wherever he lived.

Through his next set of careers he still kept his passion toward geology and gemology and in 2009 he started Lone Star Gemstones by Sturdevant.

He and his wife have enjoyed his new venture ever since. Wayne’s traveling sales show specializes in natural (real) stones shaped into jewelry.

“A virtual museum of eye-candy”, rings, pendants, brooches, earrings, bracelets and on and on and on. There are even works of art such as Lladro and Royal Doulton.

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Old Rockhound

I am an old rockhound from Arizona.
As a junior at Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Arizona, a bunch of us signed up for shop class. Thinking we would be learning how to work on cars, Our football coach, who was our teacher, offered us a different kind of class that we all jumped on: Lapidary!
That’s where my real love affair with rocks and minerals began.
We started with grinders, sanders, buffers, and polishers.  We got pretty good at it, and bragged how we made our own gifts.  I have only one remnant of that past:  A gift I made for my mother at Christmas time.  We had access to some pretty cool stones, mostly related to copper (being near the Open Pit Mine in Bisbee.)  I made a necklace for Mom with the center stone being malachite, my favorite stone.

During that time frame, a friend and I would hang out at the Lapidary shop and get to know more about the art and the trade.  Because of our energy and our youth, an old prospector hired us for part of the summer to work at his turquoise mine, just east of Tombstone, Arizona.

Turquoise

 

The Lord knows how lucky we were to leave with our arms and hands still attached.  Even today, I saved a few pieces of turquoise from the old Lionel Herget Mine.

Lionel Herget Turquoise

The last artifacts of my youth as a lapidist and rockhound!