Turquoise, tanzanite, and zircon—all three of December’s birthstones come in brilliant shades of blue, a welcome break from the red and green that seems to be creeping into every corner of our existence post-Thanksgiving.
Well, technically zircon comes in virtually all shades of the rainbow, but it’s most commonly heat-treated to appear blue. Word to the wise: Don’t confuse it with cubic zirconia, the man-made diamond substitute common in inexpensive jewelry—zircon is, in fact, the most ancient mineral on earth, with the oldest known crystal dating back 4.4 billion years.
Turquoise, we tend to be a little more familiar with—especially if we’ve ever spent any time in Arizona or New Mexico, where much of the mineral is mined. The U.S. is the world’s biggest turquoise supplier today, although the stone’s name derives from turques, the French word for “Turks,” the people who first brought the stone to Europe.
Turquoise is considered sacred among Native Americans, who consider it a healing and protecting stone, and have used it in religious ceremonies and in jewelry for centuries. In the Navajo tribe, it is thought that casting a stone into a river will bring rainfall, while the Apache believed that turquoise (rather than, say, a pot of gold) awaited at the end of a rainbow, and had the power to make whoever found it invincible in battle.
Tanzanite, finally, was only added as an alternate December birthstone by the American Gem Trade Association in 2002—only 35 years after it was first discovered. As the name suggests, the mineral is mined only in Tanzania, and is in fact the blue variety of the mineral zoisite; it was Tiffany’s that coined its name while coming up with a way to sell the gem in jewelry, marketing it as found only “in Tanzania and at Tiffany’s.”
Below, shop 17 pieces of December birthstone jewelry for every style and budget.