December's Birthstone: Turquoise & Tanzanite
Turquoise is a stone steeped in myth, lore and superstition dating back to prehistoric times. It played a pivotal role in establishing trade routes from Turkey to Europe and is one of the world’s oldest gems. Its name derives from the French expression Pierre Tourques meaning Turkish stone, a reflection of its first passage.
- Hardness: 5-6/10 on the Mohs Scale, a test of strength
- Forms: When water passes through rocks containing copper and aluminium. They form veins over millions of years that transition to turquoise
It was discovered in Sinai Peninsula, Ancient Egypt in 6000BC where its fate to be a sacred stone was sealed. The mine where it was first unearthed is still in use today which is astonishing considering that was over 7,500 years ago. Legendary Pharaoh Tutankhamun was buried in a Death Mask featuring striking blue turquoise. The snake and the vulture sitting at the top of the mask are made of turquoise and represent north and south Egypt, symbolic of his power ruling the whole nation.
Cleopatra was an admirer of precious gems, she collected emeralds and peridots along with our December birthstone, her jewellery box was certainly a thing to be envied. Not only is Turquoise the only gem to be named after a colour, but it was also given its own Egyptian goddess, Hathor.
Hathor was worshipped and adored by all. People believed she blessed the world with art, drama, fertility and mining prosperity. The powerful goddess was depicted with the horns of a cow holding a sun, which can be seen on many Egyptian artefacts. There are images and stories of Pharaohs and Kings kneeling before Hathos, asking for her protection and healing. When you wear your turquoise jewellery, know it is a stone that bought hope to many, even in their darkest hour.
The Anasazi mined turquoise around 350BC and traded it for parrots and seashells in Mesoamerica, a vast region extending from central Mexico to central America. The Anasazi people worshipped the gem, believing it was sent to the Earth with special healing powers for the people. Any Medicine Man (doctor) not adorned in turquoise was cast aside and would be refused from the community as a true healer until wearing the prized gem. Many of the ancient tombs uncovered here belonging to important people were embellished with turquoise pieces, a connotation of the metaphysical powers people believed the gem to have.
The Aztecs were also followers of the December birthstone. They arrived in Mesoamerica around the start of the 13th century, and stormed central Mexico with social, political and religious ideologies that took them into a position of control by the 15th century. During their reign turquoise was exceptionally valuable to them, they dedicated the gem to the gods and all were forbidden to wear it. The Aztecs are said to have valued turquoise as much as gold.
With the spectacular rise in social media, there can be pressure to show the world how many treasures and trinkets you have. It’s important to remind yourself meaning is just as (if not more) significant as the value of something. We like to remind ourselves of this every day with a cup of tea in one hand and a biscuit in the other, sit back and remember life is what you make of it. The Aztecs valued meaning as much as value, very fitting for a gemstone as the stories behind the stone are what make it priceless.
There are beautiful mosaics which have been uncovered, all made of turquoise tiles, these are iconic ancient Mesoamerican art pieces. You can see these wonders on the Smithsonian website, where they permanently live. If you’re ever in their neck of the woods, pop in for a browse and have a nice tea.
It wasn’t just the Ancient Egyptians, Anasazis and Aztecs who worshipped the stone. Old Tibetan people, Toltecs, Pueblo people and many other ancient cultures of Americas hailed the gem. As we specialise in pre-owned jewellery, we source exquisite gems along the way all brimming with history. You can’t get that easily on the high street, and we are proud to showcase all our items which are always refurbed to the highest standard. Currently we have a unique turquoise set bracelet, it’s 14ct gold, fully hallmarked and features 11 turquoise stones. It’s a beautiful token to gift, perfect for all occasions.
This mesmerising gem can only be mined in one area of the world, the Merelani Hills of Tanzania. Being sourced from one sole location gives the gem a persona of desirability and luxury, it’s quite something to be able to say the gem in your jewellery is unique to one location on Earth.
The gem made quite the entrance to the theatre of stones as it was only discovered in the 20th century. Although it might be a young gem, its bold characteristics and history make it an important member of the birthstone family. The discovery of the gem started with a small group of people in 1967; a Polish expatriate, George Kruchluk who identified the stone and Manuel D’Souza a prospector who exposed the stone to the world with the help of a Masai tribesman.
The gem was taken to New York and put in the hands of Tiffany & Co who saw the potential in the dynamic stone. It was here the dazzling blue and violet gem was named Tanzanite, informed by its place of origin. A slogan from a 1970s Tiffany’s ad said:
‘From the foothills of Mt. Kilamanjaro comes Tanzanite, the loveliest blue gemstone discovered in over 2,000 years. Tanzanite can now be found in significant quantities in only two places in the world. In Tanzania. And Tiffany’s.’
Since then the birthstone has captured the hearts of many with its incredible beginning and eye-catching flair. It scores a 6.5-7 on the Mohs scale, but should always be worn with care as it can break due to its cleavage (structure). It is believed to have formed at the same time as Mount Kilimanjaro, through the process of tectonic plate activity and intense heat.
So we have two special gems, one old and one new in our December birthstone blog. There are two other stones also belonging to the group, Topaz and Zircon, please make yourself at home and look around at all these exceptional pieces too. As always, we love to be involved so do tag us on social media with your stories on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!