Though there are two birthstones for the month of December, they have one overriding commonality: their rich blue hues. Topaz and turquoise are December’s birthstones, symbolizing honor and trust, prosperity and good fortune, wisdom, kindness and understanding. Though not as rare as some other birthstones, they are unique in their azure vibrancy.
Both blue topaz and turquoise make for gorgeous jewelry and have for centuries, having been found on Egyptian mummies and Mesoamerican masks. These fine gems have beauty is elusive and hard to capture in words. Today, these stones can be used to enhance Celtic jewelry design as in ShanOre’s Irish Birthstone Collection.
Read on to find out more about these remarkable birthstones.
Topaz was thought to heal mental disorders and physical ailments to prevent death in the Middle Ages. It was worn by the Egyptians as an amulet to protect them from getting injuries. It is the state gemstone of Utah. Blue topaz is said to represent faithfulness and eternal love. Having topaz as a birthstone is said to promote great health and having a calm mind. It is thought that blue topaz guards against the forces of evil. Healers use blue topaz to aid in communicating. It is thought that blue topaz enhances the ability to put ideas into words more clearly.
Today, there is a range of blue shapes to choose from pale to deep. Blue topaz is inexpensive, attractive, and a favorite of many. Before the 1970s, most topaz that was priced on the lower end was brown or yellow. Natural blue topaz was rare and expensive. It was not seen often due to its cost. The blue topaz you see today so frequently is the result of gem treatment.
It was revealed that colorless topaz could be changed to blue topaz by treating it. This was done with a high-energy electron or gamma radiation. It is then heated to the blue color. By varying this treatment a range of colors is possible. Topaz is treated with radiation which is a beam of subatomic particles. These particles enter the Topaz at a high speed and kick electrons out of their orbits and cause damage to the lattice of the crystal. This changes the way light travels through the gem and the result is the color change.
Buying Tips for Blue Topaz
Blue topaz is not necessarily understood by many buyers and there are some things to take into considerations before you make your purchase. The correct information will help you make an informed decision on whether or not this gem is for you.
The first thing is that blue topaz is very hard but not necessarily very durable. It has perfect cleavage. (It shares this with the diamond.) It can be split or chipped easily with a sharp blow and it would need to be worn with this in mind.
The second thing to know is that the deeply saturated blues you see in blue topaz do not occur naturally. They have been produced by the treatment of white topaz. This is done with radiation and heat. The color change is permanent. There was some controversy in regards to how the topaz was treated to achieve these results. However, in July 2007 the NRC also known as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission tested several batches of blue topaz gems that were around 500 carats and found the results did not pose any health risk. There are rules that are in place to protect the cutters, gem dealers, and consumers of blue topaz. Currently, regulations require that the importer of these gems must be licensed by the NRC.
The NRC is working with the industry to put a testing system together that will include blue topaz treated in linear accelerators as well as the material that is in nuclear reactors. They are doing everything they can to assure the buyer that these beautiful gems that are so popular are also safe.
The two varieties of treated blue topaz have become dominant in the market. They are known as London blue and Swiss blue topaz. Swiss blue is bright and light in tone. It has a moderate saturation. London blue is a very beautiful dark blue with a moderate to dark saturation. You get a good choice between these two colors. Right now London blue is the dominant color on the market. It is generally a bit more expensive than Swiss blue.
Most sources of topaz are clean. The eye-clean stones are possible and desirable. This is not the case with pink and red topaz, however. The stones available are small and a bit more inclusion is tolerated in these varieties.
Topaz can be cut into any shape of a gemstone. Open facets like the emerald and Asscher cuts are beautiful with topaz. It can also be found in round, princess, and modern cushion cuts.
You can find topaz in large sizes. Whether you have a maximalist taste or minimalist, you can find a blue topaz to suit. Topaz is usually inexpensive however the larger stones will command a higher price.
Caring for Blue Topaz
The treatment that blue topaz undergoes is totally permanent so there is no worry of fading. You do have to worry about chipping it as it does have perfect cleavage. This can be avoided with no rough handling. The gem can also fracture if heated. The stone should be cleaned carefully with warm water and soap. It should not be cleaned with steam or ultrasonically.
Turquoise is one of the planet’s oldest gemstones and has been in jewelry for thousands of years. Many assume that turquoise was named after its color. However, this is not the case. The name turquoise comes from the French word for Turkey because it was believed the mineral originated from there. Native Americans consider turquoise sacred. They used it as a shaman stone. This means it was believed to have very strong metaphysical properties. In the Persian Empire, turquoise was worn on the wrist and neck to protect from an unnatural death. In ancient Egypt, as well as the Shang Dynasty of China, turquoise was regarded as a talisman of good luck. It is usually found with antiques of these civilizations. It can be found on King Tutankhamun’s mask. It is on a Goujian sword as well. Grave furnishings from Ancient Egypt going back as far as 3000 BC have turquoise. In 2005, a 3700 Dragon figurine was found with turquoise inlay. It has over 2,000 pieces of turquoise.
Even though turquoise is one of the oldest gems it was introduced to Europe with other novelties through the Silk Road through Turkey. It was not important in the West until the 1300s, following a decline in the Roman Catholic Churches influence.
Turquoise is truly captivating and rich in history. It is the gemstone of life and has been believed to be a holy stone for thousands of years. It is thought to protect its wearer from evil and bring good fortune. Today it is considered to have healing powers as well as bestow good luck to those who wear it.
Buying Tips for Turquoise
Turquoise is formed with water comes in contact with limonite or sandstone that contains aluminum, copper, and other minerals. It takes the right conditions and millions of years for this gem to be formed. The blue color is because of the copper and aluminum adds a green hue. It may contain vein markings of the host rock. These are known as the matrix. Sandstone creates tan markings while limonite contains dark brown. The matrix will lower the stone’s value.
The most valuable stones can be found in Iran. They are also found in the US, Tanzania, Mexico, Israel, China, Brazil, Australia, Argentina, and Afghanistan.
When considering turquoise value, color is a very important factor. There are several shades of blue and green. Mid-range blue colors which are referred to as Persian blue are considered the most valuable. The blue should be uniform throughout the gem. The presence of a matrix in the turquoise from its host rock will lessen the value of the stone.
When zinc is present in the host rock there can be a yellow-green color. This is a rare combination. So far only a few areas have had this, included the Blue Ridge mines in Nevada and Carico Lake.
Other matrix colors include brown (likely caused by iron oxide), black (caused by iron pyrite), and yellow (caused by rhyolite). Another type of matrix pattern is called spider webbing, in which stones have thin lines of matrix distributed throughout. Although shoppers are typically looking for turquoise with no matrix, this can make intriguing designs on the stone.
Turquoise is usually opaque. There is, however, a rare translucent turquoise. The stone is not sparkly and is matte in appearance.
Turquoise can be cut into several shapes, the most popular cabochons, chips, beads, and ovals. Cutting is not a major factor in bringing out its beauty or affecting its cost.
Turquoise is often in large slabs when minded and then broken into chunks for jewelry. There are many sizes however 4 to 8 carats is usually what is used for jewelry. For ornamental pieces, larger stones would be more favorable. Costs can vary however the gem is usually around $30 to $40 per carat for a quality piece.
Caring for Turquoise
Turquoise has a hardness between five and six and should be handled carefully and keep away from hard gemstones when being stored. You’ll want to handle it carefully to avoid causing any scratches. Keep away from high heat and chemicals such as oil and perfume. Clean in warm water with soap and dry immediately. Don’t use commercial jewelry cleaner.
Both gorgeous gems can make a treasured gift, and accent a ring or pendant, making it a forever treasured piece. There is much symbolism involved when wearing a birthstone in addition to Celtic jewelry. Consider birthstone jewelry with things like the mother’s pendant or a Claddagh ring, and you can give a gift that has mystery and lore. Please check out our Birthstone Collection and let us know what you think in the comments below!
Initially published on November 28th, 2018