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What is the real birthstone of December?

What is the real birthstone of December?

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December’s birthstone has long been a source of confusion and debate. Many publications list zircon, turquoise, or tanzanite as the birthstone for December. However, the story is more complicated than that. The truth is that December has several historical birthstones due to changing trends and the discovery of new gemstones over time. By looking back at the history and evolution of birthstones, we can better understand the confusion over December’s official birthstone.

Originally, there was no established birthstone for December. Ancient birthstone listings included stones for each calendar month, but none specifically for December. This changed in 1912 when the National Association of Jewelers (now the Jewelers of America) released an official birthstone list which designated turquoise as December’s stone. However, this reign was short-lived when tanzanite was discovered in 1967. Its vivid blue color led it to quickly overtake turquoise in popularity and recognition.

The story doesn’t end there, though. In 2002, the Jewelers of America updated their official list again to add zircon as an additional December birthstone. This recognized zircon’s longstanding use in December jewelry. However, tanzanite still tends to be the most popular and widely recognized choice.

So in summary, December has no one singular birthstone. It has a rich history with turquoise, more recent fame with tanzanite, and an official nod to zircon. When choosing a December birthstone, the most popular pick is tanzanite while turquoise and zircon also have historical claims. Understanding this evolution over time explains the confusion and debate around December’s official birthstone.

History of Birthstones

Birthstones have long held meaning and history. Here is an overview of how birthstones first developed and why December’s has been so variable:

– Ancient origins – The idea of birthstones dates back at least to early Hindu and Tibetan cultures around the 5th century BCE. In these cultures each month correlated with a different gemstone that held Symbolic meaning. However, early listings were not standardized so they varied by region. None specifically designated December with a birthstone.

– Standardization attempts – Over the centuries there were various attempts to create an official birthstone system. In 15th century Poland, scholars assigned different stones to each month. In 18th century Tibet, the Kalachakra calendar linked stones and months. But these systems did not have staying power.

– Adoption by Western culture – It wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries that birthstones really caught on in Europe and America. Their astrological associations appealed to the Victorian era fascination with mysticism.

– Official standardization – In 1912, the National Association of Jewelers released the first standardized list associating turquoise with December. This list caught on and became widely accepted as the official birthstone chart.

– Change over time – The original list was not meant to be static. With the discovery of new gemstones and evolving tastes, the list saw updates over the decades. Tanzanite and zircon were later additions for December that gained favor but never fully displaced turquoise.

So while birthstones have ancient origins, December lacked an assigned stone. Official standardization first selected turquoise, but changes over time led to the alternatives we know today.


Turquoise has one of the longest histories associated with December. Here are some key facts about turquoise and its significance:

– One of the oldest known gemstones, used since at least 3000 BCE when mined in ancient Egypt.

– Prized by ancient cultures around the world including Persians, Aztecs, and Native Americans. Significant stone for the Zuni Pueblo tribes.

– Vivid robin’s egg blue color, opaque with unique veining. The most desirable hue is intense sky blue.

– December’s birthstone designation from 1912 to 2002. This 80+ year reign solidified it as the traditional December stone.

– Associated with wisdom, trust, and understanding. Said to impart calmness and relieve stress.

– Native American cultures believed it could improve mental clarity and provide grounding.

– Durable enough for jewelry but also prone to cracking. Requires stabilization to be hard enough for rings.

– Found in arid regions like the Southwestern United States and Middle East. Major turquoise sources are in Iran and Arizona.

– Value is very dependent on color. The most prized “robin’s egg” turquoise can be quite expensive and rare. More common shades are abundantly available.

So in summary, turquoise has been prized for millennia and served as December’s official birthstone for most of the 20th century. Its blue color ranges from light to deep greenish robin’s egg shades. While fragile, it is a historically significant December gem.


Relative newcomer tanzanite quickly rose to popularity as a December birthstone after its 1967 discovery:

– First discovered in the foothills of Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania in 1967. Tiffany and Co named it “tanzanite” after its country of origin.

– A thousand times rarer than diamond, tanzanite is only found in one place worldwide. Its rarity adds to its value and appeal.

– Trichroic gemstone that displays different shades of violet-blue depending on crystal orientation. Most gems display vivid purplish blue.

– Rapidly gained recognition due to its singular vivid blue color, surpassing turquoise in popularity. By 2002, it was named an alternate birthstone for December.

– With a Mohs hardness of 6.5, it is durable enough for all jewelry. Has become a popular mainstream gemstone.

– Meaning includes compassion, intuition, and psychic power. Associated with vision, inspiration, and openness.

– Natural tanzanite is ultrarare after the Tanzanian government blocked access to the only productive mine in 2010. Almost all tanzanite today is heat treated to achieve the prized blue color.

– Due to limited supply, it has appreciated rapidly in price over the decades. Large high-quality stones can sell for over $2000 per carat.

In just a few decades, the discovery of tanzanite changed December’s birthstone landscape. Its rarity and blue color made it highly coveted and influential. For many today, tanzanite is considered December’s primary birthstone.


The final contender is zircon. Here are some fast facts about this understated December birthstone:

– Zircon is one of the oldest minerals on earth, but its use in jewelry is relatively modern. The earliest evidence of its use as a gemstone comes from deposits in Cambodia dating to the 4th century CE.

– Most zircon today comes from Australia and Brazil. However, historic sources were India and Sri Lanka.

– Colors include blue, brown, yellow, green, red, and orange. Blue is the most prized variety today.

– With a hardness of 7.5, zircon is exceptionally durable for jewelry use. Its brilliance and fire approaches that of diamond.

– Deemed an official alternate birthstone for December by the Jewelers of America in 1952 along with turquoise. This recognized its longstanding popularity.

– Blue zircon has symbolized wisdom, honor, and truth. The Sanskrit name means “gold-like” describing its radiance.

– The bright colors and low cost used to make it an immensely popular gemstone in the 18th and 19th centuries, but fashion later shifted.

– Today, the rarest and most valuable zircon is the bright blue Cambodian and Sri Lankan varieties. These can cost over $500 per carat. More common brown zircon can be under $50 per carat.

– With renewed interest in its brilliance and durability, zircon is making a comeback for modern jewelry.

Zircon completes the trio as the third official December birthstone. Its bright color palette gives buyers options that match turquoise and tanzanite in shade while standing apart with its brilliance.

How to Choose a December Birthstone

With so many options, how should someone choose a December birthstone? Here are some factors to consider:

– **Color preference** – Tanzanite and turquoise provide shades of blue. Zircon offers blue as well as other colors like orange and green. Pick based on your favored hue.

– **Meaning** – Do you want grounding and wisdom (turquoise), vision and intuition (tanzanite), or truth and honor (zircon)? Choose the stone whose symbolic associations resonate.

– **Durability** – Turquoise is relatively fragile. Tanzanite and zircon are very durable, ideal even for rings and bracelets. Consider which use cases you need.

– **Budget** – Turquoise and zircon are abundant, so lower cost options are easily available. High-quality tanzanite is always expensive due to rarity.

– **Uniqueness** – Tanzanite is a one-source gemstone. Zircon comes in some unique colors like rare orange. Turquoise is common though petroglyph patterns add interest.

– **Tradition** – Those born in mid 20th century have sentiment for turquoise as the original December birthstone. Tanzanite is now the most expected.

With its range of options, December gives you flexibility to find a birthstone that matches your style! Evaluate your preferences to pick between turquoise, tanzanite, and zircon.

Birthstone Jewelry Gift Ideas

Once you select your December birthstone, here are some great jewelry gift ideas:


Turquoise pendant Simple yet striking necklace with a petite turquoise cabochon
Turquoise drop earrings Timeless dangling earrings with turquoise beads or slices
Turquoise cocktail ring An oversized statement ring featuring an oval or round turquoise center stone
Turquoise bracelet Chunky beaded turquoise bracelet or a delicate tennis bracelet with small turquoise accents
Southwestern turquoise set Mix of turquoise rings, bracelet, and necklace with silver and Zuni/Navajo details


Tanzanite studs Trillion cut or round tanzanite earrings make a versatile anytime pair
Tanzanite pendant Simple oval or round solitaire pendant to show off the stone’s color
Tanzanite infinity ring Stunning blue tanzanite infinity twist ring for a modern look
Tanzanite cocktail ring Make a bold statement with an oversized tanzanite ring
Tanzanite halo ring Central tanzanite framed by a diamond halo for extra sparkle


Blue zircon studs Brilliant round blue zircon earrings that sparkle endlessly
Colorful zircon pendant Vibrant orange, green or blue zircon pendant on a gold chain
Blue zircon tennis bracelet Elegant bracelet lined with princess cut blue zircon stones
Vintage zircon cocktail ring Antique style floral ring with green, orange and blue zircons
Solitaire zircon necklace Simple and stunning princess cut blue zircon solitaire pendant

The assortment of earrings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets set with these stones cater to all styles. Give a meaningful December birthstone gift that will be cherished forever!


December’s birthstone history is a winding path. Turquoise first held December’s birthstone seat until tanzanite and later zircon joined the ranks. Tanzanite remains the most popular option today, but turquoise and zircon still have significance. Rather than debating the “true” birthstone, the trio gives December birthday celebrants options. By considering color, meaning, price, and style preferences, you can pick the perfect December gem to fit your personality. Whether you long for turquoise’s calming shade of blue, respond to tanzanite’s visionary vibration, or crave zircon’s dazzling colors, December offers every style. Embrace this abundance and delight in your birthstone story!