December Birthstones & the Best Type of Jewelry for Winter

by Nancy Plante December 24, 2018

December Birthstones & the Best Type of Jewelry for Winter

blue zircon pendant with diamonds and vintage style details, set in white gold

Those with December birthdays are lucky, as they have three gemstones to choose from: zircon, tanzanite, and turquoise. Each of these gemstones boasts their own unique blue tone as well as different qualities and meanings. Zircon is the oldest of the three stones, dating back to over 4.4 billion years. Following behind is turquoise, which dates back as far as 3000 BC. The youngest is tanzanite, which wasn’t found until 1967.

These stones are relatively inexpensive; however, their beauty rivals even precious gems. Their wide range of gorgeous blue hues are perfect for winter. Let’s take a look at these beautiful December birthstones as well as tips on how to flawlessly wear winter jewelry.

blue zircon ring set in rose gold.

December Birthstone: Zircon

Zircon is a natural mineral called zirconium silicate, and because it has a high refractive index, it is incredibly sparkly and brilliant. It’s not to be confused with cubic zirconia, which is a synthetic gem. Zircon is a remarkably dense mineral, with a density about 50% higher than diamond. It comes in many colors, including red, brown, yellow, green, or colorless.

Because it sparkles so brilliantly, the colorless zircon is a good natural substitute for diamond. The most popular color is blue. Zircons have so much brilliance and fire that inclusions can be hard to see.

In the Middle Ages, zircon was believed to bring sound sleep, along with prosperity and wisdom. Even today, wearing zircon is considered an aid in attaining one’s vision and goals. In Hindu poetry, the Kalpa Tree—a glowing tree covered with gemstone fruit with leaves of zircon—was the ultimate gift to the gods.

How to Care for Zircon

Blue zircon is almost always heat-treated. Since it is among the heaviest gemstones, a zircon will appear smaller than other gemstones of the same carat weight. It is usually faceted in traditional brilliant style, as this shows off its sparkle.

Zircon is quite hard, but it can chip along the edges. Clean with a soft brush and warm soapy water, then rinse. Just as with diamonds, keeping zircon clean is the secret to ensuring that it stays sparkling.

anzie turq star is a turquoise pendant set with a round turquoise, in sterling silver with white sapphire gemstones.

December Birthstone: Turquoise

Turquoise is a secular and sacred stone that has been treasured by many cultures since ancient times for its vibrant blue color and protective powers. Its sacred history adds to its appeal. Prized in ancient Egypt, the stone was used in ceremonial headdresses and masks. King Tut’s iconic burial mask was extravagantly adorned with turquoise. Ancient Persians decorated extensively with turquoise, engraving it with Arabic script.

Often set in silver in the tradition of Native Americans, turquoise is perceived as a happy gem that fosters friendship and is protective to its wearer. Today, Arizona is the largest source of fine turquoise. It is also found in other areas of the southwestern U.S.

Turquoise is quickly becoming rarer than diamonds; rising mining costs and government restrictions are significant impediments to finding gem-quality turquoise in the U.S. Very few Southwest mines operate commercially, and less than 5 percent of turquoise mined worldwide can be cut and set into jewelry.

The most desirable and valuable turquoise is a sky blue, soul-satisfying color, with no visible webbing or dark patches. Known as matrix, this is part of the host stone where the turquoise is formed. Sometimes this webbing is attractive, and some jewelry is made to take advantage of these natural markings.

Top-quality turquoise has inspired designers to create sleek, elegant and modern jewelry. Low-grade turquoise can be chalky, porous, and dull in appearance. It is sometimes treated to make it shinier and stronger.

How to Care for Turquoise

Turquoise  is a relatively soft gemstone. It can be harmed by solvents and makeup, and direct strong sunlight can fade it. This is one jewelry item that fits with the old advice, “Put your jewelry on last, and take it off first” when getting dressed or undressed.

Clean your turquoise pieces by soaking in warm water and gently washing with mild soap. Avoid exposing turquoise to skin oils, as this can change the color of the stone.

 pair of tanzanite stud earrings, each with halo of diamonds.

December Birthstone: Tanzanite

Tanzanite, an exquisite blue variety of the mineral zoisite, is the newest of the December birthstones. Although the brown variety of zoisite was discovered in the 1800’s, the beautiful violet-blue variety was not discovered until 1967.

At first thought to be sapphire, it was soon identified as zoisite. These blue crystals are rarely found in nature. In fact, all tanzanite is rare—it is found only in one area of the world, Tanzania, near Mount Kilimanjaro.

Tanzanite is pleochroic, meaning that it can appear to be two different colors—blue or brown—depending on which direction it is viewed from. A skilled lapidary cuts the tanzanite to take advantage of the most vibrant blue and violet tones. The deepest blues and violet blues are most prized. Today, heating to intensify the blue color is so common that most tanzanite should be considered to be heated unless specified otherwise.

Tanzanite is a gem that is suitable for occasional wear. It is best for earrings and pendants, which take less friction and bumping than rings and bracelets. If you want a tanzanite ring, wear it with care, and never when you are doing active things. A jeweler will advise you as to the best setting styles to ensure that the precious gemstone is protected.

How to Care for Tanzanite

Store your tanzanite jewelry carefully, preferably in separate soft bags to keep pieces from getting scratched. To keep the beautiful color looking its best, clean your gemstone. Bring it to your jeweler for proper cleaning, or you can do it gently at home. Never use jewelry cleaner, chemicals, or very hot or cold water.

Soak the piece in room temperature water with a little mild soap. Use a cotton swab or soft cloth to clean the gem, and try to clean the underside as much as possible. Rinse well with room temperature water and dry gently with a towel before storing.

Tips on How to Wear Winter Jewelry

The cold weather warrants the need for bulky layers, scarves and hats, which can make it difficult to incorporate jewelry into your outfit. The following are a few easy ways tips to wear jewelry with your winter outfit, including jewelry that works best with bulky winter layers:

  • Large, bold pendants will show up with wintery textures such as chunky sweaters. A long chain makes them easy to wear over your top, instead of inside your collar.
  • Small hoops and stud earrings won’t get caught in scarves or sweaters, and are clean and classic. If you do wear earrings on wires, be careful of high coat collars—they can push the wire up behind your ear and push your earring right out.
  • Brooches can be worn on coats and bags. On a coat, you can wear a heavier brooch because the thicker fabric will hold it and look appropriate. If you use a shoulder bag, be sure to put your brooch on your opposite shoulder so the strap doesn’t pull off or damage your brooch.
  • Pins are perfect for winter wear. They accent jackets, cardigans, and heavier fabrics very well. Play with the placement of your pin—try it up higher near your shoulder, at the open edge of your cardigan, or use it as a closure to fasten the top of the cardigan and let the rest be open. Pins are also fun to wear on a fabric or knit hat. Cluster a few at one side, near your face.
  • Flat rings are great for winter wear. It’s always a good idea to make sure your rings aren’t too big, but in the winter it is even more important. Your hands will contract in the cold, and make your rings fit more loosely. It’s so easy to have the rings slide off when you take off your gloves. You may never feel the ring coming off.  If you don’t want to size your ring now, your jeweler can install a temporary ring guard so you can be more secure in the cold weather.
  • Cuff bracelets are perfect for popping on over a chunky knit sweater sleeve, and you can even slide them on over your gloves. Plus, they won’t get totally lost under your coat or jacket.

            Plante Jewelers offers a stunning selection of precious gemstones to create the perfect piece for your lifestyle. Visit our store in Swansea to check out our collections, or create your own personalized designs. We’ll help you find the best option for you or a loved one.

            Nancy Plante
            Nancy Plante


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