Blue Topaz and Turquoise: December Birthstones
Blue Topaz and Turquoise: Two “Blues” for a Joyous Month of Gift-Giving!
Two “blues” define the official birthstones for December, despite the fact that this is one of the most joyous months of the year. Topaz derives its name from the Sanskrit word “tapas,” meaning fire, and its three lovely blue colors remind one of cool lakes in the summertime … thus “fire from the lakes,” in the lore of gemology. Topaz in its pure form is colorless, and for centuries, was used as a substitute for diamond. Its blue color is caused by heat, either from the earth itself or when enhanced by man. The artificial process creates three distinct colors of blue: sky blue, Swiss blue and London blue. The latter is so dark that it is sometimes used as a substitute for some sapphires from S’ri Lanka.
Blue topaz has a powerful market presence, as it has been extensively used the past 40 years by designers of silver and silver and gold jewelry. Brazil, the United States, Pakistan, China and several countries in Africa have large quantities of this gemstone. So prevalent is blue topaz in the 21rst century, that many jewelers and most members of the public have either never seen or have forgotten about the magnificent natural blue birthstone for March, the aquamarine, which exhibits entirely different hues of blue, and which is substantially more expensive. Blue topaz is very inexpensive, comparatively. It has been faceted into beautiful briolettes for pendant necklaces and dangling earrings as well as all the classic shapes of gems for all types of jewelry.
Turquoise, a much older gemstone, is named after the country which paved the way for its introduction into Europe centuries ago … Turkey. In its pure form, turquoise is a luscious “robin’s egg blue color.” Almost all turquoise of that color is mined in Iran, historically and today. If pieces from this region are not enhanced in any way, they can be quite expensive, even as single pieces, and suites of jewelry with matched natural pure blue turquoise are both comparatively rare and pricey. As most Americans know, our southwestern states also produce substantial quantities of turquoise, much of it veined rather than pure blue. Turquoise colors include greens and blues and browns, based on the amount of copper and other minerals in the gemstone. Pieces of American turquoise often provide the primary gemstone for very fine fabricated pieces of jewelry and jewelry art, designed and made by American Indians over the decades, and some of these pieces are exceptionally beautiful and quite expensive. Turquoise was an important gemstone in ancient times and has been found extensively in tombs throughout the globe.
It is important when purchasing any gemstone jewelry, and especially with turquoise, to discuss with the seller the presence of treatment to the stone, which helps sustain its structure, hide veining and to present a more desirable blue color. Methods of enhancement include dyeing and treatment with paraffin and other waxes. Such treatments may not be permanent and strongly affect the cost and ultimately the value of the gemstone.