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This month's birthstones

Tuesday 03 December 2013

The first association of a special gem with each month was recorded in the Bible. Exodus 28 and 39 describe how, in 1250 BC, Moses made a breastplate for the High Priest of the Hebrews according to instructions he received during 40 days in the mountains. The breastplate featured twelve gems which were later linked with the signs of the zodiac and, later still, associated with the months in the year.
The breastplate is described as being square with four rows of precious stones. In the first row there was a ruby, a topaz and a beryl; in the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and an emerald; in the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst; in the fourth row a chrysolite, an onyx and a jasper. Mounted in gold filigree settings, each of the twelve stones - one for each of the names of the sons of Israel - was engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.


There are two birthstones for December – Turquoise and Zircon


A copper aluminium phosphate, turquoise’s sought after blue colour is caused by copper while its greener shades are the result of iron being present. It actually has a very wide colour range, from almost white, through pale blue and sky blue to a greeny-blue, green, almost olive green and even brown. With a hardness of 5 to 6 0n the Mohs scale, it sometimes has to be stabilised with resins before it can be carved or polished for use as beads or cabuchons in jewellery.
The name is thought to derive from the French expression Pierre tourques, meaning Turkish stone. This is probably because the trade routes used to transport turquoise to Europe from mines in central Asia passed through Turkey and some merchants will have bought their stones in Turkish bazaars en route. One of the oldest stones to be used for jewellery and talismans, it was, and still is, popular all over the world. It is the national gemstone of Iran, has been valued in Tibet for centuries and is the most prized stone for Native Americans who have mined it and used it in their jewellery for more than a thousand years. Beads dating back to 5,000BC have been found in Iraq and the Egyptians are known to have been mining turquoise in Sinai in 3200BC.
Native Americans called turquoise Chal-cui-hui-tal - ‘the highest and most valued thing in the world’. The blue in turquoise symbolised the Heavens and green symbolized the Earth. The Navajo believed that turquoise pieces thrown into a river while offering a prayer to the rain god would bring much needed rain, whilst the Apache believed that a turquoise attached to a bow or gun would ensure accurate aim.
There are many superstitions associated with turquoise. In the 3rd century it was believed to protect its owner from falling off a horse. It was said to heal eyes – just looking at it strengthened the eye while placing it on the eye itself reduced inflammation. Turquoise was a barometer of its user’s health, turning pale in illness and losing colour in death, yet regaining its original beauty in the hands of a new and healthy owner.
Turquoise is considered by some to be a symbol of good fortune and success, bringing prosperity to its wearer. It is also seen as a love charm, symbolizing a pledge of affection when given as a gift. Associated with the throat chakra, turquoise not only helps one to communicate but also to articulate truth and wisdom.
Robert Simmons (The Book Of Stones) associates turquoise with wholeness, communication and spiritual expansion.
Melody (Love Is In The Earth) says turquoise, ‘can bring any and all energies to a higher level. It does, however, primarily stimulate the throat, heart and naval chakras, bringing communication skills to emotional issues, to creativity and to intuition, while allowing for the application of love in all issues.’


A zirconium silicate mineral with a hardness of 6.7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale, this crystal is usually brownish red to brownish yellow in its natural state but heat treatment produces colourless, yellow, green, red and blue stones which have a high brilliance and intense fire when faceted into gemstones. For many years colourless zircon was used to imitate diamonds.
The name is derived from Arabic words ‘zar’ and ‘gun’, meaning gold and colour.
Folk wisdom grants zircon the power to relieve pain, whet the appetite, protect travellers from disease and injury, ensure a warm welcome and prevent nightmares.
Naisha Ahsian (The Book Of Stones) says zircon , ‘stimulates every chakra of the body, bringing high-frequency energy through the crown and grounding it through the base chakra. It stimulates the flow of chi (energy) through the meridian system and can be helpful in overcoming sluggish or depressed energies.’ She also says zircon stimulates the body’s ability to cleanse toxins from the system. She and Robert Simmons associate zircon with stimulation of the chakras, increased life force and grounding of ideals in the physical world. He says, “It is a stone that can help one to ‘make it real’ in regards to the integration of one’s inner and outer life. It also helps those who tend to be ungrounded to ‘get real’ in regard to taking care of the necessities of earthly life in a practical, organised fashion.”