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December Birthstone Q and A: Turquoise, Tanzanite

December birthdays are extra special occasions. Not only do they take place around holiday festivities, but those born in December have three birthstones with which to celebrate: turquoise, tanzanite and zircon.

All three gemstones have some interesting facts and history. Test your knowledge with Empire Jewelers' December birthstone quiz!

Turquoise is a blue-green mineral. What is its chemical name?

Where does the word turquoise derive from, and what does it mean?

The ancient Egyptians are often credited with the earliest use of turquoise from mines on Mount Sinai. How did the Egyptians use turquoise?

Where does some of the finest turquoise come from today?

Native Americans consider turquoise to be a sacred gem. Why do shamans use turquoise in rituals?

Tanzanite is a blue variety of what gemstone?

Tanzanite is named after the only place on Earth where it can be found. Where is that location?

Originally known as blue zoisite, why was the mineral re-named tanzanite by Henry Platt, Vice President of Tiffany & Co.

Dr. Paul Desautels, then Assistant Curator of the Smithsonian Institution, was another early fan of tanzanite. What did he do with tanzanite?

In October 2002, the American Gem Trade Association added tanzanite to what list?

Zircon is a mineral that comes in a variety of colors, including red, blue and colorless. What is zircon's chemical name?

Colorless zircons have been used to imitate diamonds, but should not be confused with what laboratory-grown material?

Where is zircon mainly mined?

The name zircon is derived from the Arabic words 'zar' and 'gun.' What does the word zircon mean?

In the Middle Ages, what did many people believe zircon could do and promote?

December Birthstone Quiz Answers:

Turquoise's chemical name is hydrated copper aluminum phosphate.

The word turquoise is derived from the Old French word meaning Turkish stone. Turquoise was first brought to Europe from Turkeyin the 16th century.

The ancient Egyptians believed turquoise had magical powers, and used turquoise in jewelry, art, ornaments and statues.

Today, the finest turquoise comes from Iran, but high-grade turquoise is also mined in Arizona and New Mexico.

Native American shamans use turquoise in rituals to promote spiritual and mental clarity.

Tanzanite is the blue variety of the gemstone, zoisite.

Tanzanite is named after the East African state of Tanzania, the only place in the world where it can be found.

Henry Platt, Vice President of Tiffany & Co., felt blue zoisite sounded too close to the word, suicide, so he renamed the gemstone tanzanite.

Dr. Paul Desautels, then Assistant Curator of the Smithsonian Institution, had never seen blue zoisite, aka tanzanite, before, and quickly acquired it for the Smithsonian's mineral collection.

In October 2002, the American Gem Trade Association added tanzanite to its official birthstone list as a December birthstone.

The chemical name for zircon is zirconium silicate.

Colorless zircons should not be confused with the now popular cubic zirconia, or zirconium oxide, which is a laboratory grown material.

Zircon is primarily mined in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The name zircon is derived from the Arabic words 'zar' and 'gun,' which mean gold and color, respectively.

In the Middle Ages, many people believed zircons could relieve pain, induce hunger, protect travelers from disease and injury, ensure a warm welcome and promote restful sleep.

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