Turquoise has been a treasured jewelry stone around the world for thousands of years. It was used for beads by the Egyptians as early as 5500 B.C. Combined with other ornamental stones, the turquoise was inlaid in gold by Sumerians and Egyptians to produce very sophisticated necklaces, bracelets, anklets, belts, headdresses and earrings. Pre-Columbian Indians used turquoise for beads and pendants from 500 B.C. Burial grounds of Central America and Mexico yield teeth decorated with turquoises tribute to early dentistry as well as ideas for adornment.
A Stone Rich in Legend
Turquoise has been believed to confer foresight as well as protect the wearer from danger. In various countries, it is believed to fade when illness or danger is near. Another belief is that a fading stone indicates a lover's faithlessness or a friend's disaffection.
In many cultures, the stone is regarded as a harbinger of good fortune, success and health. Aztecs and Egyptians considered it a symbol of prosperity. In India, one was to wear a turquoise on the little finger and look at the stone after seeing the new moon to gain great wealth. According to American Indians, the stone brought together the spirits of sea and sky to bless warriors and hunters; a turquoise arrowhead assured accurate aim. It was said that a fine turquoise was hidden in the damp ground at the end of the rainbow. A Navajo belief is that a piece of turquoise cast into a river, accompanied by a prayer to the god of rain, will cause rainfall.
Ancient doctors exploited the stone's medicinal potential by making it into a paste to treat ailments of the hip. The Egyptians also mounted turquoise in silver to treat eyes suffering from cataract. Since the fourteenth century, harnesses of dogs, horses and other animals have been decorated with turquoise to protect the animal and master from falling injuries. According to a thirteenth century writer, the stone used for this purpose should be set in gold.
Where Turquoise Comes From
The oldest source of turquoise is the Maghara Wadi mines in the Sinai Peninsula. By 3200 B.C., mining expeditions of up to several thousand laborers were sent there annually. These mines were worked for the pharaohs for 2000 years. They were rediscovered in the mid-nineteenth century and worked on and off until the beginning of this century.
The mines of Nishapur, in northeastern Iran, described in 1300 A.D. as having belonged to Isaac, the son of Abraham, supplied turquoise to Europe and Western Asia for centuries, and to the United States for years before production ceased.
While turquoise has been produced in Tibet, China, Australia, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Turkestan and Afghanistan, the principal source today is the Southwest region of the United States-New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona. It has also been found in Texas, Colorado and California.
The turquoise from Iran is characteristically an intense medium blue color and takes a fine polish. American and Mexican turquoises range from light blue to greenish-blue to bluish-green. Egyptian turquoise contains more green, showing greenish-blue to yellowish-green. The finest color, sometimes referred to as Persian, is an even robin's egg blue.
A Versatile Stone
Turquoise may be fashioned to include portions of the rock in which it was found. This rock is referred to as matrix. The matrix often forms a pattern called "spiderweb," which many people prefer to stones without matrix.
A stone worn to advantage by men and women of all ages, turquoise offers great variety. It can be set in silver or gold, alone or in combination with other gemstones to produce an unlimited number of design possibilities for rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, belts, watchbands and tie ornaments.
Making a Wise Purchase
Since subtle differences in quality can make large differences in beauty (and price), it is important to select your jewelry from a professional who can guide you honestly and ethically in your purchase. Our firm is a member of the American Gem Society. As a condition of membership, we are re-examined each year to meet the Society's high standards for knowledge, professionalism and integrity. The AGS symbol is the hallmark of consumer protection within the jewelry profession - as it has been for over 50 years. Many gems are processed to enhance their natural beauty. Ask your American Gem Society jeweler to discuss which techniques might apply to the gem of your choice.