Turquoise Gemstone Information
About Turquoise - History and Introduction
Turquoise is a sky-blue or green translucent to opaque basic aluminium phosphate that contains copper. It has been prized as a gemstone for millennia. The name "turquoise" comes from the French "turqueise", meaning "Turkish stone", because it was first transported to Europe via a Turkish nation. The colour that we recognize as turquoise was named after this gemstone.
Turquoise was used by the ancient Egyptians and Aztecs as a jewellery gemstone and decorative stone. King Tutankhamun's burial mask and tomb was inlaid with turquoise. The ancient Egyptians believed that the colour blue was a symbol of regeneration, so turquoise was treasured for both decorative and superstitious purposes. The Mesoamericans created turquoise mosaics and the Chinese carved turquoise into ornaments. Turquoise was also used by Native Americans in works of art and jewellery, some of whom believed that it possessed protective properties. The Tibetans believe in the healing properties of turquoise and have valued turquoise jewellery for centuries.
Identifying Turquoise Back to Top
Turquoise can be identified by its distinctive sky blue, blue-green or apple-green colour and waxy to matt lustre. Additionally, a Mohs hardness of 5 to 6 can distinguish turquoise from similar gemstones such as chrysocolla, variscite and smithsonite. Its hardness can also help to distinguish turquoise from imitations or synthetic materials.
Turquoise; Origin and Gemstone Sources Back to Top
Turquoise occurs as botyroidal (grape-like) masses or nodules in fissures. The best quality turquoise is located in Northeast Iran. Turquoise deposits are also found in Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Israel, Mexico, Tanzania and the USA.
Buying Turquoise and Determining Turquoise Gemstone Value Back to Top
Turquoise Gemmological Properties: Back to Top
Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemmology-related terms.
Turquoise: Related or Similar Gemstones Back to Top
Turquoise is sometimes referred to as a cousin of lapis lazuli due to its similar appearance. It sometimes mixed with malachite or chrysocolla, which causes a blue and green mottled appearance. Turquoise found in the USA contains iron rather than aluminium, so it is actually a mixture of turquoise and chalcosiderite.
Turquoise is sometimes mistaken for variscite. However, variscite is typically greener. Chrysocolla can be confused for turquoise, but turquoise is harder and has a waxy or matt lustre, whereas chrysocolla tends to exhibit a vitreous lustre.
Varieties and trade names of turquoise are listed below:
Turquoise Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers Back to Top
Turquoise has a long history of use as a talisman or amulet. The ancient Egyptians, Mesoamericans, Native Americans and Tibetans have believed in the special powers of turquoise for centuries. Some believed that turquoise can protect its wearer from harm, whilst others thought that it brought good luck or longevity. Moreover, some cultures accredited turquoise with the ability to reflect the health of the wearer; its colour fading when worn by those in ill health and becoming deeper and more vivid when worn by a healthy person.
Nowadays, turquoise is believed to offer protection and to be helpful for careers and travel. It is thought to facilitate leadership and clear communication. Physically, turquoise is thought to alleviate migraines and benefit the brain, eyes, ears, neck, lungs and throat. Turquoise is related to feelings of peace and balance, especially the balance of male and female. In traditional Hindu belief systems, turquoise is associated with clearing Ajna, or the third eye chakra and Vishuddha, or the throat chakra. Ajna is connected with the pineal gland, the pituitary gland, intuition and the intellect. Vishuddha is linked to purification, wisdom, verbal communication, the ears, neck and throat. Turquoise is the traditional birthstone for December and a zodiacal stone for Sagittarians. In feng shui, turquoise carries water energy.
Turquoise Gemstone and Jewellery Design Ideas Back to Top
Turquoise is popular in tribal and ethnic jewellery, especially in native American and Tibetan styles using silver. However, it looks equally stunning when set in yellow precious metal, such as in Egyptian inspired jewellery. Large turquoise gemstones make bold designs whilst turquoise chips and small beads lend themselves well to more delicate designs. The cool colour of turquoise makes it a perfect summer gemstone and turquoise jewellery can be made to suit any preference, from simple wire-wrapping or beaded pieces to intricate antique designs. Cartier accent a turquoise cabochon cocktail ring with diamonds set in yellow gold. Bulgari use turquoise inlay with clashing coloured gemstones and diamond accents, also in yellow gold. Turquoise can also be seen in men's jewellery such as rings and cufflinks, and as embellishments to men's accessories, such as leather belts.
Note: Buy coloured gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Coloured stones vary in size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamonds by weight in comparison.
Famous Turquoise Gemstones Back to Top
Probably the most famous turquoise of all can be seen in the inlay of Egyptian King Tutankhamen's funeral mask.
Displayed in the British Museum are a number of ancient Mesoamerican works of art covered with turquoise mosaic work, including a wooden ceremonial shield, a rain god mask and a double-headed serpent.
The Smithsonian Institution also has a collection of interesting turquoise artefacts; a Chinese snuff bottle, a Navajo bracelet and Empress Marie-Louise's Diadem. The diadem was given to Empress Marie-Louise by Napoleon when they were married. It was originally set with emeralds, which were changed for turquoise gemstones in the 1950s by Van Cleef & Arpels, who acquired the diadem in 1953 and later sold the emeralds as individual pieces of jewellery.
Maria Magdalena Philomena Juliana Johanna de Tornos y Steinhart, Duchess of Vendome, wore a turquoise diadem for her wedding to Prince Jean of Orleans, Dauphin of France, Duke of Vendome, on 2nd May 2009 at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Senlis.
Turquoise jewellery has been seen adorning stars such as Salma Hayek, Heidi Klum, Scarlet Johansson, Megan Fox, Blake Lively, Sarah Jessica Parker and Eva Mendes.
A gold and turquoise ring once owned by writer, Jane Austen was acquired by American singer Kelly Clarkson in 2013. However, an export ban enforced by the British culture minister allowed a Jane Austen museum to raise enough cash to keep the ring in the UK. Ms Clarkson agreed to re-sell the ring, which is now kept at the Hampshire Jane Austen's House Museum.
Turquoise Gemstone Jewellery Care and Cleaning Back to Top
Since it is a porous material, turquoise must be properly cared for in order to maintain its colour and lustre. Turquoise is sensitive to heat and if exposed to 250 degree Celsius heat, the colour will turn a dull green. If exposed to prolonged direct sunlight, perspiration, oil, perfume, detergent or other chemicals, turquoise can suffer colour deterioration. It would be prudent to remove turquoise rings before washing hands or engaging in household chores. Additionally, when dressing it is advisable to put on turquoise jewellery last and remove it first when undressing, to avoid exposure to hairspray, perfume or similar cosmetic products. Turquoise is considered to be fairy tough, but it is also fairly soft at 5-6 on the Mohs scale. It's softer than many gemstones, but with care, jewellery and ornaments can last for many generations. Turquoise gemstones should be stored separately to other gemstones to avoid scratches. Turquoise can be quite sensitive to strong pressure, high temperatures and harsh household chemicals and cleaners. Avoid exposing turquoise to bleach or sulphuric acid. Most turquoise can be cleaned using warm, soapy water, but some dyed materials may not be stable. For dyed or impregnated stones, it's best to test a small area first to ensure stability. Wipe down stones using only a soft cloth and be sure to rinse well to remove any soapy residue.
- First Published: December-23-2006
- Last Updated: May-29-2014
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