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By Reviewed By Andreas Zabczyk Dec 23, 2006 Updated Jul 29, 2023

Turquoise Gemstone Information

Turquoise Gemstone - Large Image
Natural Turquoise Gemstone

About Turquoise - History and Introduction

Turquoise is a sky-blue or green translucent to opaque basic aluminum 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 color that we recognize as turquoise was named after this gemstone.

Turquoise was used by the ancient Egyptians and Aztecs as a jewelry gemstone and decorative stone. King Tutankhamun's burial mask and tomb was inlaid with turquoise. The ancient Egyptians believed that the color 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 jewelry, some of whom believed that it possessed protective properties. The Tibetans believe in the healing properties of turquoise and have valued turquoise jewelry for centuries.

Turquoise Cabochon

Identifying Turquoise

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Turquoise can be identified by its distinctive sky blue, blue-green or apple-green color and waxy to matt luster. 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

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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

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Turquoise Color

Turquoise is the only gemstone that has a color named after it. Turquoise is sometimes mixed with malachite or chrysocolla, which causes a blue and green mottled appearance. The turquoise that is found in the USA contains iron rather than aluminum, so it is actually a mixture of turquoise and chalcosiderite. Since it contains iron, it is a green color. Pure blue turquoise is rare and turquoise is mostly interspersed by brown, dark-grey or black veins, which can be sparse or dense. These veins are either the host rock or other minerals and turquoise that contains veins is referred to as "turquoise matrix". The most popular color of turquoise is sky-blue (also called "robin's egg blue" or "Persian blue"), followed by blue-green or apple-green.

Turquoise Clarity and Luster

Turquoise is translucent to opaque, though translucent materials are rare. It exhibits a waxy to matt luster. Most turquoise has dark-grey, brown or black veiny inclusions of matrix or other minerals. These inclusions can be sparse or dense. The most desirable turquoise is translucent, pure and free from veins. However, sometimes veined turquoise has attractive patterns that make it desirable, such as "spider web turquoise" (also called "cobweb turquoise matrix") which has beautiful web-like patterns.

Turquoise Cut and Shape

Turquoise is mostly cut en cabochon for earrings, brooches, necklace pendants, bracelets, belts and rings. It may be cut into oval or fancy cabochons. Due to turquoise being one of the softer gemstones, it is also carved into ornamental objects and used for inlay. Spherical turquoise beads are also popular for bracelets, earrings and necklaces, as are tumbled pieces of turquoise and turquoise chips.

Turquoise Treatment

Turquoise is a porous material, so it is sometimes impregnated with polymers, wax or plastic to enhance the color and harden its surface. Turquoise color is also enhanced with the use of oil or paraffin, colors or copper salt. Imitation turquoise is made from dyeing chalcedony or howlite. Powdered turquoise is glued and glass, porcelain and plastic are used to make imitation turquoise gemstones. "Neolite" is a turquoise imitation with a dark matrix, also known as "Reese turquoise". "Neo turquoise" is another imitation turquoise with a dark matrix. "Viennese turquoise" is another imitation turquoise. All reputable gem traders declare any enhancement or treatment of turquoise gemstones, and should inform buyers of synthetic or imitation material.

Turquoise Gemological Properties:

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Chemical Formula: CuAl6(PO4)4(OH)8•4H2O Copper containing basic aluminum phosphate
Crystal Structure: Triclinic (seldom); botryoidal aggregates
color: Sky-blue, blue-green, apple-green
Hardness: 5 to 6 on the Mohs scale
Refractive Index: 1.610 to 1.650
Density: 2.31 to 2.84
Cleavage: None
Transparency: Translucent, opaque
Double Refraction or Birefringence: 0.040
Luster: Waxy, matt
Fluorescence: Weak; green-yellow, light-blue

Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemology-related terms.

Turquoise: Related or Similar Gemstones

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Variscite Gemstone

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 aluminum, 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 luster, whereas chrysocolla tends to exhibit a vitreous luster.

Varieties and trade names of turquoise are listed below:
Eilat stone - A greenish-blue mixture of chrysocolla, turquoise and malachite or other copper minerals, which is mined from copper mines near Eilat, Israel.
Kingman turquoise - Good colored turquoise from the Mineral Park Mine, near Kingman, Arizona.
Navajo turquoise - Turquoise that comes from South West America with brown or black veins.
Persian turquoise - Iranian turquoise of high quality that tends to be pure sky-blue in color.

Turquoise Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers

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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 color 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.

Disclaimer: Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers and Properties are not to be taken as confirmed advice. Traditional, Ceremonial and Mythological Gemstone Lore is collected from various resources and does not represent the sole opinion of SETT Co., Ltd. This information is not to replace the advice of your doctor. Should you have any medical conditions, please see a licensed medical practitioner. GemSelect does not guarantee any claims or statements of healing or astrological birthstone powers and cannot be held liable under any circumstances.

Turquoise Gemstone and jewelry Design Ideas

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Turquoise is popular in tribal and ethnic jewelry, 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 jewelry. Large turquoise gemstones make bold designs whilst turquoise chips and small beads lend themselves well to more delicate designs. The cool color of turquoise makes it a perfect summer gemstone and turquoise jewelry 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 colored gemstones and diamond accents, also in yellow gold. Turquoise can also be seen in men's jewelry such as rings and cufflinks, and as embellishments to men's accessories, such as leather belts.

Note: Buy colored gemstones by size and not by carat weight. colored stones vary in size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamonds by weight in comparison.

Famous Turquoise Gemstones

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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 jewelry.

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 jewelry 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 Jewelry Care and Cleaning

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How to clean your gemstonesSince it is a porous material, turquoise must be properly cared for in order to maintain its color and luster. Turquoise is sensitive to heat and if exposed to 250 degree Celsius heat, the color will turn a dull green. If exposed to prolonged direct sunlight, perspiration, oil, perfume, detergent or other chemicals, turquoise can suffer color 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 jewelry 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, jewelry 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.

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