December Birthstone - Turquoise

December babies are lucky to have their choice of birthstone, one of the most popular being turquois. Turquoise is admired for its individuality. Each stone has a different pattern or design, no two ever being identical. These veiny patterns, or matrixes, are actually a part of the host stone on which the turquoise forms.

vintage turquois rings
Vintage turquoise rings.

Turquoise ranges in color from greenish grey to sky-blue, sky-blue being the most highly desired and valuable color. The most valuable turquoise on the market is found in Iran, the Sinai Peninsula, and the western United States (Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico), but it is also actively mined in Afghanistan, Australia, Chile, China, Mexico, Peru, Tibet and Turkestan.

An Egyptian History of Turquoise

The mining of turquoise can be dated back to over 7,500 years ago. Associated with Hathor, the goddess of love, motherhood, joy and music, this sacred stone was used by healers and commonly worn by kings and pharaohs.

This cherished gemstone was even found garnishing the coffin of the famous King Nebrkeperura Tutankhamun, or “King Tut”. One turquoise bracelet that was found on the mummified arm of Queen Zar, which dates back to the second ruler of Egypt’s first dynasty in 5,500 BC.

victorian gold and diamond turquoise ring
Victorian gold diamond and turquoise.

A Persian History of Turquoise

For centuries, robin’s egg blue turquoise from Persia was said to be the most desirable form of turquoise anywhere in the world. Mining in what is now known as Northeastern Iran has been active dating back to 4,000 BC.

Persians created lavish mosaics using this bright blue gemstone, which caused a spark in popularity, igniting demand across the world. It was known to represent the heavens because of its rich coloring, and it commonly decorated the domes of palaces and places of worship.

This is one of the reasons turquoise is derived from a French word, “Turquie”, meaning “Turkish stone”. This reference dates to the import of Persian turquoise through Constantinople on its way to Europe and the west.

Unlike Native Americans, Persian Turquoise was prized for its cleanliness and lack of inclusions. Nowadays, “Persian Turquoise” is commonly used as a statement of quality more than origin, used to refer to versions of the stone that do not have a black or brown matrix.

A South American History of Turquoise

For as long as our history is capable of going back, the ancient civilizations of the Aztecs, Toltecs and Olmecs all prized this beautiful stone, often using it to decorate “death masks”. These “death masks” usually had no holes for the eyes and mouth, and were generally reserved to be worn by nobles while being buried.

In Mayan culture, no one was allowed to wear, or even own turquoise, as it was reserved for the gods and the decoration of the images of the gods.

victorian yellow gold turquoise earrings
Victorian yellow gold and turquoise earrings.

A North American History of Turquoise

It is not surprise that Native North Americans viewed turquoise with as much admiration as the tribes in South America, after all, the finest turquoise in the world comes from the mines in New Mexico and Arizona. The turquoise mines of Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico have been producing fine quality gemstones since 200 BC. It was one of the first items that fostered trade between native tribes until a civil war destroyed to Toltec Empire around 1100 AD.

The Apache held turquoise at an especially high regard. They believed that arrows and spears would not hit their target if it were not adorned in the gemstone. Medicine-men were often heavily decorated in the stone in order to command the respect worthy of their position.

While they long had a reputation for admiring the stone, Native Americans did not become associated with turquoise jewelry until the late 1800’s when Europeans introduced new metal working technology. Prior to this period, Native Americans were known for turquoise carvings and inlaid mosaics. They began creating hand-made silver and turquoise jewelry in a unique style that soon created a strong demand for these unique pieces.

Mystical Properties of Turquoise

Throughout history, no gemstone has been used in the form of an amulet more than turquoise. The stone has been said to appease hatred, prevent headaches and detect danger by changing color. The color change with turquoise is said to be temporary, and color is restored to the stone when danger is averted.

In the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed that turquoise was able to absorb the evil that was intended for the wearer. This quality was only said to work when the gem was gifted, not purchased.

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