Turquoise birthstone jewellery

Turquoise is one of the world’s oldest gemstones and has been found buried in Ancient Egyptian tombs that date back to 4,000 B.C. it was thought to be a protective stone, possessing many beneficial powers including luck and peace. Nowadays it remains sought after for its rich, intense colour and, when paired with silver, makes a fabulous jewellery gift!

Turquoise birthstone jewellery collection

Turquoise birthstone jewellery

The most revered turquoise is blue in colour (rather than a green to greenish blue hue), sometimes referred to as robin’s egg blue or sky blue. Turquoise can often be mottled and have veins or ‘matrix’ (remnants of its surrounding rock) running through it. The material known as spiderweb turquoise contains fine seams of matrix that form web-like patterns. It is acknowledged that out of all the different turquoise available, the most valuable turquoise is an even medium blue with no matrix.

Turquoise is said to connect heaven and earth, providing a calming, grounding energy and a connection to the spiritual world. It is said to enhance communication, expression and is often used for healing purposes. It’s also an emotions balancer and promotes feelings of calm and peace.

These days much turquoise will be treated to make it stable enough for cutting and jewellery making or to improve its colour. Reconstituted turquoise is made from small pieces of turquoise that are mixed with resin and cast into block-shaped pieces which are then sawn into smaller pieces for jewellery making. I offer a mix of natural turquoise stone jewellery and reconstituted turquoise pieces.

The stone ranks 5 to 6 on the Mohs scale and its toughness is fair to good but it’s a good idea to store it separately to stop it scratching against harder materials. Turquoise is often porous and can absorb liquids including cleaning products and cosmetics so care should be taken to avoid contact with these. Turquoise can be cleaned with a mild soap solution, rinsed with plain water and dried with a soft cloth.

As well as the traditional December birthstone, turquoise is also given as an 11th wedding anniversary present.

The turquoise story

One of the world’s most ancient gemstones, both Egyptians and Chinese artisans were using it in jewellery making and carvings thousands of years ago. Turquoise is the national gemstone of Tibet and has long been associated with health, good fortune and protection from evil.

About 4000 years ago, a sky-blue variety of turquoise was found in Persia. This variety proved very popular and was traded throughout Asia and into Europe; it is also how the term ‘Persian Blue’ originated.

Turquoise was a ceremonial gem and native American tribes would trade with it as well as wear it in their jewellery and amulets. The Apaches believed that turquoise attached to a bow would increase a hunter’s accuracy!

The actual word ‘turquoise’ comes from a French word meaning ‘Turkish’, possibly because the stone was introduced to Medieval Europe by Turkish sources.

Turquoise became so popular that the English language even adopted the word ‘turquoise’ to describe a colour, the bluey green colour that is so reminiscent of the gemstone.

What is turquoise and where can you find it?

Turquoise is mostly an opaque stone but very rare transparent or translucent turquoise crystal specimens do exist.

Turquoise is only found in dry and arid areas where rainfall infiltrates through soil and rock, dissolving small amounts of copper on its way down. When this water evaporates, the copper combines with aluminium and phosphorus to deposit tiny amounts of turquoise on the walls of subsurface fractures. Turquoise can also replace the rock in contact with these waters. If the replacement is complete, a solid mass of turquoise will form. When the replacement is less complete, the host rock will appear as matrix (referred to earlier) within the turquoise.

Some turquoise mines only produce one sort of colour and appearance. An example of this is the Sleeping Beauty Mine in Arizona which closed in 2012; it was known for its light blue turquoise without matrix. The Kingman mine (also in Arizona) is known for its bright blue turquoise with a spider web of black matrix. The greener tone is caused by small amounts of iron substituting for aluminium in the turquoise structure. The colour can also change when small amounts of iron or zinc substitute for copper.

Most of the world’s turquoise rough is currently produced in the south west USA, China, Chile, Egypt, Iran and Mexico.

Most of the turquoise mined in the United States is a by-product of copper production. The large open-pit copper mines excavate down through the shallow rock units where the turquoise is formed. This is then assessed for volume and quality to see if mining the stone is viable.