For those with December birthdays, Turquoise is a fitting birthstone because it’s known for granting power and protection, particularly against falls. From ancient Egyptians to Persians, Aztecs and Native Americans, kings and warriors alike admired turquoise for thousands of years. As a result, the stone adorned everything from jewelry to ceremonial masks to weapons and bridles.
The name turquoise dates back to the 13th century, drawing from the French expression “pierre tourques,” which referenced the “Turkish stone” brought to Europe from Turkey. Admired since ancient times, turquoise is known for its distinct color, which ranges from powdery blue to greenish robin’s egg blue. Thus, It’s one of few minerals to lend its name to anything that resembles its striking color. Turquoise is sensitive to direct sunlight and solvents like makeup, perfume and natural oils. The hardest turquoise measures 6 on the Mohs scale, which made this soft stone popular in carved talismans throughout history.
Ancient Persia, which is now Iran, was the traditional source for sky blue turquoise. This color is often called “Persian blue” today, regardless of its origin. As well, the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt was also an important historical source. Nonetheless, the U.S. is now the world’s largest turquoise supplier.
Moreover, turquoise is found in arid regions where rainwater dissolves copper in the soil, forming colorful nodular deposits when it combines with aluminum and phosphorus. Furthermore, copper contributes blue hues, while iron and chrome add a hint of green. Therefore, states like Nevada, New Mexico, California and Colorado have produced turquoise, but Arizona leads in production by value, as well as quality. In any case, the stone’s popularity here makes it a staple in Native American jewelry.
Cultures around the world have admired the distinct color of turquoise since ancient times. The earliest evidence comes from ancient Egyptian tombs, which contain elaborate turquoise jewelry dating back to 3000 BCE. Egyptians set turquoise in gold necklaces and rings, used it as inlay and carved it into scarabs. Most notably, King Tut’s iconic burial mask was extravagantly adorned with turquoise. The oldest turquoise mines are located in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. One sat near an ancient temple dedicated to Hathor, the Greek goddess of love and joy worshipped as a protector in the desert and as the patron saint of mining. What’s more, Egyptians called turquoise mefkat, which meant “joy” and “delight.” Ancient Persians decorated extensively with turquoise, often engraving it with Arabic script. Turquoise covered palace domes because its sky blue color represented heaven. (This later inspired the use of turquoise in buildings like the Taj Mahal.)
Believing turquoise guaranteed protection, Persians adorned their daggers and horses’ bridles with it. Their name for turquoise, pirouzeh, meant “victory.” Persians wore turquoise jewelry around their necks and in their turbans. They believed it offered protection by changing color to warn of pending doom. In fact, Turquoise can, in fact, fade if exposed to sunlight or solvents.
Apache Indians believed that attaching turquoise to bows and later, firearms…improved a hunter’s accuracy. Turquoise became valuable in Native American trade, which carried North American material toward South America. Consequently, Aztecs cherished turquoise for its protective power, and used it on ceremonial masks, knives and shields. Subsequently, the turquoise-studded silver jewelry that’s commonly associated with Native Americans today originated in the 1880s, when a white trader convinced a Navajo craftsman to transform a silver coin into turquoise jewelry.
Whether you’re purchasing turquoise for yourself or a loved one, you’re making an investment in a beautiful piece, that will stand the test of time, with fabulous statement pieces ranging from pendants to rings. Nevertheless, the gem is very durable and can compliment both special occasion looks as well as everyday ensembles in addition to flattering both warm and cool colors. Likewise, its namesake blue color has been internationally revered for centuries as a symbol of protection, friendship, and happiness. Alas, besides being the December birthstone, turquoise is also used to celebrate the 11th year of marriage.
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