November’s turquoise: gem of the month
Turquoise is one of the world’s oldest and most treasured gemstones. The blue-green hues of the stone have been valued since ancient times, and the gem has been associated with kings, shamans and other important figures in virtually every major civilization.
Today, turquoise remains a popular favourite among mineral collectors and jewellers, as well as consumers. The stone is particularly important in Native American culture. In addition to its beauty, turquoise is reputed to have a number of mystical powers that can enhance the physical and mental attributes of its owner, as well as offer protection and guidance.
Appearance and physical properties
Turquoise is recognised for its gorgeous blue-green colouring that can range from lighter hues to darker shades. While some gems are solid in their colouring, others have brown or black oxides that show as veins through the stone or give it a mottled appearance. Contrary to what some may assume, this does not detract from the value of the gem, as some people prefer this look over solid-coloured stones.
Turquoise is completely opaque, with no transparency at all. The stone often appears dull, so is often treated with waxes or oils to increase its lustre. The gem is also very porous, making it easy to enhance with dyes. This may be done to give greener stones more blue colouring, as this is preferred. Turquoise is also a softer gemstone, making is susceptible to scratching.
History and legends
Turquoise is one of the oldest gems in the world, with a rich history that dates back to ancient Egypt and beyond. The Egyptians used the gem in jewellery, while the ancient Chinese used it to create beautiful carvings. In Persia (now Iran), ancient cultures mined the stones more than 2,000 years ago and believed turquoise represented heaven. In fact, many palaces and temples were adorned with the gemstone because of this belief. Persia was also home to some of the world’s largest turquoise mines, which is where many of the world’s stones originated before heading to Europe in the 17th century. Trade routes took the gems through Turkey, which was known as Turquie in French, leading the locals there to refer to the stones as Turquies and, ultimately, giving rise to the name turquoise.
Use in Native American culture
While turquoise has been mined and treasured all across the globe, the people most associated with the gem are the Native Americans. In many Native American cultures, turquoise was considered sacred and was used for both ceremonial purposes and for trading. The Southwestern US has been closely tied to turquoise, as this region has been a principal source for the stone. The Navajos in particular are known for their stunning silver and turquoise jewellery, which remains one of the most popular ways in which the stone is used.
Turquoise is also recognised by many as a powerful gem that can provide protection and guidance to whomever wears it. It is said to balance energies and serves as a link between physical and spiritual realms. It also has a number of healing properties, including helping to ease depression and anxiety and assisting the immune system. It is said to detoxify the body and act as an anti-inflammatory as well. Emotionally, the stone has a healing energy that can promote positive thinking and soothe the mind and spirit.