One of the first gemstones to be mined and used in jewelry, turquoise is known for its beautifully unique color.
Those lucky enough to be born in December get a very special birthstone: turquoise. Dating back to 3000 BC, the stone is actually one of the first gems to ever be discovered.
One of the first gemstones to be mined and used in jewelry, this gemstone is known for its beautifully unique color, ranging from powdery blue to an unrivaled “robin's egg” blue.
Unlike many other gems, the birthstone of December is opaque rather than translucent. It is a light and very fragile gemstone. On fresh fractures, it has a waxy or vitreous luster.
Admired in many cultures since ancient times, turquoise has long been prized for its intense color. Its extraordinary hue and historic significance have resulted in turquoise becoming a favorite of many.
This widely available stone, however, is rarely found in its pure, natural form.
Turquoise is not usually faceted like other gemstones. It is shaped into cabochons, beads, or is carved into fancy shapes like flowers.
Turquoise has a rich history with many interesting properties. Keep reading to find them out.
Born in the barren lands
The word “turquoise” dates back to the 13th century, drawing from the French expression pierre tourques, which referenced the “Turkish stone” brought to Europe from Turkey.
Ancient Persia (now Iran) was the traditional source for sky blue turquoise gemstones. Nowadays, the U.S. is the world’s largest turquoise supplier. Nevada, New Mexico, California, and Colorado have produced turquoise, but Arizona leads in production by value, as well as quality.
Turquoise forms in only a few places on earth: dry and barren regions where acidic, copper-rich groundwater seeps downward and reacts with minerals that contain phosphorus and aluminum.
Turquoise is found in arid regions where rainwater dissolves copper in the soil, forming colorful nodular deposits. As water moves through porous rock, minerals are dissolved, such as copper, aluminum and iron. Over a long time, these minerals accumulate in pores and cracks to form deposits of the material we know as turquoise.
The color is, of course, turquoise, but this color actually varies. Other varieties in the turquoise color range are celeste (a sky-blue), light turquoise, medium turquoise (a shade darker than turquoise blue), dark turquoise (the darkest shade), and bright turquoise (somewhere between turquoise blue and medium turquoise). Furthermore, this color range extends from the blue tones into green.
The most prized turquoise color is an even, intense, medium blue, but some people prefer a greenish-blue.
Appreciated for protective powers
Turquoise has been continuously admired as a stone of considerable meaning and sentiment across many cultures for thousands of years. As one of the world's most ancient gemstones, this highly esteemed stone has been used to decorate many artifacts: from amulets to ceremonial masks.
In most cultures, turquoise was believed to hold protective powers. The stone was often placed on weapons, crowns, jewelry, and buildings.
In addition to protection, the stone was also said to cultivate happiness, health, and harmony. It was considered anti-inflammatory and detoxifying. Turquoise was used to fight viral infections and ward off depression and anxiety in ancient cultures.
Typically, turquoise is a fairly soft stone which made it a popular choice for talisman carving across ancient history. Throughout America, many carvers fashioned turquoise into amulets of significance such as birds and animals, which were used as family heirlooms and in rituals. For many Native Americans, turquoise held great ceremonial value in being an instrument of exchange between tribes.
As the national stone of Tibet, turquoise is enriched with ancient lore of being a symbol of good health, fortune and success. Often referred to as a token of protection, turquoise was commonly worn to ward off the presence of evil spirits, granting its wearer a sense of power.
Special and fragile
Quite often, small patches or veins of brown or black host rock, known as matrix can be seen in the stone. The presence of these patterns can often lower the value of the gemstone. However, some buyers actively seek turquoise with the presence of its matrix, as they can be more unusual and attractive.
The most expensive and preferred turquoise is with no matrix. The second is known as spiderweb turquoise – thin, delicate, web-like patterns across the face of the gemstone.
With a hardness of 5 to 6 on the Moh‘s scale and a fairly good toughness, turquoise is a suitable material in the use of jewelry. That being said, the toughness of turquoise is significantly less in stones of a coarser texture. This December birthstone is sensitive to direct sunlight and natural solvents such as perfume, oils and makeup products.
Special care is required for turquoise. A porous gemstone, turquoise can absorb anything it touches. Avoid any exposure to sharp blows, scratches, any high heat, dry air, and grease. This porous opaque stone is easily discolored by oil and pigments and changes color when it loses some of its water content. Commercial jewelry cleaners are not recommended for turquoise.
Turquoise jewelry must be worn very carefully, as it can be damaged from skin oils, cosmetics, and chemicals. Turquoise dissolves when it comes in contact with these substances, while exposure to heat or dehydration can result in surface damage. Some porous specimens, especially in the US, may require an impregnation with resin or wax in order to resist fading and cracking.
Turquoise is not only a beautiful gemstone but one packed with history and lore. Gifting turquoise for those born in December is a great way to show them how much you love them. It is also a great gem to gift because of its long history of positive energy and healing.