The birthstone of December, turquoise exhibits a blue hue like no other! Though famous for their bright, blue colour, they do come in a variety of hues. Whilst the best are flawless, and uniform in colour, many stones are speckled with dark markings from the surrounding matric stone. To exhibit the colour, and taking the structure of the stone into account, it is normally polished into beads, carvings and cabochons.
Turquoise is a blue-green copper-aluminium phosphate mineral, and has a long history as one of the world’s most ancient gemstones! Archaeological excavations revealed that the rulers of ancient Egypt adorned themselves with turquoise jewellery, and Chinese artisans were carving it more than 3,000 years ago. Turquoise was a ceremonial gem, and a medium of exchange for Native American tribes in the southwestern US, also used in jewellery and amulets. The Apache’s believed that when turquoise was attached to a bow, it increased a hunter’s or warrior’s accuracy. Moving into the 20th century this gemstone was designated as the birthstone of December in 1912 by National Association of Jewelers, today known as Jewelers of America.
Turquoise was historically found in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, and the sources of turquoise most easily available to the ancient Egyptians were in the southwest of this region. These deposits were substantially depleted long ago. Perhaps the earliest evidence of turquoise mining in this area comes from fragments of high-quality turquoise found in tombs in the el-Qaa region, which date to circa 5000 BC. Today, turquoise is mined primarily in the American Southwest, Iran, Mexico, and China.
The gem’s name comes from the French expression pierre tourques, or ‘Turkish stone.’ The name, which originated in the thirteenth century, reflects the fact that the material probably first arrived in Europe from the Turkish empire, an agent in its historic importation to the West.
Whilst used throughout history, we see an increase in the use of turquoise during the 19th century. Sentimental jewellery and the use of symbolism was very common in this era, and one of the most common floral symbols was the forget-me-not, a representation of true love. This was usually represented using turquoise, and eventually the use of turquoise alone came to symbolise this flower. For this reason, turquoise was one of the most commonly used gemstones in 19th century sentimental jewellery. This gemstone saw the height of its popularity in the late 18th century and the 19th century because of their fashionable colour and affordability.