Turquoise has been a beloved gem for thousands of years and has been known by many names, Pliny the Elder referred to the mineral as ‘callais’ (from the Ancient Greek κάλαϊς) and the Aztecs knew it as ‘chalchihuitl'. The word ‘Turquoise’ only dates back to the 17th century. Originally derived from the French, ‘pierre turquoise’, meaning “Turkish stone,” so named because Venetian merchants often purchased the stone in Turkish bazaars and the trade routes that brought Turquoise to Europe passed through Turkey on the way from the mines in central Asia.
However the use of turquoise in jewellery dates back much further, as far as the First Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. We know that turquoise was mined in the Sinai Peninsula as early as 3000 BC and set into gold jewellery, embellishing rings and necklaces, often carved to depict animals and gods. Possession of the stone was thought to bring good fortune and general well-being to the wearer. It was considered so precious that it was used in burial masks, for example that of King Tutankhamun.
Turquoise was also important with the peoples surrounding another major world source-the central region of the Americas-where it was considered holy by the Aztecs, Incas, and later, the Pueblo civilizations. The Aztecs would use it to make mosaics, often again worked into masks. The gemstone was also extremely popular throughout Persia, whose people believed it held protective powers and this popularity made its way into India. The geographical areas of present-day Iran and Afghanistan were major ancient sources, mined some 2000 years ago.
In the eleventh and twelfth centuries turquoise made its first appearance in Europe during the Crusades. It was used throughout the Middle Ages as a talisman and its use continued through to the fashions of the seventeenth century. In the nineteenth century it became highly popular in European jewellery. Queen Victoria was a fan of this appealing gemstone, and spurred its use in Victorian jewellery. It became symbolic of true love, and it was for this reason that Queen Victoria gave her bridal party gifts of turquoise brooches. Turquoise was also seen in Art Deco jewellery and later became popular in vintage pieces from the 1960s and 70s, often paired with diamonds and yellow gold.
Fancy adding a turquoise piece of jewellery to your jewellery box this Summer? At Berganza we have a range of turquoise set jewellery from the ancient, antique and vintage worlds. Choose from a wide selection of rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, pendants and brooches to secure a one of a kind piece today.