The icy sky blue of turquoise provides a welcome pop of colour to winter; it is also aptly one of the birthstones for December. In this article we introduce this vibrant gem, whose popularity has stood the test of time.
Turquoise is a copper aluminium phosphate - copper being the primary cause of its pleasing blue colour. It has a microscopic crystal structure, which makes it ideal to be fashioned into smooth cabochons rather than faceted. The material takes a good polish and has an appealing waxy lustre to the surface. The most desirable turquoise specimens display a highly saturated blue hue, by which the colour itself is now defined, though it can also be found with hints of green or grey. It is an opaque gem, and is often formed in what is called matrix, a black or brown veining derived from the host rock in which the gem forms. In fine jewellery, unblemished sky blue turquoise is the ideal, although regularly patterned matrix turquoise is also sought-after.
The use of turquoise dates back as far as the First Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. Mined in the Sinai Peninsula as early as 3000 BC, turquoise was considered very precious and was used in burial masks, for example that of King Tutankhamun. It was set into gold jewellery, adorning rings and necklaces, and would often be carved to depict animals and gods. Possession of the stone was thought to bring good fortune and general well-being to the wearer. 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. Brought from Persia via Turkey, turquoise was named after these Turkish trade routes. It was used throughout the Middle Ages as talismans and its use continued through to the fashions of the seventeenth century. Come 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 popular in Art Deco jewellery, and through to more vintage pieces from the 60's and 70's - often paired with yellow gold and diamonds.
Turquoise has been a beloved gem for thousands of years. Its sky blue colour is highly distinctive and comes to life particularly when accompanied by diamonds. Find your turquoise antique ring or turquoise jewellery in our collection at Berganza.