Turquoise: The Turkish Stone

Turquoise is one of the official birthstones for the month of December, along with Tanzanite and Zircon. It is also celebrates the 11th anniversary.

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The name “turquoise” comes from the French “turqueise”, meaning “Turkish stone”, because it was first transported to Europe via a Turkish nation.

It varies in color from greenish blue, through robin’s egg-blue, to sky blue shades and its transparency ranges from translucent to opaque.

Probably the most famous turquoise of all can be seen in the inlay of Egyptian King Tutankhamen's funeral mask.

Probably the most famous turquoise of all can be seen in the inlay of Egyptian King Tutankhamen’s funeral mask.

It is one of the world’s most ancient gems. Archaeological excavations revealed that the rulers of ancient Egypt adorned themselves with turquoise jewelry, and Chinese artisans were carving it more than 3,000 years ago.

The ancient Egyptians believed that the colour blue was a symbol of regeneration, so turquoise was treasured for both decorative and superstitious purposes.

Although much turquoise jewelry is sleek and modern, many US consumers are familiar with the traditional jewelry of Native American peoples.

Although much turquoise jewelry is sleek and modern, many US consumers are familiar with the traditional jewelry of Native American peoples.

It was also used by Native Americans in works of art and jewellery, some of whom believed that it possessed protective properties.

The Tibetans believe in the healing properties of turquoise and have valued the stone for centuries.

Turquoise is found in only a few places on earth: dry and barren regions and deposits usually form in iron-rich limonite or sandstone.

Turquoise is found in only a few places on earth: dry and barren regions and deposits usually form in iron-rich limonite or sandstone.

It is found 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.

The result of this sedimentary process is a porous, semi-translucent to opaque compound of hydrated copper and aluminum phosphate.

A fine turquoise specimen at the Smithsonian from the famed Cerrillos Region.

A fine turquoise specimen at the Smithsonian from the famed Cerrillos Region.

It owes its texture to its structure and composition. It’s an aggregate of microscopic crystals that form a solid mass. If the crystals are packed closely together, the material is less porous, so it has a finer texture.

Low porosity and fine texture are more valuable than high porosity and coarse texture. Coarse, porous stones are usually treated to make them smoother, shinier, and more marketable.

Pure blue turquoise is rare and it is mostly interspersed by brown, dark-grey or black veins of the host rock, or other minerals, referred to as “turquoise matrix”.

Pure blue turquoise is rare and it is mostly interspersed by brown, dark-grey or black veins of the host rock, or other minerals, referred to as “turquoise matrix”.

Turquoise deposits usually form in iron-rich limonite or sandstone. Limonite creates dark brown markings in turquoise. These markings are remnants of the host rock within the turquoise, and can resemble splotches or veins. They’re called matrix.

The presence of matrix can lower the value, but that doesn’t mean turquoise with matrix is worthless or unmarketable. Some buyers actually prefer the presence of matrix if its effect is attractive and balanced.

Some buyers actually prefer the presence of matrix in fashioned turquoise if its effect is attractive and balanced, as seen in this amazing piece.

Some buyers actually prefer the presence of matrix in fashioned turquoise if its effect is attractive and balanced, as seen in this amazing piece.

In the market for top-quality turquoise, stones with no matrix at all command the highest prices. Gems with attractive spiderweb matrix rank second in value.

It might lack the sparkle and clarity of transparent colored gemstones like ruby, emerald, and sapphire, but its multi-layered history and soul-satisfying color make it a desirable gem.

This 18-karat gold collar, designed by Pierre Touraine, is set with a turquoise cabochon of fine texture and color. Truly an eye-catching piece. (Photo: G.I.A.)

This 18-karat gold collar, designed by Pierre Touraine, is set with a turquoise cabochon of fine texture and color. Truly an eye-catching piece. (Photo: G.I.A.)

The best quality turquoise is located in Northeast Iran. Additional deposits are also found in Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Israel, Mexico, Tanzania and the USA.

The most popular colour is sky-blue (also called “robin’s egg blue or “Persian blue”), followed by blue-green or apple-green.

In turquoise, low porosity, fine texture, and no matrix, are most valuable, such as these amazing specimens from the famed Angushtari region in Iran.

In turquoise, low porosity, fine texture, and no matrix, are most valuable, such as these amazing specimens from the famed Angushtari region in Iran.

Turquoise is a porous material, so it is sometimes impregnated with polymers, wax or plastic to enhance the colour and harden its surface. It’s colour is also enhanced with the use of oil or paraffin, colours or copper salt.

Imitation turquoise is made from dyeing chalcedony or howlite. Powdered turquoise is glued and glass, porcelain and plastic are used to make imitation turquoise gemstones.

Turquoise remains popular today and brings a Southwestern flair to this leather belt.

Turquoise remains popular today and brings a Southwestern flair to this leather belt.

Since it is a porous material, turquoise must be properly cared for in order to maintain its colour and lustre. It is sensitive to heat and if exposed to 250 degree Celsius heat, the colour will turn a dull green.

If exposed to prolonged direct sunlight, perspiration, oil, perfume, detergent or other chemicals, turquoise can suffer colour deterioration

Jewelry set with soft gemstones needs to be handled with care when cleaning!

Jewelry set with soft gemstones needs to be handled with care when cleaning!

It would be prudent to remove turquoise rings before washing hands or engaging in household chores.

Additionally, when dressing it is advisable to put on turquoise jewellery last and remove it first when undressing, to avoid exposure to hairspray, perfume or similar cosmetic products.

Most turquoise can be cleaned using warm, soapy water.

Most turquoise can be cleaned using warm, soapy water.

Turquoise gemstones should be stored separately to other gemstones to avoid scratches. Avoid exposing the material to bleach or sulphuric acid. Most stones can be cleaned using warm, soapy water. This previous article on “cleaning soft gemstones” is also helpful.

For dyed or impregnated stones, it’s best to test a small area first to ensure stability. Wipe down stones using only a soft cloth and be sure to rinse well to remove any soapy residue.

We hope this article has given you a bit more of a background on turquoise, but should you have any additional questions about this or any other jewellery related topics, you can always: “Ask the Jeweller”

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This article was compiled from my personal knowledge as a gemologist, as well as numerous online sources, individuals and textbooks. If you have something to add to this article that you feel would be of benefit to others, please, do not hesitate to contact us.

Comments

  1. Irene Högberg says

    Hi, I was told stones of mine were Tibetan turquoises, could that be right? Can´t ad a photo here, unfortunately. Kind regards Irene

  2. says

    I love the Turquoise because it is my birthstone and I want to add one more awesome Turquoise in my existing collection. I really liked you information about December birthstones. Thanks to share it.

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