Turquoise – The Stone of the Gods
When I first started making jewelry in the early 1970s, one of the first gemstones I worked with was Turquoise. To this day, I feel at my best when I wear the silver and Turquoise nugget bracelet I made early in my jewelry career. Turquoise reached its peak in popularity in the US during the 1970s, so today, I find it interesting to see a resurgence in its popularity, especially in the fashion world with designers like Ralph Lauren dressing his models in turquoise jewelry. Now you’ll even see country singers and actors wearing squash blossom necklaces set with Turquoise, and men wearing Turquoise rings and bracelets. Turquoise is back!
Silver and Turquoise nugget bracelet by Peter Indorf, circa 1977
Fashionable young woman wearing Turquoise jewelry courtesy of @tskiesjewelry
The model is wearing a Turquoise Squash Blossom Necklace and other jewelry courtesy of @tskiesjewelry
The History and Lore of Turquoise
Turquoise was first mined more than 6,000 years ago, and it has a rich and colorful history. In Egypt, it was worn by nobility. The Aztecs considered it the “stone of the gods,” and used it extensively in worship. To them, Turquoise was a commodity more valuable than gold. In medieval Europe, it was deemed a powerful talisman for good luck and sure-footedness for horses and man. In Tibet, it has had a role comparable to jade in China. Turquoise is the national gemstone of Iran, which was also known as Persia, where it has decorated thrones and the attire of high officials.
Turquoise has always been considered lucky, capable of safeguarding and bringing happiness. According to a 15th century legend, the stone loses its color when its owner is unwell or in danger and regains its brilliance when the illness or danger has passed.
Spider web and Persian Turquoise courtesy of GIA.edu
The best Turquoise can be found in northeast Iran near Nishapur, where it has been mined for more than 3,000 years. The material there is typically more stable and blue then that of other sources, like China, Mexico, the Sinai Peninsula, and southwestern USA, the main producer.
Examples of rough Turquoise
Persian Turquoise made its way to Europe via Turkey, which is why by the 13th century, the French were calling it Pierre Turquoise—Turkish stone.
According to 17th-century book Gemmarium et Lapidum Historyby Anselmus de Boot, Turquoise was so highly regarded by European men, that “no man considered his hand to be well adorned unless he wore a fine Turquoise set in a gold ring.”
De Boot told a story of his experience with danger on a dark narrow road, where during a stormy night he was thrown from his horse and miraculously was uninjured, but his Turquoise stone ring was cracked in two.
Medieval gentleman’s ring with Turquoise courtesy Lang Antiques
There has always been a superstition about Turquoise being a talisman, offering protection to the wearer from injury in case of falling. A passage contained in Volmar’s thirteenth century Steinbuch explains:
“Whoever owns the true Turquoise set in gold will not injure any of his limbs when he falls, whether he be riding or walking, so long as he has the stone with him.”
Choosing a Turquoise
Natural Sleeping Beauty Turquoise cut by Peter Indorf
When choosing a Turquoise, look for a beautiful stone or stones that speak to you. The pure blue color is rare and highly esteemed, but there are many variations of amazing colors and patterns. Most pieces contain Turquoise matrix, which are veinsthat may be brown limonite, dark gray sandstone, or black jasper. The most highly-valued Turquoise is untreated, dense and has an even, intense sky-blue color. Usually, this type of material is from Iran or Arizona.
My favorites, and some of the most beautiful, come from the Sleeping Beauty mine in Arizona. Unfortunately, the mine is now closed, so if you see a Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, consider adding it your collection.
The value of Turquoise is reduced if the color is green or pale, or if inclusions or lines called ‘spider-webbing” are present. I personally prefer the spider webbing because it makes the stone more interesting.
Spiderweb Turquoise cut by Peter Indorf
In our workshop, Nevada’sNumber 8 Mine Turquoise in process of becoming a necklace
Natural Turquoise may have stability problems. Reportedly, if it is not from Iran and it is not treated, it may turn green, white or occasionally brown within a year after it is mined. Additionally, porous material can crack or crumble.
In my experience, however, this concern may be overstated. The majority of Turquoise sold today has been treated, usually with a plastic substance designed to prevent discoloration and increase durability. A colorant may also be added to improve the color. Sometimes Turquoise is impregnated with wax to deepen the color and decrease porosity. However, the wax can pick up dirt and gradually discolor.
When buying Turquoise, assume it has been treated unless you are dealing with a knowledgeable, trustworthy seller who writes on the receipt ”untreated natural Turquoise.”
Close up showing the plastic treatment filling in cracks
Caring for Your Turquoise
The color of Turquoise is affected by heat, as well as by oils, cosmetics, and perspiration. It is liable to go from blue to a dull green if not cared for properly. In order to minimize the risk of damage, it is best to remove Turquoise rings before washing hands because soap could change the color. Turquoise can be cleaned with a warm water.
Adding Turquoise to Your Collection
Turquoise would be an excellent gift —it is the December birthstone and the 11th wedding anniversary gemstone. You’ll find it to be very affordable, with prices ranging from $25 to a few hundred dollars for a top-quality, untreated cabochon.
Turquoise found in real old pawn American Indian jewelry or older pieces may be worth a lot more than loose stones of the same quality, so be on the lookout for interesting estate pieces or antiques.
If you have questions, comments or want more information, please contact Peter Indorf directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit our website to see more Turquoise designs at peterindorf.com. Follow us on Instagram @peterindorf and Facebook at Peter Indorf Designs.
Here are a few more images of our designs using Sleeping Beauty Turquoise you can see on our website and work in progress:
Excerpts from Gemstone Buying by Renee’ Neumann, Precious Stones by Max Bauer, Pockets Gemstones by Emma Foa,Gemology by Hurlbut & Switzer
By Peter Indorf, GG, RJ, VCGA,ASGR
1103 W Hibiscus Blvd
Melbourne, FL 32901