Turquoise is one of the first gems that man mined extensively. Its name is derived from the French word pierre turquoise, which translates as Turkish stone. Trade routes that brought the gemstone to Europe went through Turkey, and merchants often traded to acquire the gem in Turkish bazaars. This led many to believe that it came from Turkey when in reality the gemstone probably came from the Sinai Peninsula or from Persia.
Turquoise typically is formed as a combination of micro crystals and is not found very often as a well-formed crystal. The gemstone is found in arid regions where there are copper deposits. It is formed by rainfall dissolving copper, evaporating as it mixes with aluminum and phosphorus, which then deposits small amounts of turquoise on rock fractures.
Turquoise is found and mined in Mexico, China, Chile, Egypt, Iran, and the southwestern United States. Mining is done very carefully using all hand techniques. Nearly all turquoise found on the market has been treated in some way to improve its durability for jewelry setting, color, and stability for cutting.
The process begins with rainfall seeping down into the soil and rocks, dissolving small amounts of copper. When the water evaporates, the copper that was dissolved combines with aluminum and phosphorous to deposit small amounts of turquoise on underground fractures. Turquoise can sometimes replace the rock entirely, making a complete replacement. When it does not, it will look less complete and the host rock will still be identifiable.
Mining of Turquoise
Turquoise is mined near copper deposits or occurrences in arid regions. If turquoise is found in a copper mine, and its quantity is determined to be worth ceasing copper mining operations to mine it out, then either the contracting company will handle extraction or another entity will come in to do so. Mining is done with hand methods. Currently, in the United States, Arizona produces the most turquoise, though it is found in other states such as Nevada, New Mexico, California, and Colorado.
Turquoise Throughout History
The oldest findings of Turquoise being used by man date back to 5000 B.C. with the uncovering of turquoise beads in Iran. The gemstone has also been found in ancient burial sites nearly 6000 years old. Approximately 4000 years ago, the mines in Persia were producing a sky-blue turquoise that was traded throughout Asia and Europe. This is where the color "Persian blue" is believed to have been derived.
Importance of Turquoise across Cultures
In 3200 BC, the ancient Egyptians were mining turquoise in the Sinai region. The Egyptian name for the gemstone was mefkat which translates as joy or delight. It was often placed in their tombs. One of the most iconic uses of the gemstone in recent Ancient Egyptian archeological discoveries is in the Pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb, or more colloquially known as King Tut. His death mask is studded with turquoise.
Turquoise has been used by other cultures across the world. It was used by the Aztecs in various religious idols dedicated to the gods. In 1519, Cortes led the Spanish invasion of the Aztec Empire and successfully conquered them. Believing that Cortes was Quetzalcoatl, who the Aztecs believed created mankind, Montezuma gave Cortez the gemstone most revered by the gods, turquoise.
Native Americans held turquoise in high regard. They wore it during religious ceremonies and placed it to protect their burial sites. Due to the gemstone's ability to change color, they believed it was very powerful in helping those divining or determining prophecies. It has been found in South America and North America. Due to its blue color, Indians would use it to call upon the sky spirit. They believed that when a priest was wearing this stone, it was the sky spirit living on Earth.
The iconic Native American jewelry with turquoise inlaid in silver did not come until the 1800s. Before, turquoise was not usually inlaid in anything. That changed with the introduction of silver, which has become a part of many local cultures.
Treatment of Turquoise
Turquoise that is found on the market has been treated. Untreated turquoise is very rare. The reason why turquoise is treated is to make it more stable for cutting, durable for setting in jewelry or improve its color. There are several different classifications of turquoise and they are as follows:
- Natural Untreated Turquoise: The name for the variety of gemstones that have been fashioned into cabochons or other forms of jewelry and have not been treated in any way.
- Stabilized Turquoise: This variety of turquoise has been injected with a polymer to make it durable enough for cutting to be set in jewelry.
- Composite or Reconstituted Turquoise: Cast with a polymer and formed into block shaped pieces, the common name for this type is “block turquoise” due to the process with which it is manufactured.
- Dyed Turquoise: The gem is highly porous, which allows for it to accept dyes. This kind of turquoise has been dyed to improve the color to make it more marketable.
Uses and Benefits
For many centuries, people believed that turquoise had the ability to protect riders from falling. It was used by Turkish soldiers in the form of amulets that they would either wear or attach to their bridles or harnesses. Eventually, the turquoise defense against falling evolved from just riders to any kind of fall.
Turquoise possesses the ability to help one with self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, and help release regrets. It aids with exhaustion, depression, and panic attacks. Moreover, it helps support our immune systems, is anti-inflammatory, and helps one deal with ailments such as gout and rheumatism. As for emotional healing, it helps one’s spirit feel revitalized. It allows one to shed their stress and refocus to their center.
Activating the 6th and 5th Chakras
When placed on the Third Eye chakra (6th), Turquoise has the ability to support meditation and our intuition. It can also be placed on the Throat Chakra (5th) to help us release old oaths, inhibitions, as well as let us express ourselves once more. By stimulating the Throat Chakra, it allows us greater ease of articulation in regards to complex matters such as deep wisdom.
With the Throat Chakra being integral to our voice, it empowers those who are shy or are nervous when it comes to sharing their thoughts to obtain clarity when speaking. The gemstone enables one to find wholeness and truth, and aids in allowing one to communicate and exhibit these qualities.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is for entertainment and reference purposes only. It is based on centuries of folklore, most of which came about before the age of modern medicine. It is not meant as actual medical information. For advice about any of the illnesses listed, please visit a qualified physician.