TURQUOISE: December Birthstone
Turquoise is one of the traditional birthstones for the month of December and is the gem of the 11th wedding anniversary. This December birthstone is one of the world’s most ancient gems. The gem’s name comes from the French expression pierre tourques, or “Turkish stone.” The name, which originated in the thirteenth century, reflects the fact that the material probably first arrived in Europe from Turkish sources.
TURQUOISE BELIEFS AND TRADITIONS
The turquoise birthstone was thought to possess many beneficial powers, like guaranteeing health and good fortune. From the 13th century on, it was believed to protect the wearer from falling (especially off horses), and would break into several pieces at the approach of disaster. Hindu mystics maintained that seeing a turquoise after beholding the new moon ensured fantastic wealth.
This turquoise birthstone also played an important role in the lives of Native Americans. Turquoise was a ceremonial gem and a medium of exchange for Native American tribes in the southwestern US. They also used it in their jewelry and amulets. The Apache thought turquoise could be found by following a rainbow to its end. They also believed that attaching the December birthstone to a bow or firearm made one’s aim more accurate. The Pueblo maintained that turquoise got its color from the sky, while the Hopi thought the gem was produced by lizards scurrying over the earth.
In European tradition, the gift of a turquoise ring means “forget me not.” Turquoise is considered a national treasure in Tibet, where it is believed to grant health, good fortune and protection from evil. December's birthstone also imparts peace to those who wear it.
WHERE IS TURQUOISE FOUND?
Turquoise has been mined in the Nishapur district of Iran for more than 1,000 years. The prized even-colored, intense blue turquoise from this region is dubbed “robin’s egg blue,” “sky blue” and “Persian blue.” Trade professionals now use these terms to describe turquoise of this color – regardless of the source.
Although New Mexico was the largest producer of turquoise in the U.S. until the 1920s, today most of the U.S. production of this December birthstone comes from Arizona and Nevada. Mines have evocative names like Dry Creek, Easter Blue, Emerald Valley and Fox. The Kingman mine in Arizona is a historically important source that is known for producing intense blue turquoise. Now closed to turquoise mining, Arizona’s Sleeping Beauty mine was a prolific producer for more than four decades.
Today, China is the world’s largest producer of this December birthstone. Hubei Province, in central China, is the source of most of the gem-quality turquoise currently being mined there.
TURQUOISE QUALITY FACTORS
Fine-quality turquoise is sought after around the world by designers of unusual jewelry pieces. Typically, turquoise is judged on three basic quality factors—color, texture, and the presence or absence of matrix.
- Blue Turquoise
The most-prized turquoise color is an even, intense, medium blue, sometimes referred to as robin’s egg blue or sky blue in the trade. The traditional source for this color is the Nishapur district of Iran, so you’ll also hear it described as “Persian blue,” whether or not it was actually mined in Iran.
- Green Turquoise
Generally speaking, turquoise with a green to greenish blue color is less desirable than turquoise with a pure blue hue, but it depends on personal preference. There are some contemporary designers who actively seek avocado and lime green turquoise.
- TURQUOISE PATTERN
Turquoise can be semitranslucent to opaque, with a color that usually ranges from light to medium blue or greenish blue. It’s often mottled and sometimes has dark splotches. It might also have veins of matrix running through it (matrix is a remnant of its surrounding rock). The material known as spiderweb turquoise contains fine seams of matrix that form attractive web-like patterns.The most valuable turquoise is an even medium blue, with no matrix and the ability to take a good polish.
- TURQUOISE CUT
Turquoise is most often cut as a cabochon. The smoothly rounded dome shape sets off turquoise’s color, texture, and any matrix beautifully. In addition, manufacturers and artisans fashion turquoise into round or oblong beads for strand necklaces, and into small, flat pieces that are popular in jewelry inlays. Some top-color blue turquoise is engraved with Persian or Arabic inscriptions, inlaid with gold. Lower-quality rough material might be tumbled into “nuggets."
- TURQUOISE CARAT WEIGHT
Turquoise is weighed in carats, and five carats equal one gram. Turquoise is available in a wide range of sizes. All sizes, even very small stones, are used in Native American jewelry, and large pieces of turquoise rough are popular for carvings. For any size, the quality and evenness of the color is the overriding value factor.
TURQUOISE BIRTHSTONE CARE & CLEANING
Some turquoise is treated to improve its durability (it has a Mohs hardness of 5 to 6), appearance and polish. Turquoise can be dyed or chemically enhanced by adding an epoxy or acrylic resin for greater hardness or better color. Also seen are cavities filled with a metal-loaded epoxy to imitate pyrite inclusions.
Turquoise is generally stable to light, but high heat can cause discoloration and breakage. Your turquoise birthstone can be damaged by acids, and it can be discolored by certain chemicals, cosmetics and even skin oils or perspiration. It’s safe to clean turquoise jewelry with warm, soapy water, but this December birthstone should never be cleaned with steam or ultrasonic cleaners. Heat or solvents can damage the treated surfaces on some turquoise.
TURQUOISE JEWELRY IN BOCA RATON
Have a loved one whose birthstone is turquoise, and looking for an appropriate gift? Turquoise makes a great gift and the best part is, turquoise jewelry is an inexpensive gemstone, which makes it easy to incorporate into both fashion and fine jewelry.
Whether you’re looking for a turquoise birthstone ring, earrings, bracelet, or necklace, there’s sure to be a great choice available for any occasion at Devon's Diamonds & Decor. Stop into our Boca Raton jewelry store and check out some of our most gorgeous turquoise pieces!