Turquoise is the birthstone for the month of December. It is also associated with both the fifth and eleventh wedding anniversary gifts.
This mystical gemstone has been mined for thousands of years by various cultures, with evidence suggesting that the ancient Egyptians mined turquoise as far back as 6000 B.C. In modern day, turquoise is mined in a number of places including the United States, Iran, China, and Tibet.
In 1810 Napoléon Bonaparte presented his Empress Marie Louise with a wedding gift — a breathtaking crown of diamonds and turquoise. Originally the crown was made up of diamonds and emeralds, but Napoléon arranged to have all 79 emeralds removed and replaced with turquoise prior to giving the crown to Marie Louise.
Throughout the centuries, various cultures have believed that turquoise jewelry possesses a variety of powers. These include the ability to bring wealth, luck, attract love, and bring happiness. In ancient Persia it was once believed that the wearing of turquoise talismans would protect the wearer from death. It was also believed – not only among Persians but also in a number of other cultures – that a sudden change in the color of the turquoise gem was a sign of danger or illness. In addition, turquoise is believed to also enhance spirituality and kindness, and is often used in both Tibetan and Native American spiritual rituals. The beauty of the jewelry can give the feeling of joy regardless of spirituality.
The word "turquoise" is believed to have been derived from the French term "pierre turquoise" which means "stone of Turkey" or the German term "turkisher steins" which means "Turkish stones". During the 16th century, there was a misconception among Europeans that the turquoise gemstones that were bought from Turkish traders actually originated in Turkey – thus the term derivative – when in fact those specific stones actually originated from Persia.
Turquoise is formed over millions of years through a chemical reaction that occurs when water leaks through rocks which contain specific minerals, such as copper and aluminum. The percentages of those various minerals in the rock dictate the gemstone's shade.
Considering the millions of years it takes for turquoise to form, you will definitely want to handle your turquoise jewelry with care. Turquoise is a naturally porous gemstone and as a result it can suffer from color change if it is not cared for properly. Exposure to oils, perfumes, cosmetics, chemicals, high heat, and direct sunlight can all affect the color of this gemstone; therefore, it is essential that you avoid prolonged exposure of your turquoise jewelry to those elements. It is also recommended that you clean your turquoise jewelry with warm soapy water and a soft cloth – thoroughly drying the gemstone immediately after washing. When storing your turquoise jewelry, remember to keep your turquoise jewelry separate from your other jewelry to avoid scratches.
Turquoise jewelry and its symbolism are often mentioned in literary text. In Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", the character Leah presents Shylock with a turquoise ring as a symbol of adoration, a common belief in Europe at the time. The medieval scholar Amoldus Saxo wrote that turquoise helped preserve eyesight, and another scholar, Muhammed Ibn Mansur, noted his belief in the protective powers of turquoise in his Arabian writings dated circa 1300 A.D. Meanwhile, the bible mentions the presence of turquoise on Aaron's breastplate in the book of Exodus.
In 17th century England, highborn gentlemen would not step out in public without wearing turquoise jewelry. The wearing of turquoise jewelry was considered to be a sign of a well-dressed gentleman.
With dwindling global reserves of turquoise, and an associated turquoise supply much less than the growing market demand for turquoise jewelry, prices of turquoise jewelry are expected to escalate in coming years. Due to this economic dynamic, purchases of high-quality turquoise jewelry pieces can be viewed as an investment in an appreciating asset – much like diamonds or other valuable gems and stones.