You’d be hard pressed to find a gemstone as varied as turquoise. From the aqua blue to deep green, pure turquoise designs to intricate patterns, there’s a turquoise gemstone for everyone.
What is turquoise? Turquoise is an ancient gemstone valued all around the world for its exquisite beauty. Its beautiful shades of blue and green are often found with delicate webbing (matrix) and less commonly with gold and silver flecks; also known as pyrite.
I have been obsessed with turquoise ever since my silversmithing teacher took me to a gem & mineral store in Taos, New Mexico. She pulled open wide, shallow drawers filled with different turquoiseand opened my eyes to the wonderful world of turquoise, in its countless forms.Since then, I have amassed a collection of turquoise stones (some featured above) which you can choose for a piece of jewellery.
What is turquoise and where can you find it?Turquoise is made up ofthree core elements: iron, copper and aluminum. Every turquoise gemstone will feature different concentrations and this chemical composition directly affects the colour. Take a turquoise stone with a high copper content; you can expect a deeper bluer stone. On the other hand, a gemstone with a higher concentration of iron will have a beautiful green tint.
It is these inconsistencies that make turquoise such a coveted and diverse gemstone.This is what I love about turquoise - no stone is the same. Different mines produce their own variations, and these mines are most commonly found in the US, Mexico, Iran China, Tibet and Chile.The only turquoise I sell that is not American is Sonoran Gold Turquoise from Mexico*. It comes in diverse colours of bright greens and blues and combinations with 'gold pyrite flecks' that seem to glow. The reason I sell this is it was so beautiful and varied it was impossible to resist.
Deposits of turquoise generally form in arid climates at elevations between 3,000 and 8,500 feet. Typically, these environments are barren deserts with low, unassuming hillsides; this is one of the many aspects that make New Mexico such a brilliant place for turquoise.**
**From ‘Turquoise: The World Story of a Fascinating Gemstone’ by Joe Dan Lowry Joe P.Lowry
What is the history and meaning of turquoise?
The history of turquoise dates back thousands of years. It’s generally agreed that the ancient Egyptians were the first culture to embrace turquoise as a gemstone when they started mining on the Sinai Peninsula.
The stone was also popular in Persia, where it was believed to protect people from harm and unnatural death; for that reason, you’d often see it built into knife hilts and shields. Today it is still loved for its healing qualities, connected to the tranquil energy of water. This poignant energy of renewal and rejuvenation gives turquoise its unparalleled ability to support your wellbeing, bringing the wearer into a state of calm reflection.
However, perhaps most celebrated of all is the history of turquoise for the Native Americans. There is a shared belief among Native Americans that ‘the earth is living and all things are precious’. For them, turquoise is no exception. It is an important gemstone for them, representing life: it is highly revered due to its varied and changing colours (linked to everything fromenvironment to light, dust and even skin acidity).
Albeit a shorter history, the Native American culture is world-famous for their use of turquoise in their ‘Indian Jewellery’ sets. Their initial art was to drill and string it into necklaces or use smaller pieces in mosaics set on wood, shell and bone called ‘inlay’. This style grew and developed throughout the years, supported by mass marketing and exciting developments such as the introduction of ‘The Turquoise Trail’ in 1956: a scenic driving stretch in New Mexico.* It is one of the most prized places in the world when it comes to turquoise.
*From ‘Turquoise: The World Story of a Fascinating Gemstone’ by Joe Dan Lowry Joe P.Lowry
What is American turquoise?
American Turquoise is little known in the UK; however, there were over 100 different mines having produced vastly different looking turquoise over the years. American turquoise, mined primarily in the southwestern states of the U.S., is valued for its matrix - those unique tiny veins in each stone.
American turquoise is rarely plain blue in colour like its Persian counterpart, with the exception of the Sleeping Beauty mine and some of the Candelaria turquoise. Many of these mines are now closed and there is a limit to how much American turquoise is left: this is reflected in the prices. The rarity, quality and colour are the most important aspects of turquoise.
'American Mine Map'Here is a mine map of where all the US mines previously existed. Most mines are now closed (with the exception of Royston, Kingman and Carico Lake). There are a handful of what are called 'hat mines'; which simply means the amount of turquoise they produce/mine in a year can fit in a hat. An example of a Hat Mine is the Grasshopper mine which produces a ‘grass green coloured’ turquoise.
What colours does turquoise come in?
Green turquoise seems like some kind of oxymoron but it is now one of my favourite stones. It can be pale and pastel or deep green with a lot of matrix. Carico Lake mine produces most of the green turquoise; this prized spot is located on a dried up lake bed in Nevada. The clear, iridescent, spring green colour is highly unique and collectible; it makes a stunning addition to jewellery. Carico Lake also produces blue and blue and green combined pieces.
What is pyrite and matrix?
Matrix veins are bits of the host rock showing through, and this shows up as thin spider web-like lines running through the stone. Pyrite - referred to as Fool’s Gold - is an iron sulfide which materialises as a metallic luster and pale-brass yellow hue which looks just like flecks of silver and gold.
Even the matrix that turquoise might have differs enormously in colour and pattern, from black to yellow to brown. It’s what makes this gemstone so interesting; the possibilities are endless. Some people prefer stones that are free from the matrix and pyrite, but I think there’s something truly special about it. I see it as the soul of the stone; its unique story.
It is all this beautiful colour and variety of turquoise that makes me love making jewellery. You can make the same silver band over and over but each time you set a beautiful stone in the ring it becomes something entirely different each time.
If any of the above pieces interest you - please contact me as it is available to make into jewellery, just for you.