Turquoise stones are highly regarded for their bright blue color and unique texture. The term turquoise is derived from the French word, “turques,” meaning “Turks,” as the stone was first brought to France from Turkey. In addition to being found in Turkey, turquoise stones are commonly mined in Iran, China, Chile, Afghanistan, Turkey, Sinai, and the United States, particularly in the western states.
Turquoise has a Mohs Hardness of 5.0 to 6.0. Unlike many gemstones, turquoise does not possess a crystal structure, but is instead a hydrated phosphate. During its formation, turquoise fills or encrusts cavities in rocks, typically volcanic rocks. The more bluish tones are due to the presence of copper during the stone’s formation; the more greenish tones are due to the presence of copper and iron during the stone’s formation. Different civilizations have prized contrasting hues.
Historically, turquoise bracelets have been found in the tombs of pharaohs, particularly Tutankhamun, which is evidence that the gem was prized highly as a piece of jewelry and as an ornament. Future Egyptian dynasties used turquoise stones as a symbol of good fortune and wealth. Traded along the silk route, turquoises found their way to the Asian civilizations, who used them as a form of currency and protection until the 1800s. Along this route in Persia, turquoise was used to decorate turbans, bridles, mosques, and other important buildings. Persians also engraved these stones with Arabic religious terms and fashioned them into jewelry.
Regardless of time period or location, many groups of people believed turquoise embodied elements of the sky and sea and protected the wearer’s health.