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Turquoise Stone Properties, Facts and Photos

natural turquoise mineral

1. Turquoise Meaning and History
2. Turquoise Real or Fake?
3. Properties and Colour of Turquoise
4. Turquoise Healing Properties
5. Article Pictures
6. Shop Turquoise

Turquoise Meaning and History

The meaning of turquoise comes from the word 'turquois' meaning 'Turkish stone'.  The mineral was given this name by the French in the 17th century.

It was believed turquoise originated in Turkey when in fact it had only passed through there on its way to Europe.  The turquoise being transported would have been mined in the north east of Persia which is modern day Iran.

Turquoise is one of the oldest gemstones and remains one of the most popular.  Widely used in jewellery by many cultures around the world, its history can be traced backed as far as 6000 BC.

Records from the reign of the Pharaoh Semerkhet detail extensive mining operations that involved thousands of workers.

Turquoise was mined in the Sinai Peninsula.  Many beautiful artefacts featuring this stone have been discovered in ancient Egyptian burial chambers.  They've been dated to 3000 BC.  Turquoise beads that were found have been dated to 4000 BC. 

A discovery of turquoise in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) has been dated to 5000 BC.

The most famous artefact is the funerary mask of King Tutankhamun.  This priceless work of art features turquoise, lapis lazuli, white quartz, carnelian, feldspar, other gemstones and coloured glass.

The ancient Roman author and philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote about the mineral turquoise in his works Naturalis Historia.  Published around 77 AD he referred to it as 'callais' or 'callaina'.
natural turquoise stones from madagascarIn the bible turquoise is said to have been the first stone in the second row of the high priest breastplate.  This religious garment was worn over the top of a type of tunic.

Turquoise is known to have been mined as early as 1000 AD by the Anasazi natives in the south western United States. It was also widely used by the Incas, Aztecs and Maya.

Turquoise has long been revered by Native American Indians including the Navajo, Apache, Zuni and Pueblo tribes.  By far the most important gemstone used in traditional jewellery, many would argue turquoise is fundamental to American Indian culture.

Napoleon I gave his second wife a diadem on the occasion of their marriage.  It was made by French jeweller Etienne Nitot et Fils of Paris.  It originally featured emeralds and diamonds set in gold and silver.

In 1953 the diadem was sold to Van Cleef and Arpels who at some time between 1956 and 1962 replaced the emeralds with seventy nine Persian turquoise cabochons.

The emeralds were subsequently sold in other pieces of jewellery.  They were promoted as being gemstones from the historic diadem.diadem on display in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

How to Tell Real Turquoise from Fake

Fake turquoise found in Egypt by archaeologists suggests it's likely to have been the first gemstone to have been imitated.

Throughout history the mineral turquoise has been copied more than any other natural stone.  When buying turquoise it's always worth considering whether it could be fake.

The most popular man-made materials used to imitate turquoise are plastic, glass and ceramic.  If a stone is lightweight and warm to the touch it's definitely plastic.  Other materials may not be quite as obvious.

Howlite which is a natural mineral is widely used to replicate turquoise.  It's relatively cheap, can have similar markings and being porous means it's easy to dye.  The dark spidery veins in howlite can be mistaken for the matrix in turquoise.

Trade names such as white turquoise or white buffalo turquoise are often used to describe dyed howlite.  White turquoise does not exist.  Howlite and turquoise are two different minerals.

Other natural minerals used to produce fake turquoise include low grade chrysocolla, magnesite and azurite.

Fake turquoise can often be identified on appearance alone.  The most obvious clue however will usually be price.  Natural turquoise is not cheap.

This mineral is howlite. 
howlite stone a natural mineral

The stones in the next photo come from a large and well respected website that sells stock images.  The photographer whose collection is mostly diamonds labelled them as "turquoise cabochons".

They could possibly be howlite that's been dyed but I think that's fairly unlikely.  I'm pretty sure they're synthetic, probably plastic.
three howlite cabochons dyed to impersonate turquoiseThe only thing vaguely turquoise about them is their colour.  Not all fake turquoise is as blatantly obvious as this.

The stone in this next photo which is being sold in an online marketplace as turquoise is definitely fake.  It may well be howlite that's been dyed.
double terminated turquoise coloured crystal that's howlite that has been dyedThere are several tests that can be carried out to determine whether turquoise stones are real or fake.  Sadly most will cause some form of damage.

The least destructive and easiest method is a scratch test.  This measures the resistance of one mineral to being scratched by another.

On Mohs scale of mineral hardness turquoise grades 5 to 6.  This means it can be scratched by another mineral with the same hardness or one that's higher.

Howlite grades 3 to 3.5, azurite 3.5 to 4 and chrysocolla 2.5 to 3.5.  Magnesite has a similar hardness to turquoise.

Fluorite grades 4 on Mohs scale so will scratch howlite, azurite and chrysocolla.  It won't scratch magnesite or turquoise.turquoise mineral in rock matrix

Turquoise Properties and Colour

The colour of turquoise is described as 70% blue, 30% green.  The mineral turquoise is one of only a few natural stones to have given its name to a colour.  It was recorded as a colour in 1573. 

Personal preference for colour varies from one country to the next.  In Iran where turquoise has been highly prized since antiquity bluer shades are more popular.  In Tibet and India green is the colour of choice.

The colour of the mineral turquoise can vary significantly from subtle shades of blue to rich shades of green.  Copper is the chemical element responsible for blue whilst green is caused by impurities of iron.  Although rare, yellow is caused by zinc.

The spidery veins in turquoise are known as matrix.  They're part of the host rock in which the mineral formed.  Pure blue turquoise void of matrix is highly sought after.

Turquoise is a relatively soft stone that's also fragile.  Being porous means it absorbs moisture including oils from the skin.  Over time this can cause irreparable damage.

The colour of turquoise can fade if exposed to excessive heat.  In extreme circumstances it may even crack.  Stones should be protected from perfumes, hairspray, cosmetics and other pollutants in the atmosphere.  If not removed quickly these substances can leave a residue which can be difficult to remove.

Many of the superstitions associated with turquoise come from the stone's tendency to fade or change colour.

According to the modern birthstone chart turquoise is the birthstone for December.  Blue topaz can be used as an alternative.

The USA, Tibet, China, Afghanistan and Australia are the world's main producers.

large turquoise mineral in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

Turquoise Healing Properties

When used for its healing properties turquoise is believed to strengthen the immune system. It can also increase the amount of energy that flows through the body.

Turquoise is a master healing stone that comforts, supports and replenishes.  Throughout history it has been used for protection and was believed to change colour if danger was approaching.

It promotes spiritual development and the ability to communicate with other realms.  Turquoise can be used to explore past lives and to release unwanted patterns of behaviour.  

It purifies the environment, dispels negative energy and balances male and female energies.

Turquoise is great for problem solving and can help calm nerves when speaking in public.

It instills confidence, aids creative expression, stabilizes mood swings and brings inner calm.  Healers recommend it for mental exhaustion, depression and panic attacks.  

The calming energy of turquoise may also be used to calm fiery emotions. 

Turquoise in shades of green and blue combine the energies of the heart and throat chakras.  These stones can be used to enhance self expression and improve communication especially in matters relating to love.

Turquoise should not be allowed to get wet and should not be placed in sunlight.  Exposure to either is likely to cause stones to mark, lose colour or even crack. 

Article Pictures

The turquoise at the top of our article is from the Sleeping Beauty mine in Arizona.  The turquoise in the second from last picture comes from Bisbee, south east Arizona.  Both are courtesy of Stan Celestian.

The photo of the diadem of Marie Louise comes from the website of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History where it's currently housed.

The turquoise in the last photo is displayed in the same location.

The white howlite mineral is courtesy of James St.John.  The rough turquoise stones are from our collection. 

Pictures are clickable and redirect to the original photo.    

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