When I was a little girl, my parents would take my brother and me down to Washington state to visit my uncle and his family. They lived out in the country and when I got tired of playing with the chickens or walking through the orchard, I would look through their catalogues. There was one in particular, (I don’t remember the store it was from) that I especially liked. It had pages of beautiful, Southwestern silver and turquoise jewellery. I fell in love with turquoise then, and I still love it today.
Turquoise has been much loved and prized for thousands of years. It shows up in the mythology and jewellery of the ancient Egyptians, Persians, Chinese, Aztecs, Incas and native North Americans. Turquoise beads have been found in Iraq that date back to 5000 B.C. and the ancient Egyptians were mining turquoise in the Sinai in 3200 B.C. It was considered to be a stone of power, wisdom, and immortality.
Among the Native Americans, turquoise was worn by the holy men of tribe when performing rituals involving the great spirit in the sky. Many thought it was the Universal stone and that their minds would become one with the universe when wearing it. It was also used for cloud-busting by praying to the rain god and throwing a piece of turquoise into a stream to bring much-needed rain (not a problem that we have here on the west coast- or is that the wet coast?)
The name turquoise comes from French-“pierre turquoise” which means Turkish stone. It was purchased in Turkish bazaars by European traders who brought it home. It was said that no man could consider himself to be properly adorned unless he had a fine quality turquoise ring on his hand. I would argue that this is still true today for everybody, but I am somewhat partial to turquoise.
Turquoise is a stone for the throat chakra, helping those who are shy to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Turquoise is one of the best stones for communicating our truth, confident in the knowledge that we all have something important to say. It is also a stone of integration and wholeness, and its water energy is cleansing and purifying.
Turquoise is 5-6 on the Mohs scale and can be somewhat fragile to work with. Much material is reconstituted, stabilized or enhanced and it is important to know what you are actually buying. Reconstituted turquoise is made from turquoise powder and resin. Once it has been processed, it can be cut and shaped like natural turquoise, however it should be considerably less expensive than natural turquoise. Some turquoise is porous and crumbly and is stabilized by soaking it in resin or impregnating it with wax. This treatment generally does not affect the price. Enhanced turquoise has been dyed or stained to produce a better, more even colour. This material should also be quite a bit cheaper than natural turquoise. Turquoise can also change colour over time due to light, oil from the skin and loss of moisture. When setting turquoise in a ring or a bracelet, use designs that protect the edges since rings and bracelets both seem to get a lot more abuse than earrings or necklaces.
What to set it in? Silver, of course! Yes, I know that ancient Egyptians set it in gold for funerary masks, but unless you’re a dead pharaoh, I think silver looks better. However, if you want it in gold, give it a try. Inspiration? Just look at photographs of jewellery from the civilizations that have incorporated turquoise into their designs over thousands of years or try something smooth and sleek and modern. Whatever you do, remember, you’re not properly dressed without your turquoise!
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