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Gem Spotlight: Turquoise

Turquoise ballerinas

Turquoise is a beautiful and versatile gemstone that has been valued for centuries for its unique color and qualities. It has become more popular recently for its color and durability, and the fact that no two stones are alike.

At Brittany’s Fine Jewelry in Gainesville FL, we have a wide selection of turquoise jewelry and see firsthand the beauty of these stones. Keep reading to learn more about turquoise.

Turquoise History

Turquoise is one of the world’s earliest appreciated gemstones. Archaeological excavations uncovered the fact that the rulers of ancient Egypt adorned themselves with turquoise jewelry, and the Chinese artisans were carving it over 3,000 years ago. Turquoise has long been considered a stone that guarantees health, good fortune, and protection from evil.

The gem’s name comes from the French expression pierre tourques, or “Turkish stone.” The name, which originated in the thirteenth century, reflects the fact that the material probably first arrived in Europe from Turkey.

Turquoise was a ceremonial gem and use as a form of currency for Native American tribes in the southwestern US. They also used it in their jewelry and amulets. The Apaches believed that turquoise increased a hunter’s or warrior’s accuracy if attached to a bow or firearm.

Turquoise Native American piece

Turquoise is plentiful and available in a wide range of sizes. It’s used for beads, cabochons, carvings, and inlays. Its popularity in the mainstream jewelry industry comes and goes usually driven by jewelry designers. The biggest and most permanent market is in the American Southwest.

Turquoise Locations

Turquoise is found in only a few places on earth: dry and barren regions where acidic, copper-rich groundwater seeps downward and reacts with minerals that contain phosphorus and aluminum.

Turquoise rough

Turquoise Colors

Turquoise color can range from dull greens to grass greens to a bright, medium-toned, sky blue. People value turquoise highly for its combination of ancient heritage and unforgettable color.

The traditional source for the top color, sometimes described as robin’s-egg blue or sky blue, is the Nishapur district of Iran, the country formerly known as Persia. So, quite often, you’ll hear people in the trade call turquoise of this beautiful color “Persian blue,” whether or not it was actually mined in Iran.

Turquoise Varieties

Although much turquoise jewelry is sleek and modern, many US consumers are familiar with the traditional jewelry of Native American peoples such as the Pueblo, Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo. People interested in Native American arts and crafts frequently collect this stylized silver jewelry.

Turquoise Composition

Turquoise owes its texture to its structure and composition. It’s an aggregate of microscopic crystals that form a solid mass. If the crystals are packed closely together, the material is less porous, so it has a finer texture. Fine-textured turquoise has an attractive, waxy luster when it’s polished.

Turquoise cuff links in 18K gold

Turquoise with a less-dense crystal structure has higher porosity and coarser texture, resulting in a dull luster when it’s polished. Porosity and texture don’t just affect appearance: They also affect durability. Turquoise is fairly soft—it ranks 5 to 6 on the Mohs scale. Turquoise with a coarse texture might have poor toughness, too. Samples with finer texture have fair to good toughness.In turquoise, low porosity and fine texture are more valuable than high porosity and coarse texture. Coarse, porous stones are usually treated to make them smoother, shinier, and more marketable.

Turquoise Formation

Turquoise deposits usually form in iron-rich limonite or sandstone. Limonite creates dark brown markings in turquoise, while sandstone creates tan markings. These markings are remnants of the host rock within the turquoise, and can resemble splotches or veins. They’re called matrix. Manufacturers try to fashion turquoise so that no matrix is visible, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Small amounts of turquoise might be scattered through the host rock in such a way that the rough material can’t yield any cut specimens large enough to fashion into gems without including some matrix.

Turquoise rough and finished jewelry

The presence of matrix can lower the value of turquoise, but that doesn’t mean turquoise with matrix is worthless or unmarketable. Some buyers actually prefer the presence of matrix in fashioned turquoise if its effect is attractive and balanced.

This is especially true if it’s a type of turquoise known in the trade as spiderweb turquoise. It contains matrix in thin, delicate, web-like patterns across the face of the gemstone. The patterns provide a dark contrast to the gem’s bright blue.

Spiderweb matrix in turquoise

In the market for top-quality turquoise, stones with no matrix at all command the highest prices. Gems with attractive spiderweb matrix rank second in value.

Turquoise at Brittany’s Fine Jewelry

If you love to look of this beautiful stone, visit Brittany’s Fine Jewelry in Gainesville FL. We have a wide selection of turquoise jewelry in a variety of settings to showcase the best aspects of this stone. We are happy to help you find the perfect for you or a loved one!