Glossary: Turquoise Jewelry: What It Is and How To Buy
What is Turquoise?
Known for its robin's egg hue, turquoise is a beautiful semi-precious gemstone that’s prized for its opaque, light blue color.
One of the oldest known gemstone materials, turquoise is found in very dry or semiarid regions worldwide. The earliest-known turquoise mines were in the Sinai, and archaeologists have found turquoise within tombs in the storied el-Qaa region that date all the way back to 5000 B.C.
Turquoise jewelry and ornamentation have been found in Persian, Egyptian, Aztec and Chinese historic sites. In the Southwest United States, Native Americans have a long history of making jewelry out of turquoise. Many people are surprised to learn that turquoise mining in North America dates back to 200 B.C. when vast trade routes ran from the American Southwest all the way to Mesoamerica.
Turquoise can be green or blue depending on zinc, iron and copper content. The stones are usually cut into cabochons or domes to draw out the vibrant natural colors and to account for their naturally porous makeup.
Why Buy Turquoise Jewelry?
Turquoise is a popular jewelry accessory, a fashionable gemstone with striking color qualities. It’s also one of the most storied gemstones with plenty of fascinating lore.
With an ancient history that dates back further than almost any gemstone, turquoise has long represented wisdom, good fortune, tranquility, hope and protection. Ancient humans believed the striking stone held profound power to protect while providing tranquil energy that promoted enduring love. Even today, modern crystal experts celebrate turquoise for its representation of tranquility, wisdom and protection.
Many of the stone’s lore and symbolism revolve around predicting danger. Ancient peoples believed that turquoise stones could warn their owners of danger by cracking or breaking. Color changes were also thought to warn of impending illnesses. In one legendary tale, a man thought he had broken a bone but later realized his turquoise jewelry had made the cracking sound and, therefore, “took” the injury in his place.
Turquoise was also thought to protect from dangerous falls, most especially from horseback. People used to attach the gem to a horse's bridle to protect both the animal and rider. Turquoise's use as a powerful “horse amulet” appears in historical records as an ancient magical practice.
With its gorgeous ice hue, turquoise is a fashionable addition to modern ensembles. The vivid stone elevates any look while infusing luxury jewelry pieces with eye-catching flair.
December: Turquoise Birthstone
With a vibrant color spectrum ranging from blue-green to sky blue, turquoise has been prized by countless cultures all over Earth for over five millennia. These days, the traditional December birthstone is coveted by many well-known contemporary jewelry designers, along with aficionados of the American Southwest and authentic Native American jewelry.
Adding bursts of warmth to winter ensembles, December’s birthstone is a popular holiday gift, especially when paired with an artfully crafted jewelry piece.
An alluring example is found in John Atencio’s popular Bermuda collection. Inspired by the serene blue-green waters of Bermuda, these stylish jewelry designs blend soft curves with matrix turquoise cabochons and fiery pave diamonds that bring an element of warmth to warm and winter seasons.
How to Choose Turquoise Jewelry
Turquoise forms in rocks that are rich in mineral content. The presence of specific minerals imparts the color of each stone. The following factors influence the value of turquoise and the cost of any turquoise jewelry piece.
While turquoise is usually blue, colors can range from almost white to vivid yellow-green, depending on where the stone was formed. Some stones known as spider-webbed turquoise contain fine webbing of the original matrix. Whatever the case, the same minerals that affect color can also impact hardness and quality. More valuable turquoise tends to be deep green or pale blue.
The matrix is a term used to describe the remaining non-turquoise host material found in turquoise stones. Matrixing in turquoise is another aspect that can impact beauty, uniqueness and overall value. Acquired by the surrounding mineral deposits, matrixing is unique to each stone, making every turquoise gem a veritable one-of-a-kind.
Just like most gemstones, turquoise receives a grade for quality, with more valuable stones receiving grades of AA, AAA and AAAA. This includes stones with unusual or bold colors, noticeable webbing, and enough durability to take a high polish. Standard jewelry-grade stones merit grades of AA-, A, B or C. Any stone with a lower grade requires treatment before being used in jewelry.
Turquoise is reasonably soft and porous compared to diamond gemstones. While diamonds rank 10 on the Mohs scale for hardness, turquoise ranges from a 2 to a 6. Stones with a lower score are soft and porous enough to require treatments which can lower the value and overall price. Turquoise with scores of 6 can be used in jewelry without treatment.
Turquoise has an avid collector’s market, which includes numerous enthusiasts who search for rare matrix variations, colors and specimens from specific mine sites. Just as any notable gemstone collection would be incomplete without several different representatives of this mineral species; no jewelry collection should be without at least one piece featuring this beautifully versatile gem.
That said, when purchasing turquoise jewelry, it’s important to shop at a reputable jeweler, such as John Atencio, who only uses the highest-quality gemstones to create his wearable works of art.
How Can I Tell If Turquoise Is Real?
Many jewelry pieces contain imitation turquoise made from resins or dyed howlite, an absorbent white mineral that’s often dyed blue or green. You can often identify false turquoise by considering the price, color and overall appearance. If the price seems too good to be true, you’re likely dealing with imitation turquoise. You may also be able to see areas where the dye has accumulated in certain fissures within the stone.
While turquoise is a relatively soft stone, howlite is even softer. If you can scratch the stone with your fingernail, it’s most likely howlite. But it's more likely to be turquoise if it’s very hard to scratch the stone.
With all that said, the only real way to know that you aren’t buying imitation turquoise is to shop at a reputable jeweler with a widespread reputation for quality and integrity.
How To Clean Turquoise
It's generally safe to clean turquoise jewelry using warm, soapy water, but you should never try to clean the stones using harsh abrasive cleansers or steam or ultrasonic cleaners. Since some turquoise is treated to enhance its surface appearance, heat and solvents can cause permanent damage to treated surfaces.
We offer a vast collection of artfully crafted jewelry pieces at John Atencio featuring hand-selected turquoise gems. We also offer a wide selection of elegant luxury pieces featuring other gorgeous birthstones, including rubies, sapphires, emeralds and more. Shop online or visit one of our Colorado locations, where our seasoned experts can guide you to the perfect jewelry piece for yourself or a loved one on your shopping list.