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What Is Turquoise?

Turquoise is a blue-green mineral.
Only rulers wore turquoise in the past, especially Egyptian pharaohs.
Direct sunlight should be avoided to preserve the quality of turquoise.
Turquoise is a by-product on copper mining.
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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2014
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Turquoise is a blue-green mineral, a copper aluminum phosphate, valued for its rarity and unique hue, and widely used as an ornamental stone. Popular in the 16th century to adorn places of worship in Turkey, it was eventually traded in Turkish bazaars and brought to Europe by merchants and travelers. This stone is fragile — just slightly stronger than window glass — so special care must be taken during extraction and transport.

The bluer the stone is, the more expensive. Variations in color are due to the presence of metals, such as iron impurities in the case of green turquoise. Most original mines were depleted a long time ago, and the current supply comes mostly as a byproduct of copper mining. Iran is the world's largest producer of this mineral; it is also mined in the Southwest US, primarily in Arizona and Nevada. This has made the stone a popular choice to create Native American jewelry and religious tiling and decoration.

In the past, the mineral was worn only by rulers, especially by Ancient Egyptian pharaohs, Aztecs kings, and Chinese emperors. Often set in gold and combined with other stones such as jade, quartz, and malachite, it was thought to be a magical stone that could protect the wearer from malignant forces. Apache and Navajo tribes also considered the stone a powerful amulet, although everybody was allowed to wear it.

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It is now possible for this mineral to be bought and used by anybody, provided they can afford it. If price is a consideration, artificial turquoise is available. While early imitations were made of glass and enamel and easily identifiable, new versions are not distinguishable to the untrained eye.

Turquoise needs to be cared for to stay in top condition. The stone is sensitive to chemicals and naturally fragile, so it should not come in contact with strong perfumes or cleaning chemicals, should be kept away from direct sunlight, and should not be hit or knocked against hard surfaces. It is easily scratched, so owners must care for it during storage as well. The mineral also needs to "breathe" to conserve its deep natural color. Lack of air will eventually turn the stone greenish, contributing to it losing its value.

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Discuss this Article

anon322024
Post 11

@sobeit: Because what you are referring to is not real turquoise. It's usually dyed howlite, pressed turquoise powder mixed with blue plastic or just plain old imitation. In the best case, it is very low grade turquoise fortified by clear resin.

discographer
Post 10

@feasting-- Not me, I don't like the green turquoise stones, only the light-blue and dark-blue ones. Some blue turquoise have green or brown spots in them and I think that's okay. But for some reason, green turquoise doesn't really seem like turquoise to me. When I think of turquoise, blue immediately comes to mind.

I also have olive skin. So I think that blue turquoise suits my skin tone better.

ddljohn
Post 9

@giddion-- I agree with you. Real turquoise is not cheap. Sometimes people dye stones and glass to make it look like turquoise beads. But you can almost always tell by the weight. If it's light-weight, it's probably not turquoise.

ZipLine
Post 8

Turquoise is my favorite color and I love turquoise stones. I believe that they have the power to protect and this is probably why it is used a lot in jewelry. It's a common stone used for making evil-eye pendants too.

It could also be that because it's a vibrant and attractive color, people are automatically drawn to it when someone is wearing it. This is actually said to keep away negative energies.

For example, if you were going out to a special event with lots of guests where you would be dressed up, you can wear a necklace with turquoise. When envious or jealous people look at you, they will be drawn to the turquoise and the turquoise will absorb the negative energy they might be emanating.

anon296595
Post 7

Well I have a necklace that is turquoise, almost wrapped in fine gold wire on a long chain. It's so summery and beachy. It's perfect.

cloudel
Post 6

I got a chunky turquoise necklace for Christmas from my boyfriend. Turquoise has always been my favorite stone.

It goes so well with all my silver jewelry. I think that the cool tones of the silver complement the cool blue of the turquoise.

I would never wear this necklace with gold jewelry. I just don't think they go together at all.

giddion
Post 5

@sobeit – People may be marketing the cheap jewelry as turquoise, because it is hard to spot a fake. Generally, if turquoise jewelry is priced low, it isn't real turquoise.

There is one kind of fake turquoise that you can spot by breaking it in two, because the color inside will not be the same as that outside. However, I doubt you would want to break apart a turquoise stone at a vendor's table.

feasting
Post 4

Personally, I don't mind if my turquoise turns green. I like this shade, and to me, it is just as beautiful as the blue kind.

If you buy turquoise that is green to begin with, you will save a lot of money. I bought some green turquoise necklaces, and they cost half of what the blue versions did.

shell4life
Post 3

@sunnysideup – I don't know of any way to restore the color. Turquoise is just so sensitive! Even some body lotions and cosmetics can alter its color, so you have to be so careful while wearing it.

My dad bought my sister and I turquoise bracelets when he was on a business trip to Colorado. We were both rather young at the time, and we had no clue how to care for them. The stones lost their original beauty in no time.

sobeit
Post 2

If turquoise stones are valued for their rarity, why can they be found in almost every flea market, cheap jewelery store and everywhere in between for very little?

sunnysideup
Post 1

I have a pair of turquoise stud earrings which are set in silver. I wish I had known that turquoise is sensitive to chemicals before I used a silver cleaner on them.

After cleaning them I noticed the deep turquoise blue had faded to a shallow, unattractive color. I ruined them and am really sad because they were a present from my grandparents.

I'm wondering if there's any way to re-invigorate the stones' depth and beauty? If not, I learned the hard way.

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