Turquoise in history
by Ashutosh Roy
Started off its journey from Maghara Wadi mines of Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and Alimersai Mountain region of Persia (presently Iran). It came into Europe via Turkey at the time of the Crusades.
Turquoise – A snippet of its past
Are you planning of gifting the Zuni bracelet, Navajo conch belt or squash blossom necklace in your coming anniversary? Then its better to delve into the background of the key component of the above – the turquoise, the ancient, yet the most modern December birthstone.
Turquoise, one of the most valuable non-transparent minerals used in the jewelry trade, started off its journey from Maghara Wadi mines of Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and Alimersai Mountain region of Persia (presently Iran). It came into Europe via Turkey at the time of the Crusades. Victorian and Art Nouveau jewelry had Turquoise as a major component. At present it is the most widely used stone all over the world. Archeological sites show that it was a very popular trade item. The proof lies in tracing Cerillos Turquoise with the Aztecs, Persian Turquoise with Europeans. It is said that the son of Abraham used to supply Turquoise from the mines of Nishapur of Persia to Europe, Asian Countries and United States for years.
The name has come from the word Turquie, the French description “Pierre turquin”, which means dark blue stone. There is a slight misconception Turkey has never produced Turquoise. Turquoise used to be traded to Europe via Turkey.
Glittering effect of the turquoise blue has enhanced the beautification of the ornaments for years. The main usage of Turquoise is an ornamental stone for inlays, carving and Jewelry. But this gemstone has been treated as a sacred stone since its inception.
Approximately in 6000 BC, Turquoise was found in the bracelets of mummified Queen Zer. In around 3000 BC, there were traces of Turquoise based ornaments in tombs and burial grounds. Sumerians and Egyptians used to produce highly sophisticated gold ornaments, by inlaying Turquoise. There are clear evidences of Pharaohs and Aztec King wearing Turquoise. Some used to decorate their teeth with Turquoise. The history also speaks of the usage of turquoise in ornaments by Native Americans and by many Indian tribes in Mexico. Indians has been using Turquoise in beads since the pre-Columbian days. In around 1880, the famous Indian style silver jewelry with Turquoise gained popularity.
In the ancient civilization of Persia, the people used to wear it around the neck or on the hand with the belief of protecting from unnatural death. The conviction of treating Turquoise as a holy stone was up to the extent, where the wearer used to seal it by pearl and other covers to hide it from the jealous eyes. Al Kazwini, the Persian philosopher wrote that the hand wearing a Turquoise could never become poor. So, don’t get surprised, if you find a Turquoise in the middle finger of a Chief Executive of a corporate house.
Turquoise has been also treated as a holy stone in various parts of America. The ancient Aztecs in Peru used Turquoise in their ceremonies. The Indians residing in America used to believe that the sky blue colour of the stone has got a direct connection with the sky and saves the warriors and hunters. Turquoise used to be mounted upon the arrowhead for accuracy, one of the most ancient weapons for hunting. The Navaho used to believe that Turquoise is a piece of Sky, so casting a piece of turquoise in the sea will cause rainfall. According to the Apache, it combines the spirit of sea and sky to protect one from all natural calamities. The Zuni used Turquoise to protect them from demons. Aztec and Egyptian used to consider Turquoise as a symbol of prosperity. There are evidences where the pre-historic people like Anasazi and Hohokam used to mine Turquoise for future.
Some ancient sites have revealed the usage of Turquoise in various stages of lapidary treatment. Turquoise was believed to use in other treatments in the past also like eye diseases, stomach disorders, injury and bleeding etc. There are many such instances in the history, where the Turquoise has been treated as a holy stone for bringing wealth and happiness by fighting against the dark days and the evil power. The myth of Turquoise started with the horse riders (to stop accidents) in the earlier days and still continuing to be the treated as the most powerful stone for the accident-prone professions like Flight staff, aviators. In the Astrological schools, Turquoise is described as the confidence earning and relationship building stone. Crystal Healers and New Age believers treat Turquoise as the master healing stone with special strengths for recovering from respiratory, skeletal system, immune diseases. In the mental healing part it works best for communication. So, if you are getting frustrated because the audience never holds patience, when you deliver lectures, you may try out Turquoise as well.
Turquoise is supposed to be the gift of the nature. It is heard that the Egyptians used to send salve convoys deep into the Arabian Dessert to extract Turquoise. In the earlier days Turquoise used to be collected by the rock hounds. History has been able to trace the extensive use of Turquoise by Native Americans and many Indian tribes since 200 B.C. in the form of beads and pendants.
As the popularity goes up, the price goes high. Now, you may even think Turquoise as an investment option like King Tut, whose treasures include a significant quantity of Turquoise. As success has many fathers, Joseph Harriss claims Turquoise to be an integral part of the new world culture of America. The fact is that the usage started with the Native Americans and Indian tribes of Mexico. When the Spanish reached the new world, since then Turquoise had been seen as a common ingredient of royal and ceremonial jewelry. At times, Turquoise used to be priced even more than gold. Aristotle, Pliny and others have also referred to the stone, Turquoise. In Tibet, Turquoise had been even used for currency for years.
Pricing of Turquoise is one of the biggest and controversial factors. There are several varieties arising from several geographical locations. To make matters further worse, the synthetic Turquoise has been spread out in the market. The best quality Turquoise may price even at $2,200 per KG.
Today the popularity has gone to such an extent that contemporary designers like Ray Tracery and Brothers, Alvin and Brian Yellow horse have started designing new bracelets with Turquoise based on this old tradition.