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Turquoise Gemstone Information

Turquoise Gemstone Information

When it comes to gemstones, turquoise is one of the most popular gems in the world. Along with being incredibly significant to specific cultures, its striking colour is difficult to overlook. Plus, turquoise often has unique patterning that makes each piece feel special.

However, while most jewelry fans and collectors have heard of turquoise, it's common to have questions about this magnificent stone. If you're wondering, "What is turquoise?" here's what you need to know about turquoise properties, colour, history, and more.

Turquoise Properties

In a technical sense, turquoise isn't a gemstone. Instead, it's a phosphate mineral. Additionally, it's generally classified as a secondary mineral, as it's formed through the oxidation and decomposition of other minerals. For example, the decomposition of copper sulfide near potassium-feldspar-containing deposits in the American southwest can potentially lead to turquoise.

Overall, raw turquoise is cryptocrystalline – meaning there are no visible particles – and massive in form. Additionally, it's often botryoidal, with small domed protrusions that resemble a bunch of grapes. There's also distinctive veining on most samples, though some may have more than others.

Turquoise stones used for jewelry, carvings, or collector's pieces are usually opaque. However, it can also be translucent in some cases. As for the lustre, it ranges from earthy and dull to sub-vitreous, which means there is a slight but not fully glassy shine.

If you're wondering, "What is Chinese turquoise, and is it different from other types of turquoise?" the answer is that the stones are highly similar. Copper also plays a big role in the formation of Chinese turquoise, and it is typically found in similar shapes and structures. Additionally, it's typically opaque with a waxy lustre and features comparable patterning. However, there can be slight differences in the overall chemical composition, but not enough for it not to be considered turquoise.

Turquoise Color

Turquoise stone colour variations

While it may come as a surprise, turquoise doesn't come in just one colour. The most commonly associated hue is typically a vibrant light blue that leans slightly green. However, some specimens may be darker or lighter. Additionally, some may exhibit more or less green than others. It's also possible for green turquoise to have a tinge of brown, making it look earthier.

When it comes to the veining – which is also called a matrix – it can vary. Some may seem black, while others look gray. Brown veining – ranging from dark to light – is fairly common, particularly out of certain mines in the American southwest. Sometimes, the matrix might even come across as dark blue or deep green.

A rare matrix colour is associated with the Kingman mine in Arizona. Along with black veining, some stones have a silver matrix, which is considered highly desirable and very collectible.

The shape and amount of matrix can also vary. One of the most widely sought versions is stones with a spider-web matrix, which has a look that resembles a spider web. However, other matrixes are also popular for a variety of reasons.

The History of Turquoise

Traditional turquoise artifacts

While turquoise is most commonly associated with the American southwest, it's actually said that it was discovered – in a formal, scientific sense – in Iran. Turquoise stones from Iran were sent to Europe via Turkey during the 13th century. As a result, the gem's name was derived from "turques" or "turquois," which means "Turkish" in French.

However, turquoise has a history dating back much further than that discovery. In the Mesopotamia region (present-day Iraq), turquoise beads were discovered that date back to approximately 5000 BCE. Egyptian tombs from around 3000 BCE have revealed turquoise jewelry. There's also a mention of turquoise in the Bible.

Additionally, turquoise was used by many North and South American populations. Artifacts from the Aztecs and Mayans have included turquoise. Additionally, turquoise had a prominent place in many Native American cultures more than a millennia before Europeans named the stone.

As for Native American jewelry featuring silver and turquoise – as we know it today – that's believed to have originated in the 1880s. As the story goes, a European trader requested that a Navajo craftsperson take a silver coin and use the metal to create turquoise jewelry.

Where Is Turquoise Found?

Polished turquoise stones

The majority of turquoise mines are located in the United States. The most widely known are the turquoise mines in Arizona. But there are also Nevada turquoise mines of note, as well as some turquoise mines in New Mexico and other locations throughout the American southwest that have some notoriety.

However, a significant number of American turquoise mines aren't currently producing. In some cases, that causes the value of turquoise from those regions to rise. For example, Bisbee turquoise is rare since the mine shut down in 1975. Plus, it's beautiful, making it incredibly collectible.

Other places produce turquoise in varying quantities. When turquoise was initially discovered, it was actually found in Iran. Some magnificent specimens have also been unearthed in Portugal, Belgium, Afghanistan, Russia, Peru, and Tibet. Additionally, states outside the American southwest can also have turquoise deposits, including easterly states like Virginia.

Another source of turquoise is China. However, many people believe that the majority of Chinese turquoise is fake. In reality, the answer to the question, "Is Chinese turquoise real turquoise?" isn't always simple.

Legitimate stones are coming from Chinese turquoise mines. One prime example is Hubei turquoise from mines in Hubei. Other Chinese turquoise mines in Ma'anshan are also authentic.

However, while there are turquoise mines in China, not all turquoise produced in China is legitimate. For example, some fake turquoise is actually dyed howlite. In some cases, the faux turquoise is plastic, resin, or epoxy dyed and cast to look like genuine turquoise.

It's these reproductions that give Chinese turquoise a bad reputation. However, some of it is authentic, so buyers should do some research to determine whether a stone is genuine before making a purchase.

Turquoise Jewelry

Turquoise rough stone

In many cases, turquoise jewelry is incredibly easy to find. While the look of each stone can vary – which would typically make it ill-suited for mass production – its broad popularity means you can potentially find pieces through a range of retailers.

Some chain jewellers will carry turquoise jewelry, as well as many department stores. It's also a favourite gem among many independent designers. As a result, most people interested in purchasing turquoise jewelry can easily find options.

Due to the gem's characteristics, cabochons are incredibly popular for turquoise jewelry. You can also find tumbled stones, as those can highlight the matrix and hold a decent polish while maintaining an organic shape. Plus, turquoise beads are widely used for strand necklaces and bracelets and often make their way onto pendulums.

Turquoise Meaning

Turquoise nuggets

As with most other gems, the turquoise stone meaning varies depending on a person's belief system. First, it's important to mention that turquoise is a December birthstone, which can give it meaning to anyone born in that month.

Aside from the birthstone association, many feel that the turquoise gemstone meaning focuses on peace and protection. It's considered a calming and grounding stone, which some believe is ideal for anyone that feels overwhelmed or anxious.

Others think the turquoise metaphysical properties center on a stronger connection between heaven and Earth, which could make it a solid choice for meditation and advancing one's spiritual connections. The gem's colouring – which can resemble a bright blue sky – is likely partially responsible for the association.

Still, others think that the turquoise benefits focus on avoiding energy stagnation. It's said to improve flow and vitality in that case. The turquoise spiritual meaning is also connected to luck and good fortune, as well as wisdom.

When it comes to the chakras, the turquoise meaning and uses are connected to the throat and third eye, depending on the stone's colour.

As for the turquoise healing properties, some believe it helps reduce inflammation, respiratory system issues, or physical heart ailments. Others think it's a detoxifying stone or that it can assist with achieving mental and emotional balance. However, it's important to remember that there's no scientific evidence that any stone can prevent or treat any medical issues, so it shouldn't be used in lieu of legitimate medical care from a healthcare professional.

Stones Similar to Turquoise

Some stones have some characteristics in common with turquoise. However, most potential substitutes distinctly fall short in specific areas, preventing them from being universally strong stand-ins.

In some cases, chrysocolla may look like turquoise, though it can come in colours and patterns that make it appear more like other stones, such as malachite. The same can be true of shattuckite, with some pieces looking somewhat like turquoise. However, shattuckite is incredibly rare and is harder to work with, which often makes it more expensive than the genuine article.

At times, specific pieces of blue jadeite might be reminiscent of turquoise, though it's commonly more translucent and has a different structure.

Larimar can come in blue hues that aren't unlike what you may find in turquoise. However, the stone also has a notable amount of white in many cases and also lacks any veining. Smithsonite is also a vibrant light blue, but it features a significant amount of white, and its rarity makes it incredibly expensive.

In a raw state, hemimorphite and turquoise can have a lot in common, as hemimorphite can come in a striking blue hue and is often botryoidal. However, hemimorphite is translucent to transparent and has more of a glass-like lustre.

If hemimorphite is cut and faceted, the resemblance is typically no longer there, especially since any vibrant colour may not remain and the translucent to transparent clarity is more apparent. Some samples turned into cabochons or beads may maintain a degree of likeness. However, in many cases, those are more likely to resemble larimar or smithsonite due to the presence of white areas and a lack of distinct veining.

Finally, as mentioned previously, dyed howlite can resemble genuine turquoise. While the colouring is artificial – as howlite is naturally white or light gray with dark gray or black veins – it is an option worth considering if you need to keep costs down.

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