The Little Blue Stone That Changed The World
Turquoise is December's birthstone, but its appeal and power goes far beyond decorating birthday gifts. The aqua blue hue of a fine piece is rarely found in nature. This helped it become a form of currency for cultures across the globe. A delicate combination of aluminum and copper make this mineral unusual and limited to just a few deposits.
Tibetan Buddhists have long attributed holy power to this mineral deposit. Used to form prayer bead chains known as malas, the stone is believed to purify the soul and give the owner good luck. Ancient Persians believed they could ward off an unnatural or early death by keeping turquoise on them at all times. People from both cultures kept a careful eye on their stones - Tibetans felt the stone turning green indicated hepatitis, while the Persians worried color changes meant bad luck was on the way. However, we now know that it's due to exposure to heat, direct sunlight, dry conditions or the acidity of your skin.
Today's market is full of adulterated or downright fake turquoise. This trend might seem like a recent development, but it's actually an ancient tradition too. The ancient Egyptians were the first to mimic the sky blue look with an aqua colored pottery glaze called faience. It was made from crushed quartz crystals that took on the correct color when heated in the kiln. Other cultures carefully manipulated glass and enamel to get the right look without having to hit a vein of real turquoise.
Old Fashioned Treatments
While turquoise is not the most fragile precious stone used for jewelry today, it is susceptible to damage. A relatively soft texture means it's easily scratched or marred when worn on a daily basis. Jewelers working thousands of years ago knew this fact as well as their modern counterparts and created a number of treatment options for protecting the stone. Traditional treatments involve oiling or waxing the surface to prevent color changes from dehydration and exposure to sweaty skin. This treatment also gives it a classic wet look, deepening the color and creating even more lustre. It's a great way to treat modern turquoise too.
Arriving In Europe
Asian and American cultures were collecting and trading turquoise nearly as early as the Egyptians, but it took the establishment of the famed Silk Road to bring its beauty to Europe. This is where its current name comes from - Europeans believed it came from Turkey, although no major mines are believed to have existed in that territory back then. It didn't become popular with kings and wealthy merchants alike until the 14th century when the Roman Catholic Church relaxed their grip on the stone for religious decorations.
You don't have to hold out for a rare piece of turquoise from a Persian amulet to start your collection. Modern mines still produce plenty of brand new and record-breaking stones each year, giving you a chance to enjoy your own boost of good luck by carrying this famous mineral.