Turquoise is a popular gemstone that has been used in art for centuries. Egyptian and Aztec artists and artisans first used turquoise in jewellery, sculpture, and mosaics. Found in light blue to green hues, it may also be flecked with pyrite, or have white, brown or black “marbling”, or matrix. Iran, Egypt, and Arizona, USA are the current top producers of turquoise.
Traditionally, turquoise is the birthstone for December. This honour is now shared with modern December birthstones tanzanite and blue topaz. Believers in the healing power of gemstones believe that turquoise is soothing and grounding, and a great stone for meditation.
This relatively soft stone rates a 5-6 on the Mohs hardness scale. Because turquoise is naturally soft and porous, soemtimes even chalky, it is treated to enhance its colour and durability. Traditionally, turquoise was lightly waxed or oiled. A simple heat test can prove if this treatment has been used, and purists generally agree that this treatment is acceptable. More commonly, plastic and water glass treatments are used to “bond” or “stabilize” turquoise, and these treatments are more permanent and stable. It is up to the individual purchaser/wearer whether to purchase treated turquoise.
Because of its porosity, some care should be taken when wearing turquoise. Its colour can be affected by perfumes, body oils, cosmetics, and even strong sunlight. Store it in a location where it won’t be scratched by other items, and clean gently with a soft cloth.
Because great-quality turquoise is in such high demand, there are plenty of imitation and simulated turquoise items out there. Some common look-alike stones include dyed howlite, and magnesite, both of which are naturally white. These can often be identified by inspecting the beads – the inside of the drilled hole should be the same colour as the stone. If it’s white, it’s fake. There are also plastic and glass fakes, which can usually be identified by their feel/texture, and by the potential presence of bubbles. Plastic can be identified by introducing a hot item to an inconspicuous spot to see if it melts.
Find some great gift ideas for yourself or your favourite December birthday!