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One of the oldest known pieces of jewellery was a turquoise amulet carved in the shape of an ibex, which was recovered from an Egyptian tomb. The piece is estimated to be about 5500 years old. Turquoise occurs almost exclusively in desert areas, and so we see that it became a very important amulet for people who inhabited these areas. It was the national gem of Persia, and for many Arabic-speaking people it was considered ‘the lucky stone’.
Moslems carried amulets engraved with passages from the Koran, and in many cultures we see it associated with journeys. Over time it has come to symbolise courage, ful lment, and success, as well as having apotropaic effects (protection against evil or harm). Certainly all these qualities would have been desirable when undertaking journeys – the courage to commence in the rst place when the road would not have been easy, and the success and ful lment of the mission when you arrived safely.
For this reason it was often used to decorate horses to ensure safe travels for horse and rider. It had a reputation as an amulet to protect the wearer from injury by falling especially from horseback, and also from things falling on him (like walls). Falls and things falling upon you would have been serious hazards for riders, as they still are in parts of the world where great distances are travelled on horseback.
In fact this power may have some connection to practical applications as the Turks used turquoise amulets on their horses to protect the animal from the ill effects of drinking cold water when they were overheated from hard riding. We can imagine that an overheated and stressed horse is far less steady and sure-footed; therefore taking care of the horse is also taking care of the rider.
We actually get our name for the stone via the French who called it ‘turkey stone’ as they sourced it from Turkey. However, it was also sacred to Buddhists, because the legend goes that when the Buddha was attacked by a monster he was able to kill the beast with the magical powers of the turquoise he wore.
It is also a sacred stone for the Pueblo Indians of Arizona and New Mexico, who were using it from at least 400 CE. The possession of a turquoise was indispensable for medicine men and women, who without a piece of this sacred stone would not achieve recognition for their skills.
Amongst the Native Americans it was ascribed the power of accuracy and was tied to bows or guns to speed the projectile to its mark. Perhaps it is similar qualities that make the turquoise an excellent detection pendulum.
While in Nepal the turquoise forms an extensive part of women’s dowries, amongst the Europeans it was very much a man’s gem, and women rarely wore it until after the 17th century.
The stone, like the opal, is very sensitive to ‘the action of certain emanations’, and anecdotes show that it may at times be in uenced by the wearer’s state of health. A poem by Donne talks of a turquoise that warns the wearer of impending sickness by turning pale.
It is interesting that the turquoise and the opal share this sensitivity as both are found almost exclusively in desert areas, and much like the opal, turquoise is not a crystal as such but a hydrated ‘mineraloid’. It may well be the loss of the water embedded in the stone that causes it to fade over time, like the opal. In the 1800’s, a woman in London was reputed to have the ability to restore paled turquoise to its natural blue, and many brought their jewels to her for restoration.
Over the millennia turquoise was prescribed against the Evil Eye – a natural extension of its protection of travellers against illness, injury and violent death. It was also taken to cure eye diseases, headaches, fever, as well as chest and leg pains.
The soft rich blue of turquoise makes it an excellent stone for the throat chakra, aiding creative expression, communication, friendship, and loyalty. It is also good for aligning all chakras, enhancing meditation, and peace of mind. Interestingly, it was also considered a lucky token for rekindling old love affairs.
Recommended for people struggling with alcoholism, it vitalises blood, and helps circulation, lungs and the respiratory system. This makes it appropriate for supporting smokers as well.
Turquoise is now considered the birthstone for December. The ancient astrologers assigned turquoise to Sagittarius, as blue stones where sacred to Jupiter.
Science and gemmology:
Turquoise is composed of hydrated copper aluminium phosphate. It’s a secondary mineral that results when aluminium-bearing rocks, which are rich in the minerals apatite, chalcopyrite, chalcedony and limonite, are altered in arid regions.
For this reason, almost all turquoise is found in desert regions of the world: Iran, Egypt (Sinai), Turkestan (Samarkand), Los Cerillos in New Mexico and Nevada. The stone mined in southern USA is more of a greenish blue.
When choosing turquoise you need to be aware that most of the inexpensive pieces, especially beads, are often arti cially coloured using oil or waxes and the fractures are lled with plastics.
Turquoise is a medium-hard stone, being 5 to 6 on the Mohs scale. It is suitable for beads and bezel settings in rings.