Thursday, October 6, 2016

Turquoise Gemstones

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Turquoise has been mined, traded and valued for centuries and is one of the oldest gems recorded. According to the Geological Society of America, mining of turquoise has been recognized across much of the southwest United States and northern Mexico, including as far north as Leadville, Colorado, and as far south as Zacatecas, Mexico.  Archeological findings of this mineral in Northern New Mexico date back to ca. A.D. 1250-1400.  Today turquoise is mined in many desert regions of the world including China, Iran, Persia, Mexico and the United States.

Since its discovery this precious mineral has been used as a valuable commodity for trade.  Turquoise jewelry is still sold and traded in markets around the world.  Each mine produces stones of various qualities and character which contribute to the uniqueness of the stone, making the turquoise more valuable; such as Cerrillos turquoise from the El Morro Valley in New Mexico or Bisbee Blue from the Bisbee Turquoise Mine in Arizona.  Many of the mines where turquoise was discovered include copper, silver and gold mining activities.


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Restringing some beautiful turquoise disc beads for a friend. Added this large focal turquoise BEAD by Anthony Martinez lapidary. Stunning!
The use of turquoise in objects and beads shows the versatility of the stone.  Many ancient peoples used turquoise in ceremonial or religious practices while others believe this gemstone holds spiritual value.  Historically turquoise is a favorite stone of jewelry makers and designers, novice and experts alike.  Here are a few cool tidbits about this popular mineral:
  1. In the old world, turquoise was revered as a holy stone, turquoise talismans have been found in grave furnishing in Ancient Egypt as far back as 3000 BCE.  
  2. Persia, now known as Iran, is the earliest turquoise producing region.  Sarabit el-Khadim & Wadi Maghareh are the oldest mines that produced turquoise.  
  3. The Aztecs use turquoise to adorn masks and other sacred ritual paraphernalias. Turquoise are believed to be of great cultural importance to these people.
  4. Turquoise is known to have been mined by Puebloans in what's now New Mexico between A.D. 850 and 1150.
  5. In the modern world, turquoise is one of the December birthstones!

Mask of Xiuhtecuhtli - British Museum



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Genuine Turquoise Beads

Even today we are still mystified by the beauty of turquoise. These stones come in a variety of colors to include sky blue, blue-green or apple-green, depending on the stone's chemical formula which includes copper aluminum phosphate.  The demand for turquoise has led to the introduction of natural imposters such as dyed howlite, chrysocolla, malachite, variscite and even magnasite so buyer beware because sometimes it's hard to know the difference.

There are tests that can be done but some requires a lab and chemicals  The hardness test may be the easiest for consumers.  A Mohs hardness of 5 to 6 can distinguish turquoise from similar gemstones.  Its hardness can also help identify real turquoise from imitations or synthetic materials.  A harder stone can scratch a stone of lesser hardness.  Quartz has a Mohs hardness of 7, which means that quartz can scratch turquoise.  This is a simple way to determine the genuineness of a stone.  

Greg King Lapidary Arts

Get to know your local lapidary artist, that's what I did.  Greg has been an active participant of the Tucson Gem Show for over 30 years.  He knows his stuff!!  Ask questions about the stones you are interested in.  Dare to incorporate your favorite stones into your creative designs and always KEEP CREATING.  

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2 comments:

  1. turquoise jewelry is my favorite item and I always preferred to wear it

    Eternity Rings

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    Replies
    1. Hi Nancy: it's always a go-to for
      me too. I have a variety of jewelry styles that include Turquoise. Sometimes I prefer a nice chunky bead over a heavy silver one. So glad you to hear from you.

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