Summer is turquoise season! It’s the happiest of colors, and it looks fabulous on absolutely everyone. Many of us grew up associating turquoise with heavy Native American jewelry, set in silver. However, considering that the availability of gem quality material is decreasing rapidly, designers like me have chosen to elevate turquoise pieces to fine jewelry – setting it in 18k gold and adorning it with diamonds – and giving it the attention it deserves.
For centuries, turquoise has figured prominently in many cultures: It is the powerful symbol of the relationship between the Earth and the sky. In some cultures, it was considered so important that it was used as currency. Healers believe in the power of turquoise to correct imbalance, bring peace of mind, ward off depression, and stimulate healthier respiratory function.
VARIETIES OF TURQUOISE USED IN MY JEWELRY
The Eureka County, Nevada mine that produced the turquoise of the heart pendants was known as the “Number 8.” Famous for the biggest nuggets found in history, the material is known for its spider-web matrix of browns and blacks and the blue background ranging from light to very rich, dark blue. The color and patterns of the Number 8 turquoise is easy to recognize.
Discovered in 1924 and first mined in 1929, the location was owned by several famous miners over time but closed production in 1976 – making what’s left of the turquoise very rare and highly sought after by collectors. Once the stockpile reserve of this “gem quality” turquoise is depleted (i.e., SOLD by the dealers lucky enough to have some), the material will never be available again.
The famous Globe, Arizona mine was named for the surrounding mountains, resembling a sleeping woman lying on her back with her arms folded across her chest. The material produced there is coveted for its unusual robin’s egg blue color, with very little if any matrix; and hard enough to be used for jewelry. What many people don’t know is that turquoise is the natural by-product of mining copper. The large copper deposit that surrounds the Sleeping Beauty mine is what gave the stone its vibrant color. However, the high cost of mining coupled with strict federal regulations resulted in the owners’ decision to cease turquoise production in August of 2012 to focus solely on copper extraction/production; copper was fetching a high price on the global market.
Naturally, the closure affected the turquoise market as well, and the highly sought-after material has increased in price dramatically since 2012. The supply is minimal, yet it is still considered the most desirable of all turquoise.
The turquoise which has areas of pyrite (marcasite) is Persian material. Interestingly, turquoise is thought to be the very first stone ever mined – dating back to 7000 BCE – in the Sinai Peninsula in what is now known as Iran (previously called Persia). Although many of the historic mines in the area are long depleted, many others still generate beautiful material. Used to adorn everything from turbans to weapons to mosques and cathedrals, for centuries the stone was believed to bring strength and protection to those who possess it. Bright blue turquoise was thought to represent the heavenly sky because of its color; and the connection to the earth because of the brown-tones and silvery matrix within the stones. That relationship between heaven and earth made turquoise enormously important.
Today, although Iranian production accounts for a very small percentage of the world’s output, turquoise is still Iran’s national gemstone and continues to hold significant spiritual value in the culture.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Turquoise is somewhat porous and consequently can easily absorb perfumes, lotion, hairspray, and other liquids which will lead to spotting and permanent discoloration of the stones. It is very sensitive and should not be cleaned with any product other than water and a clean rag. It will be destroyed with typical jewelry cleaners.
Be sure to apply all lotions and perfumes first – and wait for them to dry -- before putting on any turquoise jewelry.