DECEMBER BIRTHSTONES TURQUOISE, TANZANITE, AND ZIRCON

TURQUOISE

Turquoise Earrings at Peninsula Jeweler

Admired since ancient times, turquoise is known for its distinct color, which ranges from powdery blue to greenish robin’s egg blue. It’s one of few minerals to lend its name to anything that resembles its striking color.

The word “turquoise” dates back to the 13th century, drawing from the French expression pierre tourques, which referenced the “Turkish stone”, brought to Europe from Turkey.

Ancient Persia (now Iran) was the traditional source for sky blue turquoise gemstones. This color is often called “Persian blue” today, regardless of its origin. The Sinai Peninsula in Egypt was also an important historical source of turquoise gems.

The U.S. was once the world’s largest turquoise supplier. Nevada, New Mexico, California, and Colorado have produced turquoise, but Arizona leads in production by value, as well as quality. The Kingman mine in Arizona is a historically important source that is known for producing intense blue turquoise. Now closed to turquoise mining, Arizona’s Sleeping Beauty mine was a prolific producer for more than four decades. The stone’s popularity here makes it a staple in Native American jewelry.

Today, China is the world’s largest producer of this December birthstone. Hubei Province, in central China, is the source of most of the gem-quality turquoise currently being mined there.

Turquoise is found in arid regions where rainwater dissolves copper in the soil, forming colorful nodular deposits when it combines with aluminum and phosphorus. Copper contributes blue hues, while iron and chrome add a hint of green.

Some turquoise contains pieces of host rock, called matrix, which appear as dark webs or patches in the material. This can lower the stone’s value, although the uniform “spider web” pattern of Southwestern turquoise is attractive.

Turquoise is sensitive to direct sunlight and solvents like makeup, perfume, and natural oils. The hardest turquoise only measures 6 on the Mohs scale, which made this soft gemstone popular in carved talismans throughout history.

From ancient Egyptians to Persians, Aztecs and Native Americans, kings and warriors alike admired turquoise for thousands of years. It adorned everything from jewelry to ceremonial masks to weapons and bridles—granting power and protection, particularly against falls.

The turquoise birthstone was thought to possess many beneficial powers, like guaranteeing health and good fortune. From the 13th century on, it was believed to protect the wearer from falling (especially off horses), and would break into several pieces at the approach of disaster. Hindu mystics maintained that seeing a turquoise after beholding the new moon ensured fantastic wealth. The turquoise birthstone also played an important role in the lives of Native Americans. The Apache thought turquoise could be found by following a rainbow to its end. They also believed that attaching the December birthstone to a bow or firearm made one’s aim more accurate. The Pueblo maintained that turquoise got its color from the sky, while the Hopi thought the gem was produced by lizards scurrying over the earth. This December birthstone adorns the funerary mask of King Tut, who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. It also appears in jewelry belonging to more modern royalty: Wallace Simpson (1896–1986), Duchess of Windsor (the woman for whom King Edward VIII gave up his throne), wore a famous amethyst and turquoise necklace made by Cartier. Turquoise is also the gem of the 11th wedding anniversary. In European tradition, the gift of a turquoise ring means “forget me not.” Turquoise is considered a national treasure in Tibet, where it is believed to grant health, good fortune and protection from evil. December's birthstone also imparts peace to those who wear it.