Monday, November 30, 2009

December Birthstone - Turquoise

It is time for another month, and also another discussion about the various birthstones for each month of the year. There are several birthstones associated with December. Today, I will discuss turquoise.

Turquoise gemstones come in a wide range of natural colors and shades including blue, green and yellow-green. It is also considered the wedding anniversary gemstone for the 5th and 11th year of marriage. and the Zodiac sign Sagittarius.

There are varying opinions as to how the stone came to acquire its name. Some think that it comes from the French word Turquie - for the country Turkey. Many had the thought that the gemstone originated from Turkey, so the combination of this belief and the French word for Turkey resulted in the word Turquoise. Others believe it came from the French words "pierre turquin" which means a dark blue stone.

Turquoise was mined by early Egyptians from at least 6000 BC. For centuries, the most valuable turquoise was considered as originating in Iran (Persia). Areas of the Southwestern United States now compete with this honor. "Persian Turquoise" is now generally used to refer to any turquoise stone that does not have the black or brown veining commonly found in turquoise mined in the United States and used in a style of jewelry created by the American Indians. The Aztecs also mined turquoise and a significant amount of turquoise comes from New Mexico, California, Nevada and Arizona.

Turquoise is not one of the hardest gemstones. It only rates 5-6 on the Mohs Scale of hardness, lower than even Quartz. Turquoise will scratch quite easily and is also somewhat brittle. Immersing it in liquid for any length of time will also impact negatively on the stone. Any turquoise jewelry that you own should be handled with care.

This gemstone has been used for jewelry making since 5000 B. C. - making it one of the oldest stones used in jewelry. It was worn by ancient rulers of many countries, including Egypt, Persian, and Ancient China. The mummy of King Tut of Egypt was discovered with turquoise jewelry, which attests to the age of some of the pieces.

The Aztec and Native Americans have also been making turquoise jewelry since 200 B.C, although the styles with which we are familiar - sterling silver and turquoise - are a relatively newer combination, dating from the late 1800s.

Since so much Native American turquoise jewelry is made in the southwestern part of the United States, the gemstone was designated the official gemstone of Arizona in 1974 and New Mexico gave it this honor in 1967.

As with other gemstones, turquoise has mystical properties attached to it. It was often used by both Aztecs and Native Americans in spiritual ceremonies and rituals. It is thought to promote mental clarity and to enhance trust, kindness and understanding of others. Turquoise has long been appreciated as a holy stone, a good-luck-charm or a mystical talisman. It is believed to promote good fortune, happiness, and long life.

Turquoise jewelry is much appreciated and coveted. The nature of the gemstone is such that the pieces are often one of a kind, since the stones vary so much in design and pattern.

Caring for turquoise jewelry needs a bit of extra care, since the gemstone is somewhat fragile. It should be store separately from other jewelry, so that it does not rub against, or become scratched by, harder gemstones. If possible, store it in an air tight box. Keep turquoise jewelry aware from perfume, cosmetics and other chemicals and avoid prolonged exposure to high heat and direct sunlight.

Cleaning turquoise jewelry is easy. Just light wash it with mild warm water and then with a soft cloth. If the gemstone is set in sterling silver, a Sunshine Polishing cloth should help with any tarnish that might develop as the piece is worn and exposed to moisture. Ultrasonic cleaners are not recommended for turquoise or other soft gemstones.

This Georgian poem aptly describes the birthstone for December:

“If cold December gave you birth
The month of snow and ice and mirth
Place on your hand a turquoise blue
Success will bless whate’er you do.”

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