Turquoise is one of the birthstones for December, the other being the more costly Tanzanite.
One the earliest known stones to be used in jewellery, Turquoise has been found in tombs of Pharaohs dated to 5500BC and in a huge variety of items from ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iran) including daggers, bowls and decorative ornaments. It also has a strong association with the south west states of America.
Native American culture calls the stone as Chal-cui-hui-tal, meaning the ‘highest and most valued thing in the world’. I first remember coming across Turquoise at school when studying the Aztecs. They were famous for using the stone, particularly to decorate mosaic masks. They considered the stone sacred and the finest examples were referred to as teoxihuitl; ‘the property, the lot, of the god’.
The name Turquoise derives from is arrival in Europe from Turkey during the crusades, giving it the name ‘Turkish Stone’.
Turquoise is a relatively soft stone, and can vary in colour from bright blue green. Turquoise with more blue contains more copper and green Turquoise more iron.
I love gemstones and semi-precious stones and collected them as a little kid. Its not just their beauty, but that they have been formed over thousands of years. Its no wonder that before the mass production of glass beads, semi-precious stones we not only used for decoration and in jewellery but were also attributed meaning and stories.
I have been using semi-precious beads in my jewellery for a while, just because I liked them, but decided to start using beads to make birthstone jewellery. The tradition of having a single birthstone for each month of the year has been around for a few centuries (historians differ on the exact date- anywhere between the 15th and 17th century!) but the idea of having a stone related to the month of the year can be traced back to the 1st century AD. If you are interested in the history of gemstones, the book ‘The Curious Lore Of Precious Stones’ by George Kunz is available to read online. Its not exactly bedtime reading, but interesting to skim through!
I thought I would share the information I was finding by writing a series of posts about the birthstone for each month.
A lot of people also attribute healing qualities to certain stones, which sometimes I will refer to, but generally I am interested in the folklore and historical mentions of the stones.
For the month of November the modern birthstone is citrine!
Citrine is a yellow form of Quartz. It was known to the ancient Greeks and the Romans called it the stone of Mercury. It was once considered to be a talisman against snake venom, but it has also been referred to as the merchants stone as it was considered to bring success and fortune. Some biblical scholars also believe it may have been the golden yellow 10th stone on Aaron’s breastplate mentioned in the book of Exodus.
Queen Victoria was great lover of citrine, partly due to the stone being found in the Scottish Cairngorms, near the house she loved; Balmoral. So she started wearing jewellery with citrine stones and what the Queen wore, so did the public. Traditionally, citrine had also been used to adorn the hilts of daggers used by Scottish warriors in the 17th century.