What chemical element gives December’s birthstone its vivid blue or green color?
The unusual qualities of turquoise have fascinated people for centuries:
- In 4,000 BC, ancient Egyptian pharaohs adorn themselves with turquoise jewelry.
- 3,000-year-old Chinese artisans carve statues and trinkets from it.
- Montezuma considers it the god Quetzalcoatl’s favorite gem.
- Tibetans laud it as their national gem.
- Modern Americans use it as one of the birthstones for December (along with Zircon).
- Old world Native Americans use it as a medium of exchange and to make ceremonial amulets. The Apache Nation believes when turquoise is attached to a bow or firearm, it increases the hunter’s or warrior’s accuracy. Today, some of the world’s most unique turquoise jewelry is crafted by the Native Americans of southwestern United States.
Turquoise is a word that comes from a 13th century French expression, pierre tourques, which means, “Turkish stone.” People prize turquoise because they think the gemstone guarantees health, good fortune, joy, delight and protection from evil. Thus, the romance. What gives turquoise its color? Copper.
As for the Mystery
Along with its romantic heritage, turquoise has an intense, soul-satisfying, unforgettable color: Persian blue. The opaque stone is both a gem for jewelry and an ornamental material, in colors that range from light blue to limes and greens – and that sky blue. Found in only a few places on Earth, some pieces of turquoise have veins of matrix, or remnants of surrounding rock, running through it, creating fine seams that form attractive web-like patterns. While the most valuable turquoise is Persian blue with no matrix and a good polish, contemporary designers also crave the visceral magnificence of spiderweb turquoise, especially because the patterns provide a dark contrast to the gem’s bright blue.
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