Turquoise, the Birthstone for December

Posted on 27 November 2016

                          

 What other gem has been collected, traded, worn and treasured with so much passion for thousands of years as the vibrant turquoise?

Turquoise, is a rare gem. The color so extraordinary that it has been prized by civilizations since antiquity. The oldest turquoise jewelry found to date is a strand of beads dating to approximately 5000 B.C. from ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). Also found were engraved turquoise tablets with passages from the Koran and Persian proverbs and inlaid with golden gilt which were worn as amulets dating to the seventh century A.D.

In ancient Egypt, turquoise was the chosen stone worn by royalty prior to the first dynasty. Egyptian turquoise beads and jewelry dating to 4000 B.C. was discovered at El-Badari.

The prized gem from the lost civilization of ancient Mexico, the Incas carved beads, figurines and made astonishing inlay jewelry with turquoise.

Siberian turquoise jewelry, dating from the sixth century B.C., was fashioned with clusters of stones. The ancient Greeks and Romans wore signet rings with engraved turquoise emblems.

During the Middle Ages, Europeans decorated vessels and the covers of manuscripts with mosaics of small turquoise.

In Florence, during the Renaissance period, the saying went: “no man considered his hand well adorned unless he wore turquoise rings.” Turquoise graced royal crowns and became one of the most popular gems to wear in Europe as the centuries unfolded.

The derivation of the name turquoise is a mystery, it has not been changed as long as written history and oral legends have been told. Pliny, the ancient scribe, wrote, “The term, ‘kalos lithos’ meaning ‘beautiful stone’ and this was the original name for turquoise, transformed to ‘callais’ in ancient Greece.”

In the old French language, tourques, was used for turkey stone, referring to Persian turquoise that was imported from the Sinai Peninsula via the country, Turkey. However, the Turkish called Persian turquoise by its Persian name, firuse. The Venetian merchants bought turquoise from the Turkish bazaars and called it ‘pierre turquoise’ which also translates to ‘stone of Turkey.’ The term, Turkey stone, was used in reference to any stones that were foreign, turquoise included, originating from the Orient.

 

 

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Janet Deleuse Fine Turquoise Jewelry in 18k Gold, all one-off, deleuse.com

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