The precious stone used in December birthstone jewelry is the turquoise, a blue green mineral that is a phosphate of copper and aluminum.
It was a valued gem worn by the Pharaohs and Aztec kings. It has also been used in exquisite ornamental and decorative pieces by the Native Americans and Persians.
Most specimens found are extremely small, frequently so tiny that they can only be seen using a microscope. High quality turquoise is mined in Australia, Iran, Arizona, New Mexico and Afghanistan.
The name turquoise is thought to derive from the French word meaning Turkey as it was mistakenly assumed that the gems came from that country as they were sold in the bazaars to European merchants. In reality they most likely came from the Sinai Peninsular or Persia (now Iran). It may perhaps also have arisen from the French word pierre turquin, meaning dark, blue stone. It is often found in deposits of copper generally in arid, dessert conditions.
Before the crystal turquoise was discovered in the USA the highest quality gems, with an intense blue color, came from Persia and Persian Turquoise is still used these days to designate the best quality gemstones. In the later years of the 19th century turquoise was found in the United States with deposits that matched the quality of the Persian gemstones. Nowadays the US is the largest producer of this gorgeous precious stone.
How the Aztecs Used Turquoise
Turquoise was used extensively by the Aztecs, often with gold and several other minerals such as quartz, jade, jet and malachite as well as corals and shells. They used it in masks, mosaics, knives and shields. Some magnificent examples of mosaics that were not destroyed by the Spanish Invaders are exhibited at the British Museum.
How the Native Americans Used Turquoise
The Pueblo, Apache and Navajo tribes used turquoise as a talisman frequently believing it had power to perfect the aim of archers. The original turquoise jewelry made by Native Americans included beads, carvings and mosaics and only from the late 1800’s was the typical silver jewelry made. Navajo craftsmen began making this type of jewelry from silver coins for trade with white men.
Looking After Turquoise Jewellery
Turquoise is quite soft and needs to be looked after with care to avoid being damaged. It can lose it s lustre if it is heated, or if it is exposed to to weak acids or sunlight so you need to be careful to remove any turquoise jewelry before using household chemicals or hot water.
December Birthstone Jewelry
Turquoise is the precious stone for December in the current birthstone jewelry system. In traditional schemes the birthstones are zircon and ruby. Turquoise jewelry would make a lovely gift whether set in bracelets, earrings, necklaces or charms. You can read more at December Birthstone Jewelry.