There are Turquoise deposits in Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Virginia. High Grade American Turquoise is of the greatest value around the world, second to none. American Turquoise specimens are usually cut with the matrix in them, a good cutter tries to create a picture in the cabochon, the stones have black, white or brown matrices. Many times cutters around the world try to cut Turquoise from other countries and sell it as American Turquoise. The Arizona copper mines-These mines are famous for many exquisite mineral specimens, including Turquoise. Virginia-Miners found the first examples of crystalline Turquoise in Virginia in 1911, but Virginia has never been a source for much gem turquoise.
Picture of a huge vein of natural Royston Turquoise Mined in 2006
The major sources are in the Sinai Peninsula and Iran. Iran-The finest of the world’s Turquoise specimens come from the deposits in Northeastern Iran. The stones from here have the much sought after Robin’s Egg Blue with few or now streaks and are among the most valuable opaque gemstones. To no surprise Turquoise is the national gem of Iran. Sinai Peninsula-The Egyptians began mining Turquoise here as early as 5500 BC.
This section is intended to uncover references in history to gems, gemstones, minerals, crystals, precious metals and semi-precious stones and to investigate the role they played in the development of the cultures in which they were utilized. We believe examples of royal jewelry and ancient jewelry from anthropology, sociology and archaeology from the ancient societies of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and especially the work of Pre-Columbian American cultures of the North American Indians, Aztecs, Mayans, and Incans to be of craftsmanship that has not been equaled since. Where possible in our history of jewelry, we’ve tried to include methods of manufacture, materials and technology. From the bible, commerce, celestial beliefs to modern crystal collecting.
Egypt-The history of Turquoise use in the Middle East coincides with the beginning of civilization itself. Turquoise mining began in the Sinai Peninsula around 5500 BC. The stones taken from these mines served jewelry, amulet and cosmetic purposes for millennia. In 1900, archaeologists who excavated the tomb of the Egyptian Queen Zer (5500 BC) found a Turquoise and gold bracelet on her wrist. These are the world’s oldest known examples of surviving jewelry.
Persia-Around 3200 BC, the kings of Egypt began annual mining expeditions to the Sinai. In Persia, Archaeologists have found beads of Turquoise that date around 5000 BC. Amulets from 600 AD contained carvings of Islamic and Persian Proverbs. The fine stones from this area were important sources of trade and were found in graves as far away as Turkestan and the Caucasus. These revered stones, so important to the Persian culture, were called Ferozah, which meant victorious. In modern times, Iran honors Turquoise as its national gemstone.
The Bible-The book of Exodus contains an important reference to Turquoise. The Breastplate of the Hebrew High Priest Aaron contained twelve stones set in four rows. Turquoise was the first stone on the second row.
Southwestern United States-The Anasazi had opened their Turquoise mines by 1000 AD and had established extensive trading practices with the peoples of what is now Mexico. The mining locations included locations in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. In cities such as Chaco Canyon, the Anasazi traded their Turquoise for the feathers of tropical birds. As demand for the Anasazi Turquoise grew in the south, the society at Chaco Canyon grew wealthy. The ancient Turquoise jewelry of the Zuni tribes was characterized by prominent inserts of the stone. Navajo Turquoise jewelry features die-stamped designs. In the 16th century, the cultures of the American Southwest used Turquoise as currency. It was also often found on the facades of Indian homes.
Mexico-Aztec Turquoise mines began operating between 900-1000 AD.
By the middle of the first millennium, AD, China had begun using Turquoise and although they had mines in their empire, they imported most of their stones from Persians, the Turks, the Tibetans and Mongols. Japan’s use of Turquoise began in the 18th Century AD.
Around 500 BC, inhabitants in Siberia had begun using the stone, But it did not gain favor with Western European fashion until the late middle ages when trade with the Near and Middle East had increased. The origin of the word Turquoise is French and comes from Venetian Traders, who bought it from the great bazaars in Turkey, though the Turkish traders brought it from the Persian mines. Shakespeare’s "The Merchant of Venice” features a Turquoise ring. The Aesthetic Period (1880-1901) responded to the strict provisions of Queen Victoria’s mourning and jewelry became more whimsical; Turquoise played a large role in the jewelry of this period but played an even greater role during the Romantic Period (1837 to 1860). The light gold worked jewelry of this period contained fine gems that were often accented by Turquoise.