Turquoise, a beloved gemstone in ancient Egypt, was mined for over six thousand years in Sinai. It was often seen in their jewellery, and it made for an exceptional talisman. It was believed that turquoise protected its owner from accidents, disease, and natural disasters. It also served religious purposes as the Egyptians made small figurines of scarabs - their sacred beetles. Crushed turquoise was also appreciated by Egyptian women who used it as a powder to decorate their eyes. Cleopatra, (in)famous Egyptian queen and seductress, is often presented with heavy eye make-up, and if she truly did wear it like this, there is no doubt it was made from turquoise powder.
This gemstone also had a strong presence in the culture of the ancient Aztecs as it served their religious purposes as well. They made masks of turquoise, and one of the most famous examples in Aztec history is the two-headed snake, presently kept in The British Museum in London. Nowadays, the Zuni tribe from New Mexico are dedicated to the production of crafts of their ancestors and make beautiful jewellery of turquoise, which is always framed in silver.
Egyptians particularly appreciated turquoise of blue colouring, while the ancient Romans in the Middle Ages favoured turquoise in light green. Since the 19th century, the sky-like turquoise has been back in fashion, and it was the very symbol of the age of Romanticism. Today, most treasured in the gemstone market is the sky-blue turquoise, while the value of blue-green and green is considerably lower.
It is a relatively soft stone with a hardness of 5-6 on Moh's scale. It is opaque and can be sky-blue or green coloured. This stone has a waxy, occasional and vitreous lustre, and after polishing its colour becomes more delicate. It is usually cut en cabochon. Also known is the so-called matrix turquoise, which has markings in the form of brown or black inclusions.
Jewellery made of turquoise is very sensitive to hot water, high temperatures, and chemicals, even the mildest, so it should be treated with care in order to prevent damage.
Turquoise in the Middle Ages was produced in considerable quantities and sold in Turkey, a tradition that has remained to this day. During the sixties of the 20th century, this stone was very popular in the US. It became a symbol of the hippie movement and was often a favourite of fashion designers.
In addition to mines in the Sinai, turquoise of excellent quality was mined since the ancient times from deposits in Manchuria, Iran, Turkistan, and Samarqand.
Nowadays, most common are simple turquoise necklaces that are combined with silver, and very popular replicas of ancient jewellery. Gemmologist often points out that turquoise takes a personal signature of the person who wears it, and that is why it can be considered as a modern times talisman.
As is the case with other gemstones, there are many imitations made of various materials and plastics. This jewellery is also sold as "Viennese turquoise" and "Hamburg turquoise", but it is of a much smaller value and beauty.
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