This gemstone takes it name from the Middle Ages and an Old French word turqueise which meant Turkish – stones arrived in Europe from the Middle East. Its more ancient name was callais from the Greek words kallos lithos, beautiful stone. Turquoise is one of the most widely used gemstones. It comes from dry (arid and semi-arid) regions and is a secondary mineral in copper deposits.

The use of this gemstone can be traced back to 5500 B.C.E. in Egypt where turquoise was found in the tomb of a queen. It was also used for amulets and ground into powder for cosmetics. Persia, where it was used for religious carvings, was the ancient source for fine turquoise. Turquoise is one of the twelve mentioned in The Bible on the breastplate of Aaron.

In China, the use of turquoise began before the year 1000. Hindus and Tibetans utilized it and ascribed it with the ability to bring good luck. In parts of the Middle East verses from the Koran were engraved onto tablets of turquoise. It was not used in Japan until the eighteenth century. In the Americas, it was mined in New Mexico since the fifth century and used by the Anasazi, Apache, Navajo and Zuni. It was mined by the Aztec since approximately 900. Some American Southwest tribes carved turquoise for beads, others utilized it for currency in trade with Mexico. Warriors tied turquoise to their bows to aid in making precise shots.

While the use of turquoise dates to approximately 500 B.C.E. in Eastern Europe (Siberia), it did not become popular in Western Europe until the late Middle Ages. Resembling the color of the forget-me-not flower, turquoise jewelry was given for remembrance and affection. Such use was documented by Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice with the ring given to Shylock by Leah.

Howlite, dyed chalcedony, glass and plastic are used to imitate turquoise. Synthetic turquoise is sometimes called neo-turquoise or neolite.

Since the days of ancient Persia, turquoise has been a stone of good luck. During the Middle Ages in Europe it was believed to protect both horse and rider from danger. It was also thought to change color if the wearer was ill. This may actually happen because turquoise is slightly porous and will react to oils, soaps and perspiration. It is also sensitive to strong sunlight.

Many cultures from the Middle East to the Americas considered this gemstone a symbol of the sky. The Apaches believed that it contained the powers of the heavens and the sea. It is still considered to be a “bridge” between heaven and earth and is used for spiritual cleansing. Turquoise has been called a “stone of communication” and provides a balance of yin/yang energy. It protects against negativity, and can attract love. Turquoise is a general healer.

Color(s) - Blue, blue-green

Associations - Aquarius, Sagittarius, Taurus; throat chakra; Venus, Neptune, the Moon; yin

Uses - balance; spiritual cleansing; personal journey; partner/love; protection