The history of turquoise is certainly a long one, with turquoise beads dating back to 5000 B.C. having been discovered in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq).
It was originally called callais, meaning “beautiful stone”. The word “turquoise” was not used until the 13th century, when this blue stone reached France by way of the merchants of Venice. The French buyers referred to it as “the stone from Turkey,” bringing the word turquoise into common usage.
The premier source of turquoise is Iran, and even today Persian turquoise is recognized as the highest quality. In the West, large pieces of turquoise are often set in jewelry surrounded by diamonds, while smaller stones are used as accents for other large gemstones.
There are two regions in the world that have a deep historical connection with turquoise. One is the Middle East: in Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran (Persia), turquoise has long been valued as a stone that brings good luck. The other area with a deep relationship to turquoise is New Mexico in the United States. The ancient people of what is now Mexico extolled turquoise as a priceless stone, and held it in higher regard than even gold. Despite the collapse of the Meso-American civilizations, this stone contained to be the favorite of the Pueblo and Navajo Indians who inhabited the region.
Currently, the state of Arizona produces large quantities of turquoise. Today we see natural Persian turquoise like the one shown in the photograph to the next page, as well as material that has been treated by impregnation of the whole stone with acrylic resins to improve color and prevent alteration over time.
The finest quality of natural turquoise is a pure sky- blue, and a tone of 4 or 5 is considered best. Greenish hues detract from the stone’s beauty, lowering its value. The presence of matrix is a matter of personal preference.