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Native American Turquoise Jewelry

Native American turquoise jewelry has always been a popular choice with both collectors and the general public. Many pieces combine the mystical beauty of turquoise with the exquisite design work usually associated with Native American silver jewelry. But did you know that turquoise jewelry has a history that dates back centuries and spans many cultures? Tony DiCorpo, a Texas-based jewelry designer, fills in some of its background in this article titled Turquoise: The Native Stone.

Turquoise, derived from the French word for Turkish, has been adored since before 4000 BC. A lot of the early European turquoise came from the Middle East in what today is known as the country of Turkey. That is where the stone's name hails from. It is said to have healing properties, and is therefore beneficial to human wellness by keeping the blood pure and blood pressure low.


native american turquoise jewelry


Turquoise is December's birthstone and signifies success. It was once considered a luxury and only for the truly noble, but has since found its way into everyday lives. It is found in many countries, including the United States, mainly the west and southwest areas. The best grade turquoise is from Iran (formerly Persia), Tibet and China. The southwestern United States boasts high-grade turquoise as well, but in the U.S. where it is predominately mined (mainly Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado), the mines are either closed or fairly depleted. Therefore, most turquoise is imported from Tibet and other parts of the world. The biggest use for turquoise today is by Native Americans to make jewelry.

The Composition Of Turquoise

Turquoise is a mineral, a hydrous basic phosphate. It is comprised of copper and aluminum, which is formed as water trickles through a "host" stone for what is said to be about 30 million years. Yes, 30 million! That water, over time leaves a deposit in the stone. The stone can hold onto moisture or dry out. If it dries out in sunlight it can change colors, anywhere from bright blue to medium green.

Turquoise Colors

The colors can vary too, depending on the mineral components. More aluminum equals a green to white color range. More copper equals a bluer color range. If there is an addition of zinc, a yellow-green color will appear. There is not a best color in general; it is a matter of personal taste, as is a matrix. Matrix, as it is called, forms because the turquoise stone itself takes on colors from the host stone it forms in. The host rock has been seen in black, rust, brown and even darker shades of blue or green. The most commonly seen matrix is black. You can see it well as it often resembles a spider's web and adds to the beauty of the stone, making it more sought after in jewelry.

Grades Of Turquoise

Turquoise can come in a variety of grades. The high end is harder and not very porous, and also more expensive. The lower end is soft and fairly, if not almost totally porous. This can cause the stone, over time, to absorb oils and grease, mainly from human touch. The more porous stones are normally apt to changing color with skin oils and actually make the turquoise change to a beautiful conglomeration of colors. However, some like to prevent this so a treatment called stabilizing is performed. It's actually quite simple because the stone is merely soaked in or sprayed with a liquid plastic-polymer material and then allowed to dry. This plastic when hardened seals the pores and prevents oils and grease from affecting the stone. Stabilizing also deepens the color making the low-end turquoise look high-end.

In actuality, all natural stones (untreated or unstabilized) are porous to some degree and are apt to change colors due to human handling and normal wear. As with what is known as "natural" turquoise, no coating or alteration is added to the stone. Each stone is cut or faceted and then polished for use or sale, as with any "natural" stone. And so, turquoise as we all know it is still very much alive and being used in many original and imaginative ways. It's best and often seen in jewelry pieces paired with sterling silver. Ah, what a classy yet laid-back look!

About The Author

Tony DiCorpo is a jewelry designer based in Austin, TX. He is co-owner of www.beadartsandmore.com, an internet-based store that sells original, handcrafted beaded and gemstone beaded jewelry and other designs. beadartsandmore.com publishes a monthly newsletter titled, "The Bead Reader". Subscribe today by sending a request to newsletter@beadartsandmore.com. Tony can be reached via email at tony@beadartsandmore.com.

So there you have it. Perhaps next time you admire a beautifully crafted piece of Native American turquoise jewelry, your mind will touch on a piece of its colorful history, and you'll find yourself appreciating this versatile stone on a number of different levels. Then again, maybe you'll just push all thought aside and lose yourself in the colors.

For more information on other gemstones, including lists on birthstones and zodiac stones, visit our jewelry articles page.


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  • USA

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  • Gillett's Jewellers
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