There are three December birthstones – turquoise, zircon and tanzanite. This post is about turquoise. Historically, turquoise was mined in Persia, now Turkey, and when it was imported into Europe, the French called it ‘pierre tourques’ or ‘turquois’ that is, Turkish stone. Turquoise is generally described as being a blue stone but there can be a big variety in colour, ranging from a sky blue to a greeny blue, depending on the composition of the stone.
Turquoise was used in jewellery for centuries, with examples being found in ancient Egyptian, Aztec, Tibetan and Chinese jewellery finds.
During the Dark and Middle Ages in Europe, turquoise was not commonly used but by the 14th century, it began to be used more frequently for religious jewellery and ornaments. The 16th, 17th and 18th centuries saw it being used more for purely decorative pieces, particularly in sentimental flower jewellery as the blue colour was similar to the blue forget-me-not flower. In France, ornate brooches and pendants in the shape of bows were popular, usually with the turquoise being pave set.
There is a lot of imitation turquoise around now but it was also fairly common in antique jewellery. Glass as well as dyed and heated substitutes, often made from fossilized mammoth bone, were common.