Turquoise is an opaque, blue-to-green mineral that might lack the sparkle and clarity of transparent colored gemstones, but it’s mesmerizing color make it a desirable gem. It owes its texture to its structure and composition. It’s an aggregate of microscopic crystals that form a solid mass. If the crystals are packed closely together, the material is less porous, so it has a finer texture. In turquoise, low porosity and fine texture are more valuable than high porosity and coarse texture.
Its color can range from dull greens and grass greens to a bright, medium-toned, sky blue.
The gemstone has been known by many names throughout the centuries. The word “Turquoise” dates to the 17th century and is derived from the French turquois meaning "Turkish" because the mineral was first brought to Europe through Turkey.
Turquoise is found in only a few places on earth. It was among the first gems to be mined, and many historic sites have been depleted, though some are still worked to this day. The traditional source for the top color, sometimes described as robin’s-egg blue or sky blue, is the Nishapur district of Iran, the country formerly known as Persia. In Persia, turquoise was the de facto national stone for millennia, extensively used to decorate objects, mosques, and other important buildings both inside and out such as the Medresseh-i Shah Husein Mosque of Isfahan. The Persian style and use of turquoise were later brought to India, its influence seen in high purity gold jewellery (together with ruby and diamond) and in such buildings as the Taj Mahal.
The pastel shades of turquoise have endeared it to many great cultures of antiquity: it has adorned the rulers of Ancient Egypt, the Aztecs, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and to some extent in ancient China. The Aztecs inlaid turquoise, together with gold, quartz, malachite, jet, jade, coral, and shells, into provocative and presumably ceremonial objects such as masks, knives, and shields.
The Ancient Egyptian use of turquoise stretches back as far as the First Dynasty and possibly earlier. It adorned masques, rings, and great pectoral necklaces. Set in gold, the gem was fashioned into beads, used as inlay, and often carved in a scarab motif, accompanied by carnelian, lapis lazuli, and colored glass.
Despite being one of the oldest gems, turquoise did not become important as an ornamental stone in the West until the 14th century. In many cultures of the Old and New Worlds, this gemstone has been esteemed for thousands of years as a holy stone, a bringer of good fortune or a talisman.
In Western culture, turquoise is also the traditional birthstone for those born in the month of December.