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Totally turquoise: A refresher on this semi-precious stone

By Jo Ellen Cole

Wide Moroccan cuff by Jude Frances, with oval cabochon turquoise set in 18-karat yellow gold with pavé diamonds.

Awards shows and fashion runways were awash in turquoise this year. A colour complementing all complexions, this stone tends to have a cyclical popularity that re-writes itself every 20 years or so. Relegated in the recent past to more casual jewellery—think Native American—this new incarnation is increasingly sophisticated, with the heavenly hued stone being partnered more often with gold and diamonds, rather than sterling silver and coral of past designs. Given its resurgence in popularity, a review of its properties may be in order.

The best turquoise is sourced from deposits close to Nishapur in Iran (Persia). The stone acquired its name from the French term for ‘Turkey stone,’ referring to the route by which it travelled to western Europe. Quality turquoise from this locality is of an even slightly greenish-blue colour, with no veining or limonite matrix present. The highest-quality Persian turquoise is semi-translucent and exhibits a rather waxy texture due to its low porosity. In contrast, the more plentiful American and Chinese turquoise tends to have black or brown matrix, respectively, and is more opaque. It’s really a matter of personal preference as to whether the turquoise has matrix or not. That said, material without matrix tends to be more highly valued, especially when somewhat semi-translucent.

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