Turquoise might come across as a chic, modern-day jewel. And while it’s undoubtedly stylish, this gem isn’t a recent discovery. Several sources suggest that this ancient gem was first spotted in Turkey. It then traveled to Europe with people who revered it for its fascinating color and called it ‘pierre tourques,’ French for ‘Turkish stone.’
Early Europeans, however, weren’t the first to get enticed by turquoise. Back in 4000 BC, the Egyptians were already so charmed by this eye-catching jewel that they referred to it as ‘mefkat,’ which translates to ‘gem of joy.’
In a market dominated by many blue-hued gems, the turquoise still distinguishes itself with an opaque surface and an unforgettable color.
It’s not a surprise that this gem has been associated with a host of positive attributes. The color of turquoise itself is reminiscent of the summer sky, which symbolizes positivity, happiness, and possibilities.
Some ancient cultures believed that wearing this gem could attract good fortune, while others thought it helped in the safe passage to the afterlife.
Currently, turquoise shares the December birthstone title with tanzanite. It also happens to be the national gem of Tibet.
Hardness & Strength
In the toughness department, turquoise can be considered a fairly durable gem. It has a rating of 5 to 6 on the Mohs scale, a tool developed by Friedrich Mohs specifically to measure the hardness of various minerals.
So, while turquoise isn’t the strongest, it certainly isn’t as delicate as a pearl either. Do remember to avoid a turquoise if it appears coarse, porous, or grainy. Pick stones that have a fine and smooth texture as they’re likely to be more durable.
It is normal for turquoise to undergo treatment to improve its appearance and/or durability. Some of the methods used are as follows.
- Stabilization: This process involves placing the stone under pressure, leading to the absorption of a clear epoxy, making the stone harder, thereby improving its durability. The result of this procedure is usually permanent.
- Dyeing: Since color is the most important feature of the turquoise, many sellers use dark blue pigments or other varieties of dye to either improve the color tone or make it more uniform. This process doesn’t have lasting results; therefore, the stones that have been dyed must be avoided entirely.
- Waxing and Oiling: The ‘wetting effect’ is achieved with the help of this method that involves using a light film of wax or oil. It essentially helps enhance the glow of the turquoise and is a traditional method, which is not much in use in today’s time.
Quality & Grading
- Color The main USP of this gem is undoubtedly its color, which can vary from a dull green to grass green to a bright, medium-toned, sky blue (the latter is what you should be looking out for). Superior-quality turquoise stones showcase a bright color that is reminiscent of robin’s eggs. Such stones were typically sourced from Persia (now Iran), and therefore the preferred hue for turquoise was also referred to as ‘Persian blue.’ Note: Strictly avoid turquoise stones that have hints of green.
- Clarity Turquoise is unlike most of the other gems that are known for their translucent sparkle. It’s an opaque stone that is formed in either iron-rich limonite or sandstone rocks. While limonite ends up leaving dark brown marks on the turquoise, sandstone creates tan patches. So, don’t be surprised if you come across this gem with splotches or veins (a.k.a, matrix) as they’re simply the remnants of the host rock. Top-quality and the most valuable turquoise stones display an evenly spread-out bright blue color on the opaque surface with no presence of matrix. Stones that feature an attractive spider-web matrix, however, rank second in value.
- Cut When it comes to fine jewelry, top-quality turquoise stones are usually fashioned into cabochons and can be found in different shapes, with round and oval being the most common. That said, this gem is also cut into beads or flat pieces for inlays. Also, don’t be surprised to find art objects depicting birds and animals made out of turquoise. Since the structure of this gem leans on the softer side, it has been used by artists all over the world for carving fascinating fashion jewelry and other decor items in a variety of interesting shapes.
- Carat Weight Fortunately, the turquoise is available in a variety of sizes, from very small to considerably big. In terms of weight, you can find turquoise up to 5 carats with relative ease. However, keep in mind that when it comes to choosing this gem, always give preference to the quality and color grade, and not the size or carat weight.
Before picking turquoise jewelry, do check the quality grading chart to make an informed purchase.
- Heirloom (AAAA) These represent the top 1% of the turquoise stones available. They exhibit a beautiful and bright blue color and do not have absolutely any eye-visible inclusions.
- Best (AAA) These turquoise stones have a sky-blue hue and are also eye-clean. In terms of quality, this category features the top 10% of the turquoise stones.
- Better (AA) This category features the top 33% of the turquoise stones available in the market. They have a greenish-blue color and slight inclusions.
- Good (A) These are entry-level turquoise stones that are light-blue in color and are slightly included.
If you’ve fallen in love with the turquoise and plan to bring it home in the form of pretty jewelry, then do keep the following tips in mind. Not only will this list help you maintain the beauty of the ‘mefkat’ gem, but it will also help prevent unnecessary damage.
- Steam and ultrasonic cleaners must be avoided entirely as both these methods can lead to surface damage and discoloration.
- If you plan to use turquoise jewelry for everyday wear, then make it a point to wipe it dry with a clean, soft cloth at regular intervals. This is because oil present on the skin and even sweat can lead to staining over a period of time.
- Harsh chemicals, cosmetics, perfumes, etc., must be avoided to protect this gem from irreparable damage.
- You can safely clean your turquoise jewelry at home with the help of a mild soap water solution. Ensure it is placed under clean water to remove any unwanted residue and pat dry with a soft cloth.
- Store separately to protect it from scratches that can be caused by other harder gems.
A jewel named after the moon ought to be intriguing, and this June birthstone certainly is. Jewelry enthusiasts will know that the moonstone isn't a recent discovery. It has existed for centuries and was even found buried in early Egyptian tombs.
Many other ancient civilizations have been fascinated by the moonstone, and the primary reason for this is its otherworldly beauty. The sheen that can be noticed on this gem's opaque surface is caused due to the phenomenon called adularescence. It results in a glow that looks akin to a moon lying still under the calm of the ocean. This very appearance has also led to the birth of numerous legends about the moonstone.
Today, this gem is slowly climbing the ladder of popularity as a beautiful choice for those who seek subtle elegance. The fact that it can be designed into high-end jewelry, and not just talismans and artifacts, has increased the demand for this jewel.
Across the world's many cultures, there have been several myths attached to the moonstone. For instance, both ancient Romans and Hindus believed that this gem was born from the moon's drops and beams. It also doesn't come as a surprise that it was associated with several attributes commonly associated with the moon, such as intuition, romance, femininity, dreams, love, and emotions. The moonstone was said to bring good luck and fortune into the lives of those who wear it; some said it could even foretell the future.
This gem has been popular among jewelry enthusiasts and the renowned designers of the Art Nouveau era. This gem is one of the official birthstones for June and is associated with the zodiac sign Pisces. In many parts of the world, especially Germany, the moonstone is more popular than pearls and alexandrites (other gems of June).
Hardness & Strength
The Mohs scale was developed to measure the basic hardness of a gem. This method also helps us gauge their durability. Moonstone has a rating of 6 to 6.5 on this scale, which means it isn't too sturdy. This gem also has a property called double cleavage, which makes it prone to breakage if subjected to a hard blow.
So. if you're considering buying moonstone jewelry, then keep in mind that this beautiful gem is also delicate and needs to be treated with extra love and care.
Unlike many other colored gems, moonstones generally do not require any kind of treatment or enhancements. That said, in rare cases, this jewel might be surface-coated to improve the appearance.
Chalcedony and certain types of synthetic spinel may come across as clones. However, they look cheaper in comparison to the moonstone and are easily distinguishable as well.
Lab-created moonstones are not available in the market yet.
It is important to note that the moonstone is a variety of feldspar, a group of minerals that are spread far and wide across the earth's crust. But feldspars are also extremely diverse, which means the appearance of this gemstone will be varied. Moonstones can be found in a colorless state and even in shades of white. Besides these two, this gem is available in body colors (background hue) ranging from brown, yellow, and green to almost black and grey. Unwanted tints of blue, yellow, or green on the surface of this gem will bring down its value.
But the body color alone isn't enough to evaluate a moonstone. Best quality gems also showcase a vivid adularescence, the sheen that is primarily responsible for this gem's popularity. The orientation of this glow is also important; when it can be easily viewed from different angles, you should know it's a good moonstone.
Quality & Grades
A high-quality moonstone typically has a clean surface and lacks visible inclusions. In general, it is normal for this gem to develop short pairs of cracks that run parallel to one another. This is the result of being subjected to a high-pressure environment during their formative period. Such, and other kinds of inclusions, may have the capability to affect the adularescence; and thereby bringing down the moonstone's value.
During ancient times, this gem was carved and used for creating intaglios or cameos. Soon strands made out of its beads became popular. Currently, cabochon moonstones are frequently used for a variety of jewelry. This particular type of cut is highly preferred as it maximizes the presence of adularescence. Faceted moonstones are also in demand as they help conceal the inclusions while ensuring the glow of the gem doesn't get affected.
A good feature about this gemstone is that it is available in various sizes and carat weights. However, high-quality moonstones with a valuable blue sheen are not easy to find in bigger carat weights.
Based on its various properties, the moonstone can be further distinguished into the following categories of quality:
In terms of quality, the top 1% of moonstones belong to this category. They exude a beautiful colorless blue sheen and do not have eye-visible inclusions.
The top 10% of moonstones belong to this category. These gems do not have eye-visible inclusions and showcase an almost blue sheen.
The top 33% of moonstones belong to this category. Their appearance varies from grey to nearly black. These gems also have slight inclusions.
This category comprises the top 75% of moonstones. They are dark to nearly black in appearance. These gems have visible inclusions on the surface.
A unique iridescence is what makes the moonstone extremely special. But over a period of time, this gem's beauty can get affected due to external factors. It is, therefore, essential to ensure you clean and store this gem correctly.
To be able to do this, please keep the following points in mind.
- As a golden rule, keep aside your moonstone jewelry while performing household chores or strenuous physical activities.
- This gem should be protected from heat as that can lead to surface cracks.
- For cleaning, use warm soapy water. Soak the gem in this solution for approximately five minutes. Do not scrub or brush. Simply rinse off well with plain water.
- To maintain the shine, it is important to protect the moonstone from bleach and other abrasive chemicals.
- Keep in mind that steam and ultrasonic cleaners are not suitable for this gem.
- If you notice visible scratches or any other damage, visit a jewelry professional at your earliest.
- It is recommended to store your moonstone jewelry pieces separately in a felt-lined jewelry box. This will also ensure they don't get scratched by other harder gems.