If somebody asked you about SouthWestern style of jewelry, the first thing that comes to mind would probably be turquoise, and understandably so. From traditional Native American jewelry over more modern versions of SouthWestern style, turquoise has always had a prominent place. You would mostly find it combined with coral and silver, but other metals and increasingly, other gemstones, have been finding their way into the coveted union with turquoise.
Chemically, turquoise is a hydrous phosphate of copper and aluminum. It is rare, and has been prized as a gem and ornamental stone for thousands of years. However, recently turquoise has been devalued by the introduction of treatments, imitations, and synthetics to the market.
The name of the mineral comes from the French word for "Turkish," because turquoise was first brought to Europe from Turkey. Today, turquoise is found in areas with dry climates. It is mined in the U.S., Mexico, Iran, Chile, India, China, and Tibet. In the U.S., the most coveted turquoise comes from one of the following mines:
Natural turquoise is a rather soft stone with the hardness of 5-6 on Mohs scale. Another characteristic of this mineral is that it is porous, especially lower quality turquoise. In order to use poorer quality turquoise that otherwise might not be suitable for jewelry, process of stabilization is applied. To create stabilized turquoise, an epoxy resin or other substance is infused into the pores of the stone. After treatment, turquoise is no longer porous, and color remains the same over time.
Another characteristic of turquoise is that it contains dark veining and other markings called matrix. The amount and color of matrix can vary depending on what type of rock turquoise formed in. Black matrix is usually iron pyrite. Yellow matrix can be rhyolite, and brown is probably iron oxide.
Now that you know all these facts about turquoise, how should you care for your turquoise jewelry? First, handle your turquoise carefully to avoid scratching the stones. Do not store turquoise jewelry with harder gemstones or other materials that might rub against turquoise and cause damage. In addition, keep your turquoise away from high heat and chemicals such as oils, perfumes, and household cleaners. Even stabilized turquoise can be affected by constant exposure to chemicals. Clean your turquoise in warm, sudsy water and dry it immediately with a soft cloth, and never ever place your turquoise jewelry into an ultrasonic cleaner.
Last but not least, buy turquoise only because you love it, because it speaks to you, and never because wearing it is the latest fashion trend.
Do you like wearing turquoise, and if so, what color and amount of matrix do you prefer? Tell us in the comments to this post.
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the mind and hands behind hART Sense Design. I am a designer and hand-maker of one-of-a-kind and limited edition jewelry and accessories for artistic, chic cowgirls, boho babes, and lovers of all things western.
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