When Turkish traders introduced this “Persian blue” stone to Europe via the Silk Road in the 13th century, they influenced the gemstone’s name. The word “turquoise” comes from the French pierre tourques for “Turkish stone.”
Turquoise is a copper aluminum phosphate and considered a soft stone. In Nature, it occurs in the range of hues from sky blue to grey-green, and is mostly found in places where there is a high concentration of copper in the soil.
The blue color is created by copper, the green by bivalent iron and a certain amount of chrome. Often, the rock has veins or blotches running through it, which are brown, light grey or black depending on where it was found. These lively, more or less regular patterns are known as 'turquoise matrix'.
Turquoise was among the first gems to be mined. Most mining is worked by hand with little or no mechanization. However, turquoise is often recovered as a byproduct of large-scale copper mining operations, especially in the United States. It's also found in Mexico, Israel, Iran, Afghanistan and China. The most beautiful turquoises, in a splendid light blue, comes from deposits from North Iran. The oldest turquoise mines are in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt.
The earliest evidence of turquoise gemstones comes from ancient Egyptian tombs, which contain elaborate turquoise jewelry dating back to 3000 BC. Egyptians set turquoise in gold necklaces and rings, used it as inlay, and carved it into scarabs. Most notably, King Tut’s iconic burial mask was extravagantly adorned with turquoise.
Ancient Persians decorated extensively with turquoise, often engraving it with Arabic script. Turquoise covered palace domes because its sky-blue color represented heaven. This later inspired the use of turquoise in buildings like the Taj Mahal. Turquoise also adorned the ceremonial dress of early Native American and Tibetan rituals and medicine people.