Gone are the days of finding the ancient turquoise stone solely mounted in a ubiquitous piece of Navajo jewelry – but you knew that. However, many modern jewelry lovers got their first glimpse of the tremendously popular turquoise from southwest Native American decorative objects. That turquoise does have its charm. But other regions around the world yield a completely different blue stone, also called turquoise. (image 1: Turquoise pendant with 18kt yellow gold chain. Courtesy of Nancy Norton.)
Turquoise is an ancient opaque blue mineral mined the world over and its devotees are legion. Ancient Persians, Central and South Americans of centuries ago admired this valuable stone. And because mineral gemstones such as turquoise vary to some degree depending on the geologic conditions under which they were formed, unique traits mark turquoise from different parts of the world.
To give you a sense of how long admirers have been valuing turquoise, read this passage of the Old Testament written some 700 years before Christ: “I will build you with stones of turquoise … your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones.” Isaiah 54:11-12
Contemporary designers are knowledgeable about this material, and have their own preferences about this stone. But, as with most jewelry fanatics, at the end of the day, gemstone choices are a very personal thing, and the emotional impact of the look of a stone can also be a potent draw. (image 2: Turquoise top stone, Pumpkin carved Turquoise center, and the dangle is an Ancient Tribal Afghani Bead. Courtesy of Rebecca Collins, Ltd.)
Nancy Norton selects the finest jewels for her original designs, insuring that no two are alike, and turquoise is a perfect fit for her designer line. And Norton says her customers respond to the sophistication of high-end turquoise. “They feel the turquoise gives a fresh, sophisticated look. I prefer bigger, cleaner pieces of turquoise versus those that are heavily veined. I don’t want the stone to be a distracting component in the design.
I am very careful to buy denser turquoise which makes it more color stable. These higher quality stones are worth the added expense.” And it’s not just about looks. “Porosity in turquoise causes the stone to absorb body oil, and water which will affect the color over time,” Norton points out.
No matter where the source is, sometimes a person simply loves the look of a stone, and therein rests the allure. New York based designer Sami Zeira’s brand is known for unforgettable jewels fashioned by old world craftsmanship for the modern woman. “I use Sleeping Beauty Arizona Turquoise because it’s clean and reminds me of the ocean, one of my largest passions in life…”
Ashley Hughes, speaking for Rebecca Collins Jewelry says they use a lot of turquoise, some of it hand carved for their unique line of artisan jewelry. Rebecca Collins collection of one of a kind jewelry has a stone ethnic, even tribal identity, which is a striking complement for simply styled contemporary fashions. (image 3: Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Hoop earrings Courtesy of Sami Zeira.)
The value of fine stones is not limited to what a great jeweler does with them or even how strong their brand is. Superior turquoise from certain regions commands a hefty price tag because of its quality and rarity – and sometimes the difficulty in extracting it from its source. Experts agree that exquisite quality turquoise hails from northeast Iran, (formerly Persia) near Nishapur. But since that region is a hot bed of unrest, its presence in the marketplace is minimal. Another precarious site for high-end turquoise is Afghanistan. Top dealers offering turquoise from other locales then look for goods which closely resemble Persian turquoise; fine graining, no matrix or veining, evenly saturated robins egg or sky blue, and stones that can take a superior polish.
If you haven’t focused on turquoise in a while, but you want to broaden the range of high quality goods for your customers, consider turquoise. While you are thinking about it, refresh your familiarity of the back-story about this ancient gemstone so that you will be armed with real, easy to remember bits about this stone. Your customers want to know more than the price of turquoise; they want to know what that price reflects. It may be your careful selection of the individual stones, so that each item will maintain a lasting beauty and value for the collector. Fine turquoise is one way to broaden your clientele’s collection of valuable gemstones with a centuries old pedigree.
Graduate Gemologist and Registered Master Valuer Diana Jarrett is also a member of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA). She’s a frequent lecturer at conferences and trade shows. Jarrett serves as Colored Stone Editor for Rapaport Diamond Report; with other works regularly appearing in trade and consumer publications. Contact her at email@example.com or visit her website: www.dianajarrett.com.