Turquoise is a little different to the traditional gems we find set into antique jewellery. Diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds and the like are crystalline materials, while turquoise is polycrystalline. In simple terms, a diamond will be faceted from one individual crystal, while a piece of turquoise contains many different crystal grains, the size and orientation of which vary, but which are all interlocking. This random crystal orientations explain why light is blocked from travelling freely through the gemstone, and why we see turquoise as an opaque to translucent material rather than a transparent one. Turquoise forms in thin seams and nodules in rocks in arid regions such as Arizona, Nevada, Egypt, Iran and China. It's a mineral that begins life when rainwater leeches copper from rocks and reacts it with aluminium and phosphorus. Through turquoise often runs seams of brown to black matrix material.
Just like all gemstones, turquoise forms when a set of conditions and chemical elements are just right, and humans have valued the resulting sky blue to green colour gemstone for thousands of years. Turquoise was venerated by the ancient Egyptians, and elaborate displays using the stones have been found in the excavated tombs of pharaohs, including on the burial mask of King Tutankhamen. The ancient Persians (now Iran) also highly coveted turquoise which they believed carried protective properties, and it was via the Silk Road that the gemstone was eventually traded with Europeans of the 13th century. Turquoise is a soft gemstone, often polished into a smooth cabochon shape, and care must be taken when wearing as a bash will quite often dent it. Turquoise can be quite porous or powdery, and treatments to improve durability such as waxing, oiling or in modern times - impregnating with epoxy - are not uncommon.
Antique Turquoise Jewellery
Turquoise would be just as loved by Europeans as it was by the ancient Egyptians and Persians. By the Georgian era, it was used to adorn forget-me-not rings and other sentimental jewellery pieces of the time, the sky blue imitating the dainty little flowers that appear in the UK in springtime. The striking blue of turquoise looks fabulous when set against the backdrop of yellow gold, and this perfect contrast was used frequently by Victorian jewellers, who often set small turquoise cabochons into pave clusters in heart pendants, lockets and bangles. Turquoise cabochons were also frequently set into rings, and commonly set with pearls as contrasting stones.
Edwardian Turquoise Brooches
Turquoise was a favoured gemstone of the Arts & Crafts movement, and also some Art Nouveau jewellers, and can commonly be found adorning silver fringe necklaces and pendants created by jewellers like Archibald Knox for Liberty & Co, and beautiful gold Cymric brooches, such as those by Murrle Bennett & Co. The turquoise used in these pieces, which celebrated natural and organic design, was often uneven and contained matrix, which only added to the charm. By the Art Deco area, turquoise along with stones like coral and onyx were fashioned into small geometric shapes like squares and oblongs and set into brooches, bracelets and cigarette cases to give a bold contrast of colour to gemstones like diamond.
Vintage Turquoise Rings
Turquoise is both striking and affordable, and that means its charm for use in jewellery has never wavered. Turquoise has remained popular from ancient times right up until today, and this December birthstone is hugely popular set in earrings, rings, pendants, lockets, bracelets and other jewellery. Modern jewellery brands frequently feature turquoise in their collections, in both sterling silver and gold, and we find searches for antique turquoise rings, brooches and other items of jewellery show no chance of slowing, with turquoise items always generating a great deal of interest at auction.
Why buy vintage or antique turquoise jewellery?
Quite simply, it's all in the magic of the piece. When you buy an antique turquoise brooch, a vintage turquoise ring or a pre-loved turquoise necklace or pendant, that piece of jewellery has a past about which we can only wonder. And of course we do wonder! Humans are inquisitive and our thirst to know what has come before us in innate. We love to imagine the antique piece of jewellery being worn in years gone by, attending parties and other important events, being worn with pride at celebrations, jubilees, political rallies, or to celebrate the home-coming of soldiers. All these important things that we read about in our history books, the antique pieces have lived through. There are ethical and environmental considerations too when buying antique jewellery set with turquoise or indeed any other gemstone. But while we agree these are hugely important, even more so today, we still think it's that secret history that makes antique jewellery so special.