5 Things to Know about Turquoise

1. It’s rare–at least in the United States. Today most of the historic turquoise mines–Bisbee, Sleeping Beauty, Orvil Jack–Kingman–are defunct. Most artisan jewelers in business today use turquoise imported from other countries.

2.  It’s a mineral, not a stone. Turquoise is mined in certain arid regions of the world, including Iran, Egypt, and the American Southwest.

3. Judging quality is tricky. There are five official grades of turquoise–natural, stabilized, treated, reconstituted, and imitation. Sometimes you need an expert to tell the difference.

4. Turquoise has been incorporated into jewelry and precious objects since antiquity. Egyptian burial masks and sarcophagi are sometimes inlaid with turquoise.

5. Navajo artisans make some of the most traditional jewelry designs incorporating turquoise. Some pieces are made or refashioned with turquoise from Southwestern mines, but they are increasingly hard to find.

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