One of the most popular gemstones, turquoise has been world renowned for thousands of years for its beauty, and its color. From prehistoric times until modern day, the turquoise stone has been a symbol of good fortune, and a timeless display of natural beauty.
Types of turquoise
Gem Quality Turquoise
Turquoise has been such a popular stone, especially over the last few decades that most of the world’s resources have been mined, making most of the great quality specimens long gone. The best turquoise is called gem quality, this turquoise is of such high quality is that all a jeweler has to do, is cut and polish it, before putting it on the market.
This gem-turquoise is extremely rare, and has usually changed hands quite a few times; it also fetches an extremely high price. All of the mines from which gem quality turquoise comes from, have been stripped dry, and presently there are no active mines which produce turquoise like this.
Don’t fret though! You still have the option to buy nearly identical jewelry, at a vastly cheaper cost. It’s called stabilized turquoise. The majority of the turquoise sold at the Russian store is stabilized turquoise. It is created by taking the mineral, and soaking it in an epoxy resin. The resin penetrates the stone, and leaves it hard enough to be cut, polished, and worn, without fear of breaking. The natural structure of the stone is maintained throughout this process. The majority of the turquoise on the market is stabilized. Stabilized turquoise is in high demand, since the integrity of the stone is left intact, so the natural beauty is protected, but still left in tact.
Now in case you were interested, the lowest form of turquoise is called reconstructed turquoise. Stones that fall in this category would not be suitable to cut even after receiving the stabilizing treatment. The turquoise stones are instead ground up into a powder, and mixed with an adhesive, and molded into the desired shape. The finished product does not display any of the spider web patterns, or veins, that one would normally see in turquoise jewelry. We do not sell any reconstructed turquoise.
Ok, so we’re The Russian Store, but our number one goal is to provide the best quality products on the market. As far as turquoise goes, the American Southwest is the top so that’s where we get ours from. Throughout the state you can find some of the best turquoise mines around, the Bisbee mine, which is known for "Bisbee Blue" turquoise is no longer producing, but the Sleeping Beauty mine, which produces the word famous “Sleeping Beauty” turquoise still is…
Up until recently, Persian turquoise was the benchmark standard for judging this blue stone. However in recent years collectors have been claiming that the turquoise from the southwest is as good, or even better than the Persian variety. This is a huge claim to make, considering that for years, Persian turquoise has not only been a way to regionally identify the mineral, but has also been synonymous with quality.
One of the most alluring, charming, and highly sought after aspects prevalent in our turquoise, and all turquoise from the southwest is the occurrence of “spider webs.” Look at some of our turquoise, and you’ll see what appear to be tiny little veins meandering around the blue stone, when this occurs, the turquoise is dubbed “spider web turquoise.” The spider webs can range in color from black, to brown, to red, they criss cross and bevel around the stone creating beautiful patterns which enhance the natural charm of this popular stone. The spider webbing actually occurs when the stone is forming; iron oxide makes its way into small cracks in the stone, creating the pathway of spider webs that has become a main selling point in some of our turquoise.
Another distinct feature of turquoise from the American southwest is the use of silver. Elsewhere in the world it is not a common occurrence for turquoise to be accented by silver. Native Americans created a beautiful balance, almost a meeting of two worlds, by combining the deep ocean of blues in turquoise with the celestial shine of silver. It’s truly a sight to behold, and one that only enhances the beauty of the stone. It seems to give a more refined edge to the untamed raw beauty of the turquoise stone.
Most of the popular jewelry of the world is transparent, or at least semi-transparent, however turquoise solid color seems to be it’s main selling point. From robin’s egg blue, to lime green, and everything in-between, the natural shape, and luster of the stone seems to suggest something strictly natural, while its vibrant stark, almost mesmerizing color seems to be almost something otherworldly, almost ethereal. Within this balance between the natural and mysterious lies the allure of turquoise, it stands out in a crowd, while at the same time seeming so modest, and so natural.
You see turquoise is a combination of three major elements; copper, aluminum, and phosphate, and when these elements are combined with oxygen and the right conditions are met, they form the mineral we know as turquoise. The ratio and percentage of each of these elements determine the stones color. Occasionally iron can be substituted for aluminum in nature’s process of creating the stone, the higher the iron to aluminum ratio, the more green the stone will appear, you will notice we have some lime green sets of turquoise, you can tell that they have a high content of iron in their chemical structure. Originally blue turquoise was seen as the most desirable; however in modern days when turquoise is almost always associated with a blue-ish color, the green variety has seen a reemergence as a unique alternative.
Turquoise Heishi Beads
Do you know the history of heishi? Pronounced "hee-shee," this term refers to a style of shell preparation and bead making that dates back to approximately 6000 BC. Yes, this technique is very old, but it is still used today; mimicked by machines and mastered by some remaining artists who keep the craft alive.
Nearly all of the artifacts pertaining to the style of heishi that have been unearthed in North America are thought to be created by or at least related to the Pueblo people that inhabited the lands that are now New Mexico. These heishi artifacts made of shell and turquoise are the oldest heishi artifact throughout the entire world, but the Pueblo people were not the only people to craft natural materials into uniform pieces, drill them, string them, and wear them. No. 30,000 years ago people in northern Africa used similar techniques to craft ostrich egg shells into decorative strands.
Today a large portion of the heishi that is on the market is done in turquoise. The pairing of the Pueblo style with the natural turquoise stones was first done by the Pueblos themselves most likely before any interaction with Europeans. Because of this, many people consider heishi the only true native American jewelry form. Heishi necklaces were made in ancient times just as some are made today, with bits of turquoise, a hard rock, a string, and time. The fact that no silver is used in these necklaces makes them a unique form of Native American art that is reflective of a time before the European conquest. The Pueblos made use of the materials that were readily available to them, mainly shells and turquoise.
In order to create such a uniformed appearance to each turquoise bead the artist must exert extreme patience. The process is long and arduous, but it is often worth the effort. Today, machines have been made to cut and drill both shells and minerals. These machines produce large amounts of heishi style jewelry, but the craftsmanship is just not the same. A real human artist develops a relationship with the piece that they are working on, and this relationship allows the artist to pay attention to each minute detail. The turquoise heishi necklaces that we sell here are all strung by hand. The disc-shaped turquoise beads are all shaped and drilled by a machine, but they are touched up and strung by artists.
Own your very own piece of American history today with one of our fine heishi turquoise necklaces!