Turquoise, the birthstone of December, is a very popular gemstone. Not only nowadays but also in the past. But why we think that turquoise is the oldest known gemstone in the world? We find proof that in nearly every part of the world our ancestors used and loved the turquoise gemstone.

Let me give you some proof!

Mask of Tutankhamon, decorated with gemstones

Mask of Tutankhamon, decorated with gemstones

In the East, turquoise was used in very Early Times

Archeologists discovered turquoise jewelry and death masks in the graves of ancient Egyptian rulers and they discovered too that Chinese workmen carved turquoise stones more than 3000 years ago. Especially kings and warriors of the Ancient Egypt, Aztecs, Persians and even China loved this turquoise stone and used it in their weapons, ceremonial masks or bridles. They thought the stone would bring them power and protection against falls.

The Egyptian pharao’s loved turquoise. We have found turquoise jewelry set in gold necklaces and rings, turquoise carved in the shape of a scarab in their graves and they are dated from 3000 BC on. The most known object of turquoise we have found from this time is the death mask of pharao Tutankhamon, that was richly decorated with turquoise. The Sinai Peninsula was called ‘the country of the turquoise’, because there are six mines in the region and two of those mines are considered as the oldest known mines in the world.

Turquoise plays a great role in the architecture of Persia (and also in Uzbekistan). They covered the domes of palaces and sometimes mosks with turquoise, and the blue turquoise turned green when it was heated due to dehydration.


In the West, turquoise was popular too

In the South West of the USA, where the pre-Columbian Native Americans lived one can find a lot of turquoises. That turquoise was a great and important product for their trade to South America; to the Aztecs for example. The Aztecs used turquoise mostly for ceremonial objects, like masks, shields, and knives. Together with gold, malachite, coral, shells etc the turquoise was inlaid in the objects. Sometimes the Aztecs used a human skull as a base for a mask and decorated it with turquoise.

Every gem that old has some old-age ‘problems’

Turquoise is a sensitive gemstone: it can fade in color when it is exposed to direct sunlight too much. And it does not like solvents like perfume, makeup, and natural oils. The gemstone is rather soft: maximum 6 on the scale of Moh. Due to the softness turquoise can be easily carved into amulets and talismans. Because of the softness, the gemstone is often strengthened with wax or oil, but also dying and reconstruction is used.

Fakes, fraud, and treatment

When a material is wanted by the crowd and there is not enough available at a good price, people try to fake it, fraud it or use treatments to make the turquoise harder so that the softer stone can be used in more occasions.

Since the Egyptians produced imitations of turquoise using glazed tiles (faience) or glass or enamel and nowadays they can use plastic or porcelain to fake turquoise. But most of the time the imitations are so bad that you can recognize them. In 1972 Pierre Gilson invented a very good synthetic imitation of turquoise; it has a uniform color and a black spiderweb veining.

But you can imitate turquoise much easier by dying howlite or magnesite in the turquoise color. In the South of France, they once mined odontolite, especially for imitating turquoise.

How to check whether it’s a fake turquoise?

So you need tests to find out whether your turquoise is real or an imitation. You can do that with a microscope or magnifying glass: natural turquoise has flecks or spots of whitish material on a featureless pale blue background. Imitations will have black or other color veining and are uniform dark blue and have a granular texture.

Buying turquoise

The most expensive turquoise is the sky blue turquoise. The greenish and the turquoise with the spiderweb matrix are less expensive. The price will depend on the size and the color. But also on the fact whether it is a real gemstone, not treated, except for light waxing and oiling. Those treatments were already used in ancient times and will enhance the color and the luster.


The dyed imitations of turquoise, like howlite and magnesite, are less valuable than the real gemstone, but when you know that these are imitations, the piece of jewelry can be very beautiful, but it is no turquoise. It has only the same color.


There is a lot of proof that turquoise is (one of) the oldest gemstones in the world. That is that turquoise is one of the gemstone people recognized as special and used as a decoration for daily life objects. Archeologists find these proofs in many graves and unearthed cities all over the world.

Turquoise is so popular that already for ages people try and succeeded in making too soft turquoise harder, find other minerals that they dyed in the turquoise color and sold it as turquoise.

When you love turquoise you have a choice to buy the real gemstone, that is rather expensive or you decide to get along with a fake turquoise. When you know this is the case, because you cannot afford the real gemstone, you can accept that (or not). But you will love it all the same.

My passion is to show the women in the whole world how beautiful jewelry and gemstones are. And how they can make you sparkle. Every two weeks I write some of my tips&secrets down and send them to the people who are interested. When you want to receive my tips%secrets too, let me know where I can send them too.



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