|Blogger: Amber Schamel
|Chacoan Turquoise from New Mexico
December is another one of those months that has several different birthstones, turquoise, tanzanite and zircon. While they are each beautiful stones in their own right, I've chosen turquoise as our study for this month.
Turquoise has been a favorite gem for thousands of years, in fact, it might be the oldest of all the precious stones. No one can truly know. More than three thousand years ago, the Chinese and Egyptians were already cherishing this beauty and utilizing it for adornments and carvings. In fact, the iconic gold burial mask of the Egyptian Pharaoh, King Tut, is inlaid with turquoise. However this was not the only piece of turquoise found. Many rings, necklaces and other pieces of jewelry were discovered as well. Archeological evidence suggests that the Egyptians were using turquoise as early as the first dynasty, possibly earlier.
The earliest known mines were in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, near the temple of their goddess Hathor. They called it "mefkat" which means "joy" or "delight". Quite an accurate depiction of their feelings for the stone.
The Egyptians used the stone so much, that they even invented a way to create an artificial imitation turquoise, which may make it the first stone in history to be imitated.
Besides the Egyptians and the Chinese, many early civilizations also prized this stone. The Aztecs, Persians, and Mesopotamian, not to mention the native peoples of North America such as the ancient Pueblo tribe all left behind relics with the stone. These people believed the stone had the power to protect, grant good health, and even wealth. Perhaps the Russians held a similar belief, because back-swords from the 17th century were inlaid with turquoise.
It is believed that turquoise made its way to Europe via the Silk Road, but didn't gain popularity there until after the 13th century and the decline of the Roman Catholic influence.
The Apache Indians believed that turquoise was found at the end of a rainbow, and if attached to the bow or firearm made the warrior's aim more accurate. Still today, much of the Native American art and jewelry includes the stone. It has become an icon of western style.
All in all, turquoise is one of the most ancient and universally favored stones. Its beauty transcends time and culture, making it a favorite still today. China is still the largest producer of turquoise in the world, while New Mexico is the largest producer in the United States.
Two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".
She lives in Colorado Springs near her favorite mountain and between enjoying life as a new mom, and spinning stories out of soap bubbles, Amber loves to connect with readers and hang out on Goodreads with other bookish peoples.