Turquoise is the gemstone of those born in December and was among the first gems to be mined, and historic artefacts reveal that it has had a long history as a stone that was highly prized.
The stone is mentioned in Exodus 28, as a part of the Jewish High Priest's breastplate.
There are many famous artefacts containing turquoise
that have been found by archaeologists around the world and now housed in the world's museums.
Perhaps the most famous is the burial mask of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, recovered during an excavation of his tomb along with rings and elaborate turquoise necklaces, known as pectorals.
In Ancient Egypt the stone was associated with the goddess Hathor, the goddess of love, music, fertility and beauty, and turquoise was so popular among the aristocracy that it has been argued that it was the first gemstone to be imitated, as an artificial glazed ceramic product known as faience.
Turquoise inlay is also featured in many Muslim mosques and other important buildings, particularly in Persia, where it was the national stone for many centuries and was mined in the region of Khorasan. Among the most famous examples is the Medresseh-I Shah Husein Mosque of Isfahan. Persian turquoise was often engraved with devotional words in Arabic script outlined in gold.
It then found found its way to India with the formation of the Mughal Empire and here too, inlays of turquoise are featured in the famous Taj Mahal, the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, the beloved wife of the Emperor Shah Jahan. The story is that when the Shah was overthrown, cut off from all contact with the outside world and imprisoned in his palace rooms in Agra Fort for the remainder of his life by his son Aurangzeb the Shah managed to keep a small mirror and position it at such an angle that he could gaze on the tomb of his beloved Mumtaz.
In China too, turquoise was much prized by the elite and one of the most prized items to have been excavated is an ornamental bronze plaque inlaid with turquoise. The plaque was found in a complex of palaces and tombs in the Erlitou site near Yanshi city in Henan Province. It is believed to have been worn as a breastplate and is from the from the Xia Dynasty of the 17th and 18th Centuries. It is now in the Luoyang Museum.
For a history of all things turquoise among the native American Pueblo Indians in New Mexico the best place to visit is the Turquoise Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Given its ancient history and its association years as a holy stone, a bringer of good fortune or a talisman, worn in ancient Persia round the neck or wrist as protection against unnatural death, giving someone a turquoise necklace is more than just simply a gift!
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