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Eleventh Anniversary Gift Guide: Turquoise

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A lot happens in eleven years. Those celebrating an eleventh wedding anniversary have jointly experienced their fair share of life's ups and downs together. From creating a home to watching children grow to experiencing positive career changes, you have had some great times. You also have probably persevered through some tough moments. These experiences change people as individuals as well as their relationship to each other. By making it to this point, you know how to grow, yet remain close to your spouse.

It is said that people fortunate enough to be in their eleventh year of marriage will experience a great deal of personal spiritual development. You will strive to be positive, bravely open to love, and continue to develop your hard-won natural intuition. This is not easy, but you clearly are willing to put in the work. 

The traditional gemstone gift to honor your partner for an eleventh anniversary is turquoise. Turquoise is an incredibly versatile gem with a wide range of possible appearances. From clear blue to a yellowish green with dark matrixing, individual stones of turquoise are as unique as your partner. If you take your time, you are sure to find turquoise jewelry that matches your spouse's personality. 

This split-shank turquoise ring is unique, stylish and timeless. Photo by CustomMade. Used with permission.
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at CustomMade

What is Turquoise?

Turquoise is one of the most popular of the world's opaque gemstones and has been valued by humanity reaching back to our earliest civilizations. From the Ancient Egyptians to the Aztecs to the Chinese, this vibrant gemstone has captured the hearts of people around the world for thousands of years. Gifting your partner turquoise jewelry for your eleventh wedding anniversary is a time-honored tradition.

This beautiful turquoise is set in 14K yellow gold with diamonds is a bold gift in honor of an eleventh anniversary.
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at Angara

Part of the appeal of turquoise is its wide expanse of appearances. Some admire the pure blue color and many compare it with the color of a robin's egg or a clear sky. Others are drawn to gems with a subtler grayish appearance. There are also stones that are a blend of yellow and green or green and blue hues. Beyond the bodycolor of turquoise, some gems have matrixing patterns which are the remains of the host rock that the turquoise grew in. Matrixing may present as a gentle tan color of sandstone or as dark brown to black which is characteristic of limonite. Gems may have only a few delicate veins of matrixing while others are heavily marked. There really is something for everybody.

On a chemical level, turquoise is a complicated gem that only forms under very specific conditions. Hence it is a rare gemstone. The process starts with a dry desert environment that houses minerals containing both phosphorus and aluminum. When these minerals are exposed to acidic, copper-bearing groundwater, a compound of hydrated copper and aluminum phosphate is created. 

The technical-scientific formula for turquoise is CuAl6(PO4)4 ·(OH)·5H2O. Any impurities that are present will alter the ultimate color expression. For example, it is thought that high levels of copper result in a bluer stone while the presence of iron introduces green. It is because there are so many possibilities that turquoise has such a wide range of possible colors. Truly, if you placed a clear robin's egg blue gem next to a yellow green stone with heavy matrixing, you might not even realize that they are the same gemstone. 

Turquoise is different from transparent gemstones like diamond or garnet in that it is an aggregate of small pieces rather than a single crystal. This means that it is a much more porous gem that can absorb any liquids or oils that it comes into contact with. It also is soft, making it an ideal gem to carve. 

Turquoise may be soft, but surrounding them with metal like this pair of 14K yellow gold earrings is a great way to be sure that jewelry lasts many years.
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at Ritani

Where Turquoise Comes From

Because turquoise formation requires such specific conditions, only a few deserts in the world house gemstone deposits. You might guess that individual mines have just one type of turquoise that is unique to the region. This is not the case! While there are certain mines that are famous for a particular type of stone, most turquoise mines produce a variety of different colors. Additionally, there can be substantial overlap in the appearance of gems that come from different places on the planet.

This creates a serious challenge for gemologists and collectors because it means that identifying where a gem came from is often impossible. One example of such cross-over is the gems from the now-closed Sleeping Beauty mine in Arizona and stones from Iran. Gems from both of these places can achieve a beautiful, clear blue often called "Persian Blue" after the original Iranian source. Without paperwork, it is possible that no one will be able to tell where gems come from.

That being said, different regions do have particular colors and matrixing that appear most often. Here is an analysis of what kind of gems you can expect from each source.

  • Iran - The primary historical source of turquoise was Iran, formerly called Persia. The sky-blue gems with a smooth texture and no matrixing were considered the world's best turquoise and were known as "Persian blue". These gems were spread far and wide via trade along the Silk Road.
  • Southwest United States - This region now supplies most of the world's rough turquoise and there are many mines spread out over quite a few states. While there are so many sources of turquoise here, there are a few mines that have earned individual reputations. We have already mentioned the Sleeping Beauty mine in Arizona whose smooth blue stones look very much like the gems from Iran. If you travel a few miles East, you will find the Cerrillos mines in New Mexico. In the nineteenth century, the beautiful blue gems from this location captured the attention of George Kunz, the chief gemologist for Tiffany & Co. Not only were clear blue stones uncovered there, but also dark green gems with dark matrixing which have become especially popular in the region in recent years.

Currently, most associate turquoise jewelry with the style of Native Americans from the Southwest. Some styles that you may find are belt buckles with large gems and carved figurines with turquoise inlay. Some of the local tribes who are famous for their use of turquoise in traditional jewelry include the Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, and Pueblo.

  • China - The Chinese have been mining local turquoise for at least two thousand years and their gems have a wide range of colors that can look just like the US stones. Many consider the best Chinese turquoise to be a deep blue with dark, fine, and uniform matrixing. Two of the most abundant turquoise-bearing lands are the Hubei and Ma'anshan provinces.
  • Egypt - When archeologists open intact tombs going as far back as far as five thousand years, they often find turquoise beads. Associated with the ancient goddess Hathor, the ancient Egyptians connected turquoise with joy. The gems from this source tend to be green mixed with either blue or yellow. 

Value of Turquoise

When evaluating turquoise, gemologists look to three different factors: color, texture, and matrixing. The best gems will have an even color expression and a smooth texture. When it comes to matrixing, the best stones either lack matrixing entirely or have an aesthetically pleasing regular distribution. 

However, turquoise is notoriously difficult to value because different people are drawn to different gems. Speaking generally, the sky-blue Persian turquoise with no matrixing is usually assigned the highest value. The addition of yellow or green hues tends to lower prices. 

14K Yellow Gold Turquoise Enamel Staple Stud Earrings James Allen
This pair 14K yellow gold earrings showcase beautiful, sky-blue turquoise.
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at James Allen

Beyond that, things get messy because demand for the various types of turquoise varies not only between regions but also between individuals. While some would pay large amounts for Persian blue turquoise, others go in a different direction and seek out bluish-green gems with dark matrixing. Still others like grayish stones. Choosing the turquoise for your eleventh anniversary present is a highly personal task and you should follow your own instincts rather than adhering to trends.

Turquoise jewelry tends to be very affordable. You can add some luxury by pairing it with other gemstones like the sapphire halo used in this pair of 14K white gold earrings.
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at Angara

Is Turquoise Durable?

Because turquoise is an aggregate stone, it is relatively soft. It has a Mohs score of 5 - 6, making it easy to carve. Also, different gems can have different levels of porosity. This is why texture is important. Turquoise gems will absorb liquids and oils that they come into contact with. Stones which are smoother have smaller pores and, thus, don't absorb as much. Yet, even the best turquoise will soak up a little material from its environment. This can cause the stone to discolor slightly, becoming a tad darker. 

Monica Rich Kosann 18k Yellow Gold Round Locket with a Round Turquoise in a Star Bezel Blue NIle
The small turquoise cabochon set in this 18K yellow gold locket is well protected from damage.
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at Blue NIle

Interestingly, the discoloration that turquoise may exhibit has been considered by some to be a good thing. It is said that discoloration results in a response to the mood of the wearer. Still today, many turquoise collectors claim to have an almost spiritual connection to their gems. This intense personal connective power of turquoise makes it the perfect eleventh anniversary gem for a beloved spouse. 

Natural vs. Treated Turquoise

The vast majority of all turquoise is treated in some way. Many gems are submerged in wax or polymers to seal their surface and mitigate the potential for discoloration. There is also a process called "impregnation" where a number of different substances including waxes, resins, and polymers are used to seep into the stone to make it stronger from within. Sometimes dyes are also used to deepen the color of pale gems but the effects are not permanent or realistic, so it is best to avoid dyed gems. It is also not uncommon for turquoise, especially large, flat stones, to have backings secured on them to protect their undersides. Unless you buy your turquoise directly from its' miner, it is hard even for professionals to tell if and how gems have been treated.

When looking for turquoise eleventh anniversary jewelry, you may find "reconstituted" turquoise. These gems are not solid natural turquoise, rather, they are made of raw turquoise of low-quality which is ground down and mixed with resins and polymers then shaped. The resulting stones are very realistic and can be made in large, identical batches. Some reconstituted turquoise includes artificial matrixing. They look exactly like mined turquoise, but are not natural. Such gems are, however, very affordable.

Types of Turquoise Jewelry

As turquoise is opaque, there is no reason to facet them like transparent gemstone are. Rather, you will find turquoise fashioned into three primary forms: cabochons, beads, and flat pieces for inlay. 

  • Beads - Turquoise beads can be any size from small and dainty to big and bold! They may be round or fashioned into large discs.
This delicate 14K yellow gold bracelet with turquoise beads is a versatile and affordable gift.
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at James Allen
  • Cabochons - Cabochons have a flat bottom with a domed top. Often, turquoise cabochons are set in a mounting that completely covers the backside and holds the gem in a bezel setting. This is an excellent design for turquoise because it offers a great deal of support and security to the gem. 
Thanks to its backing and bezel setting, the turquoise cabochon featured in this 18K yellow gold pendant is well protected.
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at Blue Nile
  • Inlay - If you shop for your eleventh anniversary turquoise jewelry in the American Southwest, you are likely going to see mostly silver jewelry with turquoise inlay. This is a great way to set turquoise for a number of reasons. First, it offers maximum protection to the gem from impact. Secondly, turquoise gems tend to be small. By making big jewelry out of a collection of many small pieces, even those tiny fragments of turquoise can be used effectively to create something beautiful. 
  • Southwest Aesthetic - We mentioned above that Native American styles are what most people think of when they consider turquoise jewelry. Belt buckles and bolo ties are classics, as are elaborate squash blossom necklaces. Native artists will often pair turquoise with mother-of-pearl, coral, lapis, and sugilite set in silver. More extravagant designs use high-carat yellow gold with fine transparent gemstones. There are items to be had at every price point.
14K Yellow Gold Turquoise Enamel and Diamond Ring James Allen
Pairing turquoise with valuable transparent gemstones like the diamonds used in this 14K yellow gold ring is an effective way to elevate turquoise jewelry.
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at James Allen

Caring for Your Turquoise Jewelry

Caring for your turquoise eleventh anniversary jewelry properly is a must to keep it looking its best. The most important thing that you have to keep in mind is that gems are porous. This means that you should avoid exposing them to liquids of any kind. Be sure to remove rings and be careful of bracelets even when washing your hands. 

Also, gems can absorb oils from moisturizers, makeup, and perfumes. Always apply these first and allow to dry before donning turquoise jewelry of any kind. 

If your jewelry has some grime on it, try gently rubbing it with a soft cloth. If this doesn't work, you can wet the cloth very slightly. Once you wipe away the dirt, pat dry the gems. If you care for your eleventh anniversary turquoise jewelry properly, it will love you back.

Emily Frontiere

Emily Frontiere is a GIA Graduate Gemologist. She is particularly experienced working with estate/antique jewelry.

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