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Turquoise in Ancient Egypt and Persia

The striking semi-precious gemstone of Turquoise has been at the heart of people's relationships with jewellery for centuries' worth of civilisations.

Its most important historical sourcing countries, Egypt and Persia (now Iran), both enjoy a deep and meaningful bond with the stone. They produce quite different cuts that are unique in their own ways, but the beliefs around the meanings and protective properties of Turquoise on the whole are surprisingly similar (and it's easy to see why when you hold a Turquoise stone of your own).

The role of Turquoise in Ancient Egypt

If Turquoise is held in regal regard for its appearance, it is thanks in great part to the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. It was such a prized possession for many of them that it even found its way into tombs and onto the death mask of King Tutankhamun himself.

The gemstone was ingrained in Ancient Egyptian society as a protector of all those who wore it. You could not possibly be an esteemed member of society without a piece of Turquoise adorning your public image. A rich, reddish webbing runs through the stones that are sourced from Egypt, which made it perfect to set into gold for added luxury. This combined with its translucent blue appearance meant that its wearer would be protected from all dangers, so you'd have been wise to keep it on you at all times in the Sinai Peninsula and beyond.

In those times, Turquoise was very closely associated with the Goddess of Joy and Fertility, Hathor, who was one of the most important divinities in Ancient Egyptian culture. The 'Mistress of Turquoise' would protect the workers in the southern mines of the Sinai Peninsula as they dug out the vibrant stones, so the ones that made it into the beautiful Egyptian jewellery were highly desirable pieces to have - the tradition is known to date as far back as the First Dynasty.

The role of Turquoise in Persia

Turquoise played a similarly crucial role in the protection of the citizens of Persia as they travelled the great Silk Road to sell it far and wide over 2,000 years ago. It is believed that Turquoise sourced from Persian mines was of the finest and purest quality because it had little trace of the brown veining you might see from other sources.

This purity led Persians to believe that this incredible stone was the earthly connection to the heavens, such was the vibrancy of its blue hue. Great strength and protection could be gained from owning a Turquoise gemstone, so it was one of the most desirable pieces of jewellery around. Travelling salesmen would take it all the way to China and Turkey to share its protective properties with the rest of the world, so it was held as dear by the Persians as it was by the people who bought it from them.

The gemstone was traditionally set into turbans and military weapons for the safety and protection of the wearer and it was a firmly-held belief that it would change colour when they were in any kind of danger. The roofs of the great palaces and mosques of Persia were also decorated with Turquoise to symbolise the connection to the heavens, so it was deeply rooted in the cultural beliefs of the region at the time.

Where else is Turquoise sourced?

Turquoise has major mining locations in the American states of Nevada and Arizona - most of today's stones are mined from there. The Native Americans have a fascinating history with the semi-precious gemstone and it is believed that its protective qualities were held dear in their society, too, mirroring the impressions it made on Persians and Egyptians thousands of miles away.

At Monica Vinader we only use ethically sourced Turquoise stones, for the best colour, clarity and cut, without compromise. Our use of ethical sourcing combined with our meticulous attention to detail ensures that each and every stone has its own distinct character.

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