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Turquoise in Central Asia – Iran

The semi-precious gemstone Turquoise has been highly sought after in the Middle East for thousands of years. Its elegant blue hue has served as a protector and bringer of strength and peace for many a king and dignitary for centuries, such is its transfixing appearance and transformative power. It was in the mines of Persia - what is now modern-day Iran - where the mineral was found in its purest and most desirable form.

For over 2,000 years, Turquoise gemstones have been cut from the grounds of Iranian mines to form some of the most instantly recognisable and sophisticated pieces of jewellery in the world - its popularity as the perfect addition to any outfit evidently continues into the world of 21st century fashion.The abundance of Turquoise in Iran means that it is still a core source for mining to this day, so the story behind what came to be known as Persian Turquoise is just about as rich as the beauty of the stone itself.

The history of Turquoise in Iran

Persia's historical Khorasan region was the traditional source of Turquoise for many of the travelling salesmen in Central Asia and Europe at the time.It was from this trade, in fact, that the gemstone received its very name; the trade route into Europe passed through Turkey and the Old French name for anything Turkish was turqueise, which evolved to become the name we know it by today. Salesmen travelled across Central Asia as far wide as China to bring the stone to those who longed for its protective qualities. Central Asia, which was largely Iranian in pre-Islamic days, was heralded as the world's primary supply of beautiful Turquoise stones - luckily, the supply was plentiful enough to meet the demand!

Iran played a significant role in the trading that occurred along the famous Silk Road that connected the East with the West. The Turquoise mines there are known to have been heavily worked since at least the 10th century to meet the demands of the surrounding regions. Intriguingly, there is some evidence to suggest that Iran's supplies were discovered around 2100 BC, but this hasn't been proven. What was known as Persian Turquoise enjoyed a reputation the world over for the smoothness of its robin's egg blue veneer.

It often displayed colour variations from blue to green between mines in the Central Asian region, but one of the key differences between the Persian variety and the Turquoise found in the mines of the USA and Egypt, for instance, was that it lacked the intensity of the matrix of brown veins in its final cuts. The iron- and vanadium-rich environment in which the mineral can be found in Iran is what prevents the formation of these veins and this is noticeably lacking in other world regions.

The paler, greener stones that had heavy veining on their surface were referred to by the Persians as Arabi, which means they didn't meet the high standards they'd come to expect from the Turquoise gemstones of their homeland. Two other classifications of Turquoise denoted the quality of the superior stones; those with medium quality and a bluer hue were called Barkhaneh, whilst the finest stones of all were known as Anqushtari. These variations were found in a number of mines all across the Persian region and it's a tradition that still continues in the 21st century.

Nishapur, Razavi Khorasan Province

Damghan is the capital city of Damghan County in the Semnan Province of Iran, about 500 kilometres west of Mashhad. A Turquoise mine is still worked to this day in Damghan and it is historically one of the region's most significant sites for the extraction of semi-precious stones and even gold. Whilst the level of extraction is far from that of Nishapur, Damghan has helped bring some of the highest quality Turquoise to the world markets of Asia, Europe and America.

Where else is Turquoise sourced?

Iran is an incredible source of Turquoise, but it is not the only source. The rich deposits of mines in the USA have been worked for centuries, too. Sourced from North America, all our Turquoise stones are hand-selected and cut from the rough by artisan skilled craftsman, allowing us to stay true to Monica's design vision without compromise.

Every single Turquoise piece at Monica Vinader is completely unique. This is because we only use genuine, ethically sourced gemstones. Each one has its own distinct character, and each must meet our standards of colour, clarity and cut.

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