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
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.