Turquoise is the only gem to have lent its name to the colour. Turquoise gets its name from its trading history, being imported to Europe from Turkey, the word means ‘Turkish stone’. Although this name only dates back to the seventeenth century, the gem has been mined since at least 6000BC, previously having been called ‘Callais’ by the Ancient Romans and ‘Chalchihuitl’ by the Aztecs. It is most famous, perhaps, as one of the gems most treasured by the Ancient Egyptians.
It is astonishing that the mines the Egyptians sourced their Turquoise from are still in use today. These famous mines in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt produced gems which adorned the necks of ancient Pharaohs.
With bright greenish blues and webbing of rich red and copper hues, each piece of Egyptian Turquoise is completely unique. The richness of the colour of this matrix is prized by collectors and can help to distinguish Turquoise from Egypt.
This unique red-to-gold background colour lends this gem well to being set in gold, as well as making it look regal and antiquated. This may well be why the gem was so prized by ancient civilisations. It was a favourite of Tutankhamun himself and features (along with Lapis Lazuli, another Egyptian favourite) on his extraordinary Death Mask.
Turquoise was said to be a holy stone that would bring good luck. It was so important to the Egyptians that the gem even had its own goddess, Hathor. Hathor was a cow goddess and the mother, wife and daughter of the sun god, Ra. She was known as ‘Lady of Turquoise’, ‘Mistress of Turquoise’ and ‘Lady of Turquoise Country’ as she was the protector of the desert region where this beautiful stone is mined.