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Turquoise

Introduction

Turquoise is found in dry and barren regions where water from the acidic,
copper-rich grounds seeps downwards and reacts with minerals that
contain phosphorous and aluminium. This is a sedimentary process which
results in the formation of porous, semi translucent to opaque compound
of hydrated copper and aluminium phosphate. Turquoise is a prime
example of this and which can be marketed both as gem for jewelry and
as an ornamental material.
The name turquoise means ‘Turkish stone’ because the trade route that
brought it to Europe used to come via Turkey. It is a French term.
Before turquoise became known in the main stream it was known around
the world by many names. According to Gubelin (1966) and Pearl (1976)
some of the names are as follows:
1) Agaphite: Turquoise from Persia.
2) American Turquoise: Pale blue, porous turquoise. Applied to turquoise
of this kind regardless of its geographic origin.
3) Aztec Stone: A general term applied to many minerals, including
turquoise with green shades.
4) Cobweb Turquoise Matrix: Turquoise with a strong spider-web like
matrix.
5) Egg-Shell Turquoise: Turquoise with a matrix that looks cracked.
6) Egyptian Turquoise: Turquoise deemed to be less desirable due to a
week blue colouring or yellow-green shading. The term is used without
concern for the geographic source of the stone.
7) Mexican Turquoise: Synonym of ‘American Turquoise.’
8) Persian Turquoise: Exceptional light blue turquoise from the region
now known as Iran. More recently ‘Persian Turquoise’ has been used as a
quality grade, regardless of the origin of the stone.
9) Rock Turquoise: Rocks which include turquoise and other minerals.
10) Turquoise Nuggets: Pebbles that have been polished in a tumbler.
11) White Buffalo Stone: Aluma phosphate, not technically a turquoise,
but beautiful and often marketed as such. Found in just one mine in
Nevada.
Turquoise is mined for it’s perfection of colour and for being opaque. It’s
colour ranges from sky-blue to green depending on the quantities of iron
and copper within it. Pure blue colour is rare; mostly turquoise is
interspersed with brown, dark gray or black veins of other minerals or the
host rock. Such stones are called turquoise matrix. It can also be inter
grown by malachite.
The colouring agent for blue tones is copper and for green tones it is iron.
The popular sky-blue colour changes at 482 degrees F (250 degrees C)
into a dull green. A negative change in colour can also be brought about
by the influence of light, perspiration, oils, cosmetics and household
detergents, as well as loss of natural water content.
Turquoise is CaAl6(PO4)4(OH)8.4H2O and though it forms triclinic
crystals the massive gem material occurs as nodular or globular crusts or
veins. The thickness of the veins is up to 0.8 in (20mm). The hardness is
5-6 with an SG in the range of 2.60-2.91. The RI for the massive material
is usually near 1.62. The values for the alpha, beta and gamma rays
shown by the crystals are 1.61, 1.62 and 1.65 respectively. Ferric iron
may alter these values.
Source: gia.edu

Source: healing-crystals-for-you.com Source: gia.edu (spider-web matrix)

History

Turquoise is regarded as one of the world’s most ancient gems.


Archaeological excavations revealed that the rulers of ancient Egypt
beautify themselves with turquoise jewelry. It also revealed that the
Chinese artisans used to carve it 3,000 years ago.
Turquoise is a national gem of Tibet. It has been considered as a stone
that guarantees health, good fortune, and protection from evil.
Source: gia.edu

Turquoise was a medium of exchange for Native American tribes in the


southwestern US.
The Apaches believed that turquoise attached to a bow or firearm
increased a hunter’s or warrior’s accuracy.
It’s used for carvings.

Source: gia.edu

In the United States, turquoise is one of the birthstones for December.

Source: gia.edu
Occurrences.

The best qualities are found in northeast Iran near Nishapur. Important
deposits are also found in Persia, Central Asia. Further deposits are found
in Argentina, Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, China, Israel, Mexico,
Tanzania, and the United States. The deposits in Sinai, Egypt were
already worked out by 4000 B.C.

Africa: Found in limited quantity in Abyssinia and Nubia, and at two


points in the Sinai Peninsula.
Asia:
Persia- Found near the small village of Maden.
Russia Turkestan- Important deposits situated on Mount Karamazar.
Bokhara- Mountain Nurata.
Afghanistan- Occurrence at Firuskuh, among the mountains of Ghur,
between Herat and Ghuzni, east of the Persian- Afghanistan border.
Arabia- Found in it’s portion, east of the Gulf of Suez, in a region known
as the Land of Midian.
Tibet- The region between Lhasa and the China-Tibet border, Djaya to
the west of Bathang, a mine of the Gangs-Chan mountains in western
Tibet.

INDIA: Present among the copper ores of Rajauri in Ajmir, at Ramgarh


in the Shakhwati country, near Multan in the Punjab province, Rajputana
and the territory eastward of the Tenasserium river. The occurrence of
turquoise in India is doubtful.

Australia: Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.


Europe: Silesia, Germany; France, Spain, Hungary.
South America: Peru, Chile, Argentina.
North America: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Mexico,
Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Virginia.

Source: transitiontownpayson.net Source: Wikipedia

Origin

Types of deposits:
Type 1- The turquoise occurs in acid igneous rocks rich in alkali feldspar.
It is altered by weathering, or deep-seated alteration or both. The majority
of commercially important deposits come under this head.
EG. The Nishapur deposits and the principal deposits of the west,
particularly those of the Burro Mountains and the Cerrillos Hills.

Type 2- The turquoise occurs in sedimentary or metamorphic rocks


which is in contact with the igneous masses, and is apparently connected
with genesis therewith.
EG. The mines in the Mohave desert, Cal., and several in the Esmeralda
Nye county region of Nevada, most notably the Smith Black Matrix
mine.

Type 3- The turquoise is present in non igneous matrix (usually


sandstone or shale) and has no apparent genetic connections with any
igneous body.
EG. The Sinai and the Australian occurrences.
Hypothesis of origin:
Hypothesis 1- Precipitation occur from ascending solutions of magmatic
origin and thus the components being supplied are wholly by this
solutions.
Analogy: Chalcopyrite and other primary minerals.

Hypothesis 2- Formation is depended upon alteration of country rock by


magmatic emanations where at least part of the components of turquoise
are supplied through breaking down of minerals through country rock.
Analogy: Hydro thermal sericite.

Hypothesis 3- Precipitation from cold solutions, and formed by


atmospheric waters leaching through rocks near surface. All the
components of turquoise are supplied by minerals in the country rock.
Analogy: Limonite.

a) The process may be independent of prior deep-seated alteration of


country rock.
b) The process may be favoured by prior deep-seated alteration of
country rock.
c) The process may be dependent upon prior deep-seated alteration of the
country rock.

Turquoise, like many minerals, has more than one mode of origin. It is
dominantly formed, however, by the percolation of surface waters
through aluminous rocks containing apatite and disseminated copper
minerals.

Types
There are two kinds of turquoise: Oriental and Occidental.
The oriental is that whose colour is composed more of blue than of green.
The occidental is the one which is more of green or which whitens
uncommonly.
The first kind occurs in Persia and the eastern part of India.
The second in Spain, Germany, Bohemia, and Silesia near the town of
Strigonum in the vicinity of Isere. In Persia it grows among black rocks.

The oriental stones are divided into two kinds:


1) One kind perpetually retain their colour, and these are called “of the
old rock.”
2) The other kind slowly lose their colour and become green, these are
called “of the new rock.”

Source: llprivatejewellers.com Source: gemrockauctions.com


Distinguishing features

Colour: It varies from sky-blue to green depending on the quantities of


iron and copper within it. Pure blue colour is rare.

Inclusions: Mostly turquoise is intermixed with brown, dark gray or


black veins of other minerals or the host rock.

Texture: Turquoise owes it’s texture to it’s structure and composition.


It’s an aggregate of microscopic crystals that form a solid mass. If the
crystals are packed closely together, the material is less porous, so it has a
finer texture. Fine-textured turquoise has an attractive, waxy luster when
it’s polished. Turquoise with a less-dense crystal structure has higher
porosity and coarser texture, resulting in a dull lustre when it’s polished.

Source:123RF.com

Hardness: Turquoise is fairly soft, it ranks 5 to 6 on the Mohs scale.


Turquoise with a coarse texture might have poor toughness. Samples with
finer texture have fair to good toughness. It’s ideal for carving.
Absorption Spectrum

With turquoise, RI determinations are not usually possible as the liquid


used may enter the pores of the stone.
The absorption spectrum of copper is seen most effectively in deeper
coloured specimens, i.e., there are two similar bands in the violet, one
narrow and strong at 432 nm, and the other fainter at 460 nm. The bands
are best seen by reflected light.

Source: alexpetty.com

Mining
Turquoise is a mineral of superficial origin, thus it is never found at
depths exceeding 100 feet. Therefore, it’s mining is simple and
inexpensive, as deep shafts and extended tunnels are unnecessary.
Turquoise is found in dry and arid regions, hence certain difficulties like
lack of water, timber, excessive heat, etc are experienced.
Since the mineral is found at shallow depth it si seen easily and thus good
material is originated.
When the workings are planned on a small scale, an open cut trench or
shallow pit suffices; but with more extensive operations a shaft is sunk
and tunnels extended horizontally at intervals following the vein. The
loosened rock is broken into portable shapes by hammers and raised to
the surface by buckets hoisted by ropes and windlass.

Cutting

The most characteristic cut is the cabochon, consisting of a flat bottom


and a polished convex top. The shape ranges from elongated oval to
circular, and the arch varies from nearly flat to dome shaped.
Turquoise is also fashioned into sphere, flat, tallow-top cabochons, the
marquis, the pointed pendant, the drop pendant, the heart pendant and a
variety of fancy forms made from a curved and a flat surface. It is never
faceted.
Turquoise is soft and thus readily worked.
Indians fashion the turquoise in the desired shape on a sandstone or other
surface. Many pieces are perforated by means of a crude bow drill tipped
with quartz or agate.

Simulation

Imitations of turquoise are of three kinds:


1) Blue glass or enamel
2) Artificial compounds closely approximating turquoise in composition
3) Other minerals, either naturally resembling turquoise or made to do by
stains or dyes.

1) Glass imitations- Turquoise is most frequently simulated by a blue


glass or enamel, and the majority of the imitations seen in the cheapest
jewelry are of this nature.
Most of the imitations are very crude and show a glassy appearance and
lack of beauty that at once reveal their origin. Others, however, are much
more imitative and require careful scrutiny. They have a vitreous lustre,
are slightly harder than turquoise, and differ from it in specific gravity.
The margin is usually minutely splintered from the grinding, and the
small broken surface are seen with the hand lens to have a conchoidal or
shell-like shape, which is characteristic of a glass.
These stones contain air bubbles or faint wavy flow lines, indicating that
the mass was once molten.

2) Synthetic Turquoise- The most perfect substitutes for turquoise are


prepared by mixing precipitated hydrated phosphate of aluminium with
copper phosphate and subjecting the whole, while damp, to hydraulic
pressure for a considerable period.
The manufactured product, cannot be firmly distinguished from the
natural mineral by mere examination or by the ordinary tests, since it
closely tantamount the latter in colour, texture, hardness, specific gravity,
and chemical composition; and even limonite enclosures in some cases
are added to simulate matrix.
The most decisive proof may be obtained by heating a small fragment,
either with the tip of a blowpipe flame or in a small covered crucible.
The artificial stone in either instance ill fuse quietly and readily; whereas
the genuine turquoise will either fly to pieces or crumble with a cracking
sound into a dark coloured earthy mass or powder.
Some artificially produced turquoise maybe detected since after lying in
water it assumes a darker shade of blue and the wet surface discloses a
network of cracks.
Moreover, it is said that such stones become somewhat softer after
immersion in alcohol.

3) Imitations-
(1) Odontolite, or bone turquoise- This material, which was often
confused in the middle ages with the true turquoise, is fossil bone or ivory
impregnated by phosphate of iron. It possesses a blue colour scarcely
distinguishable in some instances from that of mineral turquoise in
daylight, but appearing a dull gray by artificial illumination.
It differs from mineral turquoise by being softer and incapable of taking
so brilliant a posh, effervescing when coming in contact with a drop of
hydro chloric acid, giving an organic odor upon burning, possessing a
greater specific gravity, revealing in cross-section upon close
examination the characteristic structure of bone, and gradually fading if
placed in water or alcohol.
Bone turquoise may be prepared artificially by soaking calcined ivory for
a week in a warm ammoniacal solution of copper or by slowly baking
finely powdered ivory that has been stained by a solution of copper.
Odontolite is seldom seen nowadays, and is of slight value.

Source: the-earth-story.com

(2) Lazulite- It’s colour in some specimens resembles that of turquoise.


It is a hydrous phosphate of aluminium, with small quantities of other
elements, and it’s specific gravity, inferior hardness (5 to 6 in the scale),
and vitreous lustre serve to distinguish a polished specimen from
turquoise.
Source: dakotamatrix.com

(3) Blue chrysocolla- This mineral, which is a hydrous silicate of copper,


ranges in colour from green to turquoise-blue. In its pure state it is too
soft (about the same as calcite) for cutting: but when silicified or
intermixed with quartz, it becomes available as a semi precious stone.
Blue specimens may be confused with turquoise, but the criteria given for
copper-stained chalcedony hold also for their distinction.

Source: gemrockauctions.com

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