Today, our jewelry is worn mostly for fashion purposes. But, that wasn’t always the case: Gems once held a largely symbolic purpose, with an impact that reaches far back in history. December birthstone turquoise, for one, is arguably one of the most storied in existence. Did you know its earliest recorded use — mostly likely as a talisman or amulet — dates back to 5500 BC? It's true, and we spoke to jewelry designer (and turquoise expert) Nettie Kent for even more details about the gem.
"Turquoise actually got its name by mistake," Kent tells us. "Europeans thought that turquoise came from Turkey. Meanwhile, it traveled through Turkey from Persia, where it had been mined for thousands of years, and in Egypt for even longer." Kent adds the oldest known pieces of turquoise jewelry were bracelets found on the mummified arm of an Egyptian queen.
The blue stone is also spiritually significant in Native American culture. "Among the Navajo, it is mystically known as 'the sky stone' for its color. They believe turquoise is a part of the sky that fell to earth, and [it] is cherished for its positive healing energy and as a protector," explains Kent. Of course, its unique physical properties and brilliant coloring are, in large part, the reason we wear the stone today. "It's one of the few minerals that will change color in reaction to environment and the condition of its wearer — kind of like a mood ring," says Kent. "In many cultures, these changes were thought to forecast the weather, good or bad outcomes to specific problems, and even diagnose illness." Talk about a powerful stone.