art by Rachel Anderson
Blue Topaz

As cool and inviting as a blue lake on a blistering summer day, December's birthstone is derived from the Sanskrit word "tapas," meaning fire. This is because Blue Topaz was considered by ancient civilizations to have cooling properties. Not only was it believed to cool boiling water when thrown into the pot, but to calm hot tempers as well! This gemstone was credited with many other healing powers, among them the ability to cure insanity, asthma, weak vision and insomnia. The Blue Topaz was even thought to have magical properties in its ability to make its wearer invisible in a threatening situation.

What exactly are Turquoise? The word Turquoise is derived from the Greek word "Turkois" meaning "Turkish" because it was first brought from Turkey. Turquoise is formed over millions of years by a chemical reaction that occurs when water leaks through rocks which contain specific minerals such as copper and aluminium. The percentage of the minerals in the rock dictate the shade of the turquoise.

The Turquoise was, in ancient times, known as the Turkis, or Turkeystone, as most of the specimens found in Europe in those days came from the Middle East through the hands of Constantinople merchants. The Turquoise is more frequently used for Amulets than any other stone, as much for its mystic virtues as for its beauty, particularly in the East, where sentences from the Koran are engraved upon it and the characters gilded.

The history of the turquoise dates back to antiquity. The ancient Aztecs, Toltecs and Olmecs revered the turquoise and death masks were often decorated with this gemstone. In the Mayan culture no one was allowed to wear or own turquoise it was reserved as an offering to the gods and for the decoration of their images and statues.

Turquoise has been part of the Native American tradition for many centuries and some of the world's finest and most beautiful turquiose jewellery is produced in Arizona and in New Mexico. Turquoise was paticularly held in very high esteem by the Apache people. Without possession of a turquoise, no Apache medicine-man could command the honor, respect and veneration his office demanded. Nor would the spear or arrow of the Apache hunter fly true to its prey.

In the Middle Ages the Turquoise was believed to appease hatred, relieve and prevent headaches, and to change colour when its owner was in peril or ill-health. The change of colour must not be permanent, and the stone should recover its real hue when the illness or danger is passed. The Turquoise was believed to warn of poison by becoming moist and changing colour. In English history it is said that King John, by these indications, detected the poison that caused his death.

The turquoise has always been regarded as a pledge of true affections and is also credited with the power of drawing upon itself the evil that threatens its wearer; but this quality belongs only to the Turquoise that has been given, and not purchased.

It is for qualities such as these that it is prized by the Turks as a horseman's Talisman. The Turks believed that turquoise makes a horse sure-footed and protects its rider from injury by falls. Camillus Leonardus, a sixteenth-century Physician wrote: "So long as a rider hath the Turquoise with him his horse will never tire him and will preserve him from any accident, and defend him that carries it from untoward and evil casualties."


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