In the duller light of winter, turquoise can provide the glint of liveliness that lifts neutrals and looks terrific with every colour I can think of, even if you don't wear the hue as clothing.
Though the signature shade is that deep robin's egg blue, it also exists in green, like that mined in Colorado, and can contain brown or black matrix or webbing.
Because it's a soft stone (5 to 6 on the Mohs scale, similar to opal), turquoise easily absorbs body oils, lotions, perfumes or greasy substances, which quickly darken that luminous blue. Therefore, the stone is often stabilized; a better description of the process than I can write is here, provided by Lin Valentine of the online bead store Southwest Turquoise, aka "The Turquoise Chick".
Stabilizing isn't evil; it keeps your turquoise transcendent, but there are levels of quality in the processes used. Be wary of any material that looks infused with plastic or resin, or has a super-shiny, reflective surface. A jeweler or merchant should disclose any treatment (stabilization, use of fillers or dyeing).
Just because you buy turquoise in an area where it is mined, such as the American Southwest, does not provide a guarantee of authenticity.
As for prices, here's an example: an striking 16-inch strand of Campo Frio (Mexican) nuggets, graduating from about 8mm to about 13mm on Southwest Turquoise web site, is $70. (You will pay more for a completed necklace, but this will give you an idea of the material cost.)
Native Southwestern jewelry is rich ground for scholarship and collection, and beyond today's post. (Dexter Cirillo's "Southwestern Indian Jewelry" is one of many good books that explores this genre.)
While such silver-set pieces are what many women think of when they hear "turquoise jewelry", turquoise set in gold, both modern and antique, shows off the gem and may work better with your existing pieces. Let's tour the Passage's windows.
A contemporary ring from Beladora, that I have loved for a good while for its asymmetrical assortment of turquoise set in 18k; you need to wear an 8 1/2 ring size. Price, $495.
A petite Victorian turquoise, old-mine cut diamond and rose gold ring, $950 from Park Avenue Couture:
Kothari Elements turquoise earrings fuse organic and elegant, by setting tiny diamonds set in the matrix; price, $2,400.
Dean Harris is a dream jeweler who creates classic, beautiful pieces; this necklace features Sleeping Beauty (Arizona) turquoise, renowned for its luminous sky blue and lack of veining.
An accomplished wire worker could attempt something like his 30-inch linked turquoise-nugget chain. I, however, would buy it on a self-funded installment plan, because a small mound of broken 18k wire, mangled fingertips and heartbreak would result. From Barney's; price, $2,125.
You need not spend big, though, for your piece of heavenly blue.
Here's a tempting pair of Kingman Mine (Arizona) turquoise drops (about 1 1/4 inches long) set with gold plate, by Etsy seller MaisonettedeMadness; price, $135.
Petite budgets are well-served by a simple but striking turquoise pendant (about 1 inch high by 5/5 inch wide) on a gold-filled chain (various lengths available); charming gift, or to wear yourself. From Etsy seller Anoushka Designs; price, $26.
Turquoise and gold: sky and earth, organic and refined. It is wise to buy now, because though several of the best-known mines have closed in the last decade, prices are still good. (I have deliberately sidestepped Chinese and Tibetan turquoise, much of which is low quality, or worse, fakes made of dyed Howlite or even gypsum plaster.)
A last point before we duck into a tearoom: turquoise is perfect for women who prefer authentic materials but do not want the security issue or price point of precious gems.