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Symbolism of Turquoise in Native American Tribes | Palms Trading
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The Symbolism of Turquoise in Native American Tribes

A semi-precious mineral that has been valued by cultures for centuries, turquoise and its  symbolism among Native American Indian tribes remains to this day and is responsible for a thriving market of turquoise jewelry and other ornamental items.

Behind a mystical and spiritual history, the use of turquoise in Native American jewelry is prolific. As a result, fine quality turquoise is readily available in necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and more.

What is Turquoise?

Turquoise is an opaque mineral, most often blue-green in color, with a chemical description as a hydrated copper and aluminum phosphate, formulated as CuAl6(PO4)4(OH)8·4H2O. Colors can vary from white to powder blue (purple omitted…purple turquoise is dyed), to green blue and green-yellow, depending on the concentration of copper and iron, or aluminum impurities.

Finer grades of turquoise are rare. They have been found in areas of the Southwest United States, Iran, Sinai, Bulgaria, China, Tibet, Afghanistan, Australia, India, Chile, and Turkestan.

Deposits of turquoise typically form in iron-rich limonite or sandstone. Sandstone turquoise features tan markings, while limonite showcases brown markings in the turquoise. Referred to as matrix, these markings look like veins and are left within the turquoise from the host rock.

The Symbolism of Turquoise in Native American TribesWhy is Turquoise Significant in Native American Culture?

The semi-precious stone has held meaning for many cultures, from the Ancient Egyptians to the Persians. Turquoise is even mentioned in the bible’s Old Testament, and has been discovered in ancient burial sites in Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and throughout Central America.

The symbolism of turquoise to Native American Indian tribes, particularly in the US Southwest, is that of a sacred “living stone” with immense importance to the culture. Navajo legend has it that when it finally rains after a long drought, turquoise is formed from the human tears of joy soaked into the Earth.

Turquoise represents life, with the colors connecting the Earth and the skies above. The Navajo people believe that turquoise is actually a chunk from the sky that has fallen to Earth for its inhabitants, referring to it as the “fallen skystone.” The Navajo Nation and Acoma Pueblo are in line with the ancient Mayans and Aztecs, who associated turquoise with healing properties and good fortune. Navajo and Zuni cultures see people of other cultures wearing turquoise as an impactful and public way to honor their tribes and their history.

The Symbolism of Turquoise in Native American TribesHow is Turquoise Used Today?

Today, turquoise use in Native American jewelry includes everything from necklaces and rings to bracelets and earrings. The proliferation of online shopping options has opened up the turquoise jewelry market to a much broader base of customers who do not have to travel to Arizona or New Mexico to get authentic, handcrafted turquoise jewelry items. When purchasing turquoise, buyers and enthusiasts are encouraged to use caution, as some sellers buy mass-produced pieces from overseas that can be plastic, fake or knock-offs, posing as authentic Native American pieces. These Native American artisans are regulated and protected by New Mexico state as well as Federal Acts. 

Palms Trading Offers Authentic Turquoise Jewelry

Palms Trading Company buys directly from Native American artisans who use real turquoise gems in their designs from a wide range of turquoise mines. Browse our online inventory or come into the store to see our authentic Native American Jewelry.