Turquoise Named Color of the Year

Small Woodfired Vase, available on Etsy

I’ve been a dedicated fan of the color turqoise since I saw it on Cher’s eyelids in the early 1970s.  As a pre-teen admirer of Cher, with her long, board-straight hair, fake lashes, and sparkling gowns, I perhaps imprinted on those glamorous eyelids at an early age, which could explain why I now find myself employing turquoise of all shades in my work. (Seems remote, I know, but who can discern the mysteries of the creative mind and power of adolescent idols?)

Well, good news for all you fellow blue-green lovers out there: Pantone LLC, considered the “global authority on color and provider of professional color standards for the design industries,” (according to their own web site) has named #15-5519 Turquoise the 2010 color of the year. (Ok, that news is at least 9 months old but it’s taken me this long to get around to writing about it.) The color conjures up everything from the Caribbean Sea to Southwestern jewelry. Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®, credited its connection to feelings of serenity, protection and luscious escapism.

“Through years of color word-association studies,” she said, “we also find that Turquoise represents an escape to many — taking them to a tropical paradise.” [Stylist, December 9]

Yea Southwest! Turquoise is such a pervasive color in these parts, as well as in my own formative history, that I’ve taken this award personally, as if the Wild West has been declared not only acceptable, but fashionable by the color establishment.

Charlie Bird inlaid turquoise earrings

After reading Pantone’s announcement, I did a little research on the turquoise gemstone and discovered it has a long and interesting history throughout the world as well as here in the Southwest that goes far beyond luscious escapism. I thought my loyal audience might enjoy a few turquoise facts, in honor of its recent status upgrade and all things blue-green. Enjoy!

  • Turquoise has been valued throughout history for its unusual color as well as being symbolic of the sky and sea, spiritual protection and healing  powers. It is one of the most sacred stones in the Navajo culture, where it is believed to be an actual piece of the sky.
  • turquoise is derived from French word, turques, because it was first brought to Europe from Turkey from the mines in Persia.
  • Large deposits of turquoise have been found in New Mexico, Arizona, and California, as well as China, Europe and the Middle East.
  • The mining of turquoise dates to the dawn of human civilization itself (5500 BC in Egypt). Pre-1920, the Cerrillos Mountain area of New Mexico was the largest turquoise producing region in the US. 
  • In the Americas, turquoise has long been valued by the Pueblo, Navajo, Anasazi, Maya, Zuni, Inca, and Aztec for its many uses, including healing, protection, body and home adornment.  It is believed turquoise  protects against injury and wards off evil spirits. 

    Alice Quam cluster pin

  • Pre-Columbian Native Americans began mining turquoise in New Mexico and Arizona around 1000 AD and established vast and complex trading routes with the people of Central and South America. It was used as currency among people of the American Southwest beginning in the 16th century.
  • Historically, turquoise has been used as an important source of trade for food, clothing, livestock, or for use as a body adornment and for medicinal purposes. Apaches offered slaves, animal hides, flint, and shells to trade for pottery, agricultural products, textiles, and turquoise with Pueblo Indians.
  • The Pueblo Indians became economically powerful as a result of turquoise and the trade that developed.

    Fashionable cupcakes

  • Turquoise is composed of hydrated copper and aluminum phosphate,  secondary minerals deposited from circulating waters; it’s considered somewhat of a geologic fluke because of the complex events that must occur for its formation. And it’s not very hard–just a bit harder than glass.

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Talk to me! I spend too much time alone in the studio.

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