Recently I attended a jewelry trade show in New York City and was holding a pair of turquoise and gold earrings up to my ears, when a colleague told me how they brought out the blue in my eyes. I suddenly had a flashback to when I was 12 and was watching my mom get dressed. She said exactly the same thing, while dangling her Zuni turquoise and sterling earrings close to my face. It was during the early seventies, after she and my dad got divorced. She was reading Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, going to EST and doning clothes and jewelry that represented the youth culture (read: everything that I too was wearing). She was also dating a younger gorgeous French Canadian artist, who also wore turquoise: in beads knotted with leather cording around his wrist. I was pre-teen in a time when this particular stone represented freedom, feminism, left-over hippies and moms who were finally putting aside Dr Spock parenting to live out their own youth.
My first piece of turquoise was given to me two years earlier, when, in fifth grade, a boy asked me to go steady with a sterling silver and turquoise ring. Three weeks later, after it turned my finger green, the boy broke my young heart when he changed his mind, took back the band, and gave it to one of my closest friends instead. Recently, while hearing stories from my nephews, I remembered that this is actually how long relationships last when you are pre-adolescent. Somehow this knowledge didn’t help back then.
Later in high school, American Indian jewelry was back in style as were early ’60s fashions: peasant shirts and rainbows motifs, which I artfully embroidered on my left Levis jeans pocket (thankfully 501 boot cut rather than bell bottoms). I owned two cuff bracelets with chunks of greenish turquoise and a pair of deep blue and silver chin length dangles.
I started making body chains in college with tiny little turquoise beads and delicate chain that would sit between my waist and my hips. One would think I was going out belly dancing rather that to a Disco, where they played songs like It’s Raining Men.
The next time I wore turquoise, I was turning thirty. My boyfriend, a humorous but barely-scraping -by writer, handed me a small box. At this point I knew the relationship would not last–not because I would have preferred an engagement ring– not because he re-gifted a band his college girlfriend gave to him–but because it was almost the exact same inlaid style that I received from the guy in fifth grade. Not only was I choosing similar men. They were giving me the same jewelry.
< Not long after, I dated a guy who said that my eyes were the color of turquoise and that he could see forever in them. Forever came a week later, when I found out he was seeing a woman with whom he worked and whose eyes were the same hue as…smoky topaz.
I have had very mixed emotions about turquoise. I’ve learned that it’s one of the earliest protective amulets from various cultures and ranges in meaning from luck, good fortune, friendship and courage. But, you can understand why I might be a little skeptical: my experience with the stone represented failed relationships with more than one guy. In addition, fine jewelry enthusiasts couldn’t help but equate turquoise with the same 70s I grew up in, conjuring up caftans and artist communities and for me, personally, the days of my parent’s divorce, my mom’s dressing like me and snagging a cuter boyfriend than I had.
Since then,the only time I pulled out my American Indian jewelry was when I found out, last-minute, that I’d be trick or treating with my niece and nephews (then 10, 7 and 5, respectively). I had to come up with a costume on the fly and grabbed a suede skirt, denim shirt, old Tony Lama boots, and accessorized with my Zuni earrings, cuffs and a turquoise tipped leather lariat I found. Okay, the small Stetson that was part of my youngest nephew’s everyday playacting didn’t hurt. But I am convinced that my cowgirl Halloween outfit was made by the jewelry.
When I finally began to perfect my own style, I realized that I did like certain pieces laden with these stones. I preferred the Victorian looks of turquoise pave set hearts and sentimental styles: lockets and posy rings accented by tiny cabochons. I also realized that the warmth of gold imbued turquoise with quite a different feeling then I had known.
Then, around ten or so years ago, I started noticing designers such as Cathy Waterman, Loree Rodkin, Cathy Carmendy and Ten Thousand Things were showing turquoise with gold from the most delicate of dangling beads to more substantial stones with diamond accents. It was a look that had antique or ancient inspirations, which I found intriguing in the real thing, but with a new modern spin. These designers helped give turquoise a complete makeover from what it had come to represent in the US.
Not long after, companies with a spiritual or meaningful slant such as ME&RO, Satya Jewelry and Dogeared used small turquoise beaded necklaces to dangle symbolic pendants and discs. And of course there were power beads. Everywhere.
Although individualistic designers never stopped including the soothing hues of this gem in their collections, the major trend towards turq quieted down, But it seems to be back in a big way. Pantone deemed it’s PANTONE 15-5519 Turquoise, as the Color of the Year for 2010. So, it’s definitely time to resurrect your antique or contemporary pieces , your pendants on beads if you have them, or go out purchase some original looks that combine the best of vintage, ancient and modern.
All of the interest is in high karat gold. Some of my favorite looks are the long teardrop earrings and bold irregular shaped turquoise pendant with the serpent motif at Lika Behar, the large oval rose cut turquoise extra long bezel set pendants and simple cuffs at Dawes Designs, the Gobi turquoise pieces at Gurhan, which are ultra rich looking in 24K gold, the delicate bezel set delicate turquoise cabochon necklace at Katie Diamond in varying lengths.. Erica Courtney showed beautiful turquoise rectangular shaped earrings that are held by more delicate crown pave prongs. Anzie does an entire collection with the stones as the focal point in simple gold settings.
Personally, I believe that all color –in high-end, fine pieces –is seasonless. If the fashion industry could get women to wear white before Memorial Day and after Labor Day, I stand firm about wearing turquoise year round as well. For me it’s a stone that will always make my eyes seem bluer and remind me that life is a series of experiences that when you glance back, might make you smile and remind you of how you can change.
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