I’m behind on reading my Orchids, so bear with me.
If looking for “Persian” Turquoise, you will have to keep a few
things in mind…
Like war and revolution.
My husband is Persian, and I have a great interest in ancient
jewelry, so I’ve picked up a bit of knowledge here.
The most ancient civilizations, like Persia and Egypt, essentially
mined out their supply of certain favorite gemstones hundreds if not
thousands of years ago. I have read translations of 13th century
recipes for making the pigments for Persian manuscript illumination
(which were largely mineral-based rather than plant-based), that
mention good lapis being at a price five times that of gold, when it
could be obtained at all. When their own was mined out, the Persians
and Egyptians turned to trade. The Egyptians traded first with the
Persians until they ran out themselves. The Persians for centuries
obtained their turquoise and lapis from Afghanistan, which as a more
mountainous and less economically developed country, had more places
left in which to find it. Even in medieval Persian documents
Afghanistan is named as the source of the turquoise of the finest
Back in the 70’s my brother backpacked through Afghanistan, and
bought a very small amount of turquoise of unbelievable beauty.
Truly a light, utterly smooth, robin’s egg blue. No veining
whatsoever. Then he had it set in gold in Iran. The goldsmith asked
him where he had gotten it, then smiled and told him he had bought
it at the best possible place (my brother had had a tip). He
couldn=92t afford more than the 3 pieces he bought (I didn=92t even ge=
A revolution in Iran, followed by 10 years of war with Iraq, put an
end to much trade in turquoise, lapis, or rugs, or what have you,
for quite a while. Then, remember! Afghanistan was invaded by the
Soviet Union! For the last 15 + years, much of the lapis and
turquoise from there had already been in the “pipeline” before the
invasion. It=92ll be a while before the Afghan mining industry
recovers. They’re thinking more along the lines of cash crops right
now. Odds are, any “Persian” turquoise you see for sale now,
originated in Afghanistan. It has also been on its way to you for a
very, very, very long time. Or in fact it may not come from the
Middle East at all; is just called “Persian” for the cachet.
When I have a chance to speak to any one in Persian trade, I always
ask about stones, rugs, and handicrafts. Anything that the
government considers even remotely valuable is strictly regulated.
The average person going into business there (where industry is
picking up nicely) finds these areas too much trouble and without
adequate return on investment. They are more interested in
telecommunications than in turquoise.
My husband had a chance to visit with a brother recently when both
were on business trips: his brother asked what he could bring me. I
asked for lapis or ethnic jewelry. Sadly, he could not find either,
nor could his extensive network of relations. They must be somewhere
to be found, but he had no connections in that industry. Nor could
he take a good rug or a manuscript painting out of the country, darn
But their cell phones are way ahead of ours=85