When people talk about Native American jewelry, they usually refer to turquoise stones: gems that have a bluish or greenish hue and are highly-prized because of their beauty. In the US, turquoise stones are only mined in a few regions located in present-day New Mexico and Nevada. Some archaeologists even believe that these mines were the primary source of turquoise in the Americas, as some of the antique necklaces and decorative beads found in Mexico contain stones that were mined in Santa Fe.
However, Native Americans weren’t the first people to use this decorative stone; turquoise stones have been found in 6,000-year old Egyptian tombs. Outside of the Americas, Persia (modern-day Iran) was the main source of turquoise in the ancient world. Persian turquoise, in particular, is well known for its bluish tint, which was likely the source of the term “Persian Blue”.
Native Americans, meanwhile, only started using the stone 2,000 years ago. In addition to that, these stones only became fashionable in the US somewhere in the late 1800s.
Much has changed since then, and imitation or synthetic stones were introduced. Certain materials like howlite and magnesite can be treated with a blue or green dye to pass off as turquoise. Thankfully, genuine turquoise is easy to spot: it has a hardness of 5 to 6 on the Mohs scale, similar to that of feldspar.