In the jewelry of Tibetan peoples, turquoise (Nepalese: tuto;
Tibetan: yu) is visually the most outstanding material and
distinguishes Tibetans readily from their neighbors who use
turquoise only sparingly or not at all. The main source of this
stone has been the Tibetan plateau.
In Tibet, turquoise has been in use since ancient times: in the
regalia of the first Tibetan kings; as propitiatory offerings to
gods and demons; and as a tribute to other nations. Never having
lost its prominent place in precious jewelry, it is still worn
by the Lhasa nobility. For the Tibeto-Nepalese, who have
imported most of their jewelry from Tibet, turquoise occupies a
similarly important place.
Various beliefs about turquoise are shared by Tibetans and
Tibeto-Nepalese. In many Asian societies the color blue is
considered auspicious and protective; blue turquoise, therefore,
possesses these qualities. Worn in a ring, it assures a safe
journey; worn in the ear it prevents reincarnation as a donkey;
appearing in a dream, it is auspicious; when found, it brings
the best of luck and gives new life (in contrast, it is not
considered lucky to find gold or coral); when changing its color
to green, it indicates hepatitis, yet at the same time it draws
out jaundice. Most importantly it can absorb sin. Strings of
prayer beads should include turquoise. In fact, when worshipping
the popular goddess Tara in her green form, because of the color
association, it is desirable to do so with a rosary entirely
composed of turquoise beads.
There exists as well the concept of living and dead turquoise.
Living turquoise has a healthy blue color, whereas dead
turquoise has turned either white or black. In the natural aging
process of turquoise, exposure to light and body oils darkens
the color, eventually turning it black. Tibetans compare this to
human aging and death. Wearing "living" turquoise is therefore
very desirable, as it will give long life to the wearer.
In general terms turquoise is a symbol of the blue of the sea
and the sky. Infinity in the sky speaks of the limitless heights
of ascension. The stone is opaque as the earth, yet it lifts the
spirit high, laying bare to us the wisdom of both the earth and
the sky. It is old, yet young.
Turquoise has also been held as a sacred stone by ancient
cultures other than the Tibetan. It was sacred in Egypt along
with malachite and lapis lazuli. It was sacred to the Persian
culture, where it symbolized purity. American Indians believe it
to be a protector and guardian of the body and soul. Gypsies
wear this stone in their navels, believing it to be good for
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