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Tibetan Turquoise: Unveiling the Mystery of Why Tibetans Wear Turquoise

October,10 2023 BY Jamyang Tsering 0 COMMENTS

While turquoise isn't native to Tibet, it has deep roots in this mystical land. When traveling in Tibet, it's common to see Tibetans of all ages wearing turquoise jewelry. So, why do Tibetans have such an affinity for turquoise? Let's uncover the intriguing mystery.

1. Turquoise is Considered a Symbol of Nobility and Grandeur by Tibetans.

Turquoise holds a special place in Tibetan culture as a symbol of nobility and grandeur. This tradition dates back to 127 B.C., when the first Tibetan king, Nyatri Tsenpo, was crowned with a turquoise-studded crown. This marked the beginning of turquoise adornment among Tibetan royalty, symbolizing their status and authority.

Despite the abundance of turquoise today, over 2,000 years ago, finding a gemstone with its radiant blue luster in the remote Tibetan Plateau was incredibly rare. It was believed to have journeyed from distant Western nobility, crossing mountains and rivers to eventually reach Tibetan royalty.

For the Tibetan king, this unique blue-green gem was an unparalleled treasure, and the tradition of wearing turquoise continues to this day.

This has embedded turquoise deeply into Tibetan culture and history, carrying rich connotations of nobility and heritage.

Tibetan Turquoise necklacesThe Tibetan turquoise necklace is a common jewelry worn by local Tibetans every day.

2. Turquoise is a Reverence for Nature in Tibetan Culture

Tibet, with its pristine natural landscapes and a population living on the Tibetan Plateau for centuries, has maintained a unique relationship with the natural world. Much of their sustenance comes from nature's bounty, and this deep connection is reflected in their appreciation of colorful natural gemstones. Among these, turquoise, with its captivating blue-green hue, holds a special place within the breathtaking Tibet Landscape.

In Tibet, the natural world is omnipresent, with azure lakes and skies mirroring shades of blue. The blue in their prayer flags represents the heavens and lakes, embodying the deep reverence Tibetans hold for nature. Turquoise, with its vivid color, is considered an integral part of this natural beauty and has maintained its allure over centuries.

The azure Namtso lakeThe turquoise blue Namtso Lake and prayer flags

As a result of their reverence for nature, turquoise has become a cherished gemstone among Tibetans. It is used to adorn jewelry, sacred items within temples, and even inlayed into the stupas of living Buddhas.

Notably, both Tibetans and Sherpas, living in the shadow of Mount Everest, share a passion for wearing turquoise earrings, transcending gender boundaries. This not only reflects their respect for nature but also preserves ancient cultural traditions.

3. Turquoise is the Vital Hue in Tibetan Thangka Art

Turquoise plays a fundamental role in Tibetan art, particularly in thangka paintings. The introduction of Buddhism to Tibet in the 7th century led to the creation of Buddhist murals and scroll paintings as primary tools for spreading Buddhist teachings. Tibetan thangka painting, considered a global treasure of art, showcases the use of natural pigments derived from minerals found in nature.

Turquoise pigment, a common mineral pigment, is extensively used in thangka artworks. Skilled artisans grind turquoise to create a range of green shades, including grayish-green, blue, green, yellowish-green, and more. This versatile pigment enhances thangka paintings, contributing unique colors and an aura of mystique to these revered works of art.

The use of turquoise pigment in thangka painting has become integral to preserving Tibetan Buddhism. These artworks, with their vibrant colors derived from natural minerals, have retained their vividness for centuries. Turquoise's presence in thangka art serves as a testament to the enduring significance of this gemstone in Tibetan cultural and religious traditions.

4. Turquoise Serves as the Guardian Stone for Health in Tibetan Medicine

In Tibet, turquoise is not only a precious gemstone but also regarded as a guardian stone for health. Tibet has a unique medical system known as Tibetan Medicine, which differs significantly from Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Many of Tibet's remedies are sourced from the natural world, including a variety of mineral-based medicinal ingredients.

Turquoise plays a significant role in Tibetan Medicine due to its believed properties that promote blood circulation and alleviate eye fatigue. Scientific research has validated these claims, highlighting the effectiveness of turquoise's trace elements in improving blood circulation, reducing inflammation, and stopping bleeding.

The local Tibetan belief in turquoise's health benefits has led to its adoption as a guardian stone for preserving liver health and eye health. Wearing turquoise is seen as a protective measure to ensure the well-being of the Tibetan people.

Tibetan TurquoiseThe turquoise is ALSO regarded as a guardian stone for health in Tibet.

5. Turquoise Blue is the Color of Tibetan Lakes

Tibet is home to an astounding number of lakes, numbering over 1,500, formed by the melting waters of its snow-covered mountains. These Tibetan lakes are known for their unique color, commonly described as "turquoise blue," a hue closely associated with the region.

The color of turquoise varies due to its origin and differences in aluminum and phosphorus content. It can range from indigo blue, sky blue, peacock blue, deep green to light green. Typically, a turquoise gemstone displays a gradient of colors from green to blue. Similarly, Tibetan lakes exhibit various shades of blue and green under sunlight, depending on the depth of the water.

Among all the lakes in Tibet, Yamdrok Lake stands out as the quintessential representation of turquoise blue. Depending on the lighting conditions, Yamdrok Lake can exhibit a range of distinct blue hues. When you embark on a Tibet tour and visit Yamdrok Lake, you might encounter a truly unique shade of blue.

6. Turquoise's Strong Malleability Allows for Various Jewelry Creations.

Turquoise stands out as a gemstone known for its exceptional malleability, which allows it to be shaped and carved into a wide array of forms. This unique quality makes turquoise a highly sought-after gemstone in the world of jewelry design.

Tibetan jewelry made from turquoise can take on various forms, including pendants, rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and more. Its versatility extends further as it can be seamlessly combined with other materials like silver, gold, platinum, and others. This enables artisans to create an expansive range of jewelry styles that are not only suitable for everyday wear but also serve as valuable gifts and cherished keepsakes.

Tibetan bracelets made from turquoiseThe Tibetan bracelets made from turquoise.

7. Buying Turquoise in Tibet is Affordable and Accessible Anywhere.

Purchasing turquoise in Tibet is known for its affordability. Among Tibetans, turquoise is a popular gemstone, and its prices tend to be lower compared to other precious gemstones. This makes it a more budget-friendly option for buyers interested in shopping in Tibet.

The cost of turquoise depends on various factors, including its age, color purity, and patterns. Typically, the price of turquoise can range from around 200 to 1000 yuan per gram. Turquoise jewelry items, such as pendants, rings, bracelets, belts, and more, generally fall within the range of a few hundred to a few thousand yuan.

When seeking vibrant turquoise colors during your Tibet tour, consider purchasing silver-inlaid turquoise jewelry from reputable jewelry stores. Look for stores that feature Tibetan or Nepalese craftsmanship and designs, as they tend to have higher recognition and collectible value.

These finely crafted jewelry pieces not only exhibit their beauty but also reflect the artistry of local artisans. Whether for personal adornment or as gifts, they are excellent choices. Buying turquoise jewelry not only allows you to cherish the memories of your Tibet trip but also supports the livelihoods of local artisans, adding a unique significance to your journey.

Conclusion

"Turquoise blue" is not just the ever-changing blue of Tibetan lakes; it's also the precious gemstone adorning Tibetan jewelry and the vibrant color that has endured for millennia in wall paintings.

This turquoise gemstone is imbued with a dreamlike quality and a sense of history, and it holds the secret to why Tibetans cherish it. It carries the magical beauty of nature while being steeped in cultural and religious significance.

Whether in the deep blue of the lakes or the subtle blue-green of jewelry inlays, turquoise acts as a living brush, painting the magnificent landscapes and rich beliefs of Tibet.

Therefore, turquoise isn't merely a gemstone; it's a symbol representing the deep bond between Tibetans and nature, history, and faith. This is the profound reason why Tibetans hold a deep affection for turquoise.

Jamyang Tsering

About the Author - Jamyang Tsering

Jamyang Tsering, one of our senior travel guides, has a wealth of experience spanning nearly 20 years. Also a celebrated YouTuber for our Tibet Vista channel, Jamyang is genuinely enthusiastic about showing the REAL Tibet to both our customers and fans. It could be an interesting experience to explore Tibet with Jamyang.

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