Friday, May 22, 2009

Olivier Durbano Turquoise: new fragrance & musings on gems

I gaze upon my small collection of turquoise jewels as soon as the weather warms up with the contemplation of someone who has been wearing the gemstone fully aware of its superstitious nature. In my culture turquoise is said to protect against the evil eye. But its vividness of hue, which is so well brought out in the warmth of the summer, is also thought to be indicative of the wearer's health: losing its luster in illness and in death, yet regaining its original richness in the hands of a new, healthy owner!
In the 3rd century, it was believed to protect against falling off a horse, to attract poisons, heal the eyes and aid against bites from snakes and scorpions. Changes in its shade indicated the infidelity of a wife. Arabian writings claimed "The turquoise shines when the air is pure and becomes pale when it is dim." (12th century AD) A gemstone truly immersed in legend!

Olivier Durbano, architect and jewellery designer, has created the line Parfums de Pierres Poèmes, liquid poems that interpret the magic of gemstones into fizzying emitions on the skin. After Tourmaline Noire, Amethyste, Cristal Rock, Jade, which took olfactory life thanks to tea, incense, jasmine and amber, now Turquoise joins the small and elegant line with a fragrance in the corresponding pastel greenish-blue hue of the semi-precious gemstone.

Turquoise, a hydrous phosphate of copper and aluminium, has been prized for its beautiful intensity of shade and rich, opaque feel since antiquity. It has adorned rulers of Ancient Egypt, the Aztecs, Persian and Mesopotamian priests and kings, and to some extent it has been also used in ancient China since at least the Shang Dynasty. In Egypt the first proof of use dates to the First Dynasty (3100-2890 BC), culminating into the iconic Tutankhamun's burial mask, but allegedly even prior to that turquoise was prized by the Egyptians and therefore mined in the Sinai Peninsula, called "Country of Turquoise" by the native Monitu. Etymologically the word derives from the 16th century French, either denoting Turkish origin (turquois) or evoking dark-blue stone (pierre turquin). However the best and highest-grade turquoise (a uniform robin egg's blue) always came from Persia/Iran, brought to Europe via the Silk Route and the writings of Marco Polo. But the beauty of the stone, heavily traded in Turkish bazaars and lovingly capturing the wonderful colour of the Mediterranean Sea of the Turkish coasts ~which inspired the Seljuks to adorn their abodes and homes with decorative tiles in these sunny shades~ might have accounted for the misattribution. In the words of Gubelin: " "This misnomer is readily explained by the fact that the first stones did not reach Europe directly from Persia [i.e., Iran], but rather through the intercession of seafaring Venetians who purchased them at Turkish bazaars." [1]
The deposits of California and New Mexico were mined by pre-Columbian Native Americans using stone tools and the stone is ingrained into their cultural and philosophical beliefs resulting in ceremonial jewellery and masks of astonishing ~and sometimes disturbing~ designs. The Apache Indians believed turquoise to combine the spirits of both sea and the sky, while the Navajo attributed to it qualities of an ex caelis fallen stone (a gem fallen from heavens). The Zunis of North America thought the blue of the sky represents light from their "spirit bird" reflected from the top of a mountain of turquoise. However, in an opposite sense other Native Americans of the southwestern United States region are said to have thought turquoise so-to-speak stole its color from the sky.

All these thoughts come to me as I contemplate how Olivier Durbano will interpret turquoise into what seems like a woody-ozonic fragrance with accents of incense like the rest of his line. The "mineral" quality of fragrances usually relies on synthesized materials, such as quinolines, aldehydes, and certain synthetic musks. [2] But in Olivier Durbano's Turquoise, the notes indicate a fragrance which evokes the milieu in which turquoise shines best, the cool azure of the sea and the warm tint of a clear summery sky. So the experiment is exciting to anticipate.
Gemstones and jewels have been nothing new to perfumery as a baptism concept, from the groundbreaking Emeraude by Coty and little-known vintage Blue Sapphire by Lynette New York, through the Elizabth Taylor commemorative collection and Paco Rabanne's aptly named Liquid Crystal, right up to Gem and Birmane (evoking rubies)by Van Cleef & Arpels (jewellers themselves). Lately many fragrances re-immersed themselves into the luxurious aspect that gems give: The Durbano line of course, some from Avon, Lalique Amethyst, Jette Joop Dark Sapphire, the Bulgari Omnia line (Améthyste, Green Jade, Crystalline), Versace Bright Crystal, the Sage Machado line, the Armani Privé line (with Pierre de Lune, Cuir Améthyste, Eau de Jade), Patricia de Nicolai Eau Turquoise, all the way to Lauder's Emerald Dream and the completely unknown (and dubious?) to me Aqua Sapphire by Guerlain.
No one can resist a little glimpse of bling-bling it seems!

Turquoise by Olivier Durbano features the following notes:
Head notes: Maritime pine resin, roseberry, elemi, Somalian incense, coriander, juniper
Heart notes: Alga fucus (seaweed), lily, fragrant reed, lotus blossom
Base notes: Everlasting Flower/Immortelle/Helycrisum, honey, myrrh wood, ambergris


[2]Jean Claude Ellena classification


  1. Interesting about turquoise and its protective qualities! In the African-American culture of the South, there is a color similar to turquoise which is said to protect against "haints" (haunts, or ghosts). You see houses painted this turquoise blue fairly often when driving out in the country and occasionally in town, too, in African-American neighborhoods. It's sometimes called "haint blue."

    My guess is that there is a very ancient connection here.

  2. How interesting P, thank you so much! I had no idea on that aspect. The American South and its subcultures fascinate me (especially the Louisiana region). I hadn't heard of the "haint blue", but I do believe like you that it should refer to some prophylactic use. In Africa the turquoise colour is very popular for garments and they do seem to use it not only because of its vividness (they love vivid colours and they suit dark skins so much!) but also as a means of identification. It'd be fascinating if there is the link with the spiritual world.

    I know Native Americans have a very old tradition of making jewels with turquoise stones. They're quite "veined" and match very well with silver, don't they? I guess you're better equipped to talk about them.:-)

  3. Thanks E! There is a wonderful book which came out in the late 80's called "The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture." It's an academic tome, done at the University of North Carolina, and is so big and heavy that I once injured my forearm picking it up! (I think they came out with a multi-volume edition later.) I'm not sure if the "haint blue" story is in there; it might just be something I heard somewhere.

    In California in the late 60's to late 70's, turquoise and silver jewelry was quite the thing. I believe the best of it is made by the Navaho. I have a very old ring which belonged to my great-great-grandmother which is turquoise/silver, but the stone is green, possibly from age. At any rate, the usual stones are heavily veined. I still wear my turquoise sometimes; feels like 1972.

  4. A ha!

    As I suspected on the silver-turquoise fashions, thanks so much for the additional info. I bet your ring is amazing, I know there are some varieties which are greener than others and then again it all has to do with how the stone is being fashioned into the jewel (I mean, mounting, cabochon cutting etc.).
    For instance in the pic I took, my litte cross and the ring (which doesn't show the upper side with the stone, couldn't make it to stand up; anyway...) there are veins in the body of the stone and they're a little "greener". Those are Egyptian and Indian btw respectively. In the big lumps of the bracelets there are no veins, same with the pendant (Persian origin and the cabochon cut of the pendant makes it reflect light even more). So I know from experience just how different varieties can look. I always try to picture turquoise with 19th century fashions and fail. It's probably because I have European fashions in mind instinctively, but your ancenstry is firmly American yes? So it shouldn't necessarily follow that pattern.

    How fascinating about the university tome: I should look it up at the libary, see if they carry it (and try to spare my arm in the process). Muchos gracias!

  5. Alexandra17:01

    There is also Ralph Lauren`s chypre floral fragrance *Pure Turquoise* from 2005. Nice bottle with turquoise stone stopper (luxurious edition bottle)

  6. You're absolutely right *slaps forehead* And I like the scent too! Unfortunately I never got around to getting a bottle of that one, you're correct the stopper was a lovely veined turquoise.
    (how did I manage to forget this one!!)

  7. I'll have to keep an eye out for this one I have a bit of affinity for turquoise.

  8. Hi E -- I think the turquoise/silver fad in California at that time had something to do with desert imagery/Carlos Casteneda (discredited now, I've heard)/certain psychoactive substances/The Doors etc. Rich hippies and the girlfriends of rock stars had those big "Squash blossom" necklaces, or belts; the rest of us had to make do with earrings and rings.

    Yeah, I'm an American mix: Mostly English, a little Irish, a little Dutch and the rest who knows what. It always cracks me up when my countrymen get huffy about multicultural mixing, as if we were anything but that ourselves ;)

    The ISBN of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture is 0-8078-1823-2. I use mine to flatten small paintings now, but once in a while I look something up.

    I have RL Turquoise -- it really is desert-dry, a little unidentifiable for me but likeable, although it does't last long. I think only the parfum has the real turquoise stone; the rest have a "faux" turquoise, flat disc on the lid.

  9. Jen,

    it'd be interesting to see how they interpret the turquoise concept. A sea and sky fragrance...RL had invested it with a light chypre ambience, the modern kind. So, definitely an interesting upcoming frag to watch for.

    Hope you're very well :-))

  10. P,

    yeah, Carlos Castaneda used to be big even when I was a very little girl (we had been reading what our older ones handed down to us). Re: what rich hippies wore, you must mean what in archaeology we call "pectorals", those wide necklaces that really cover from shoulder to mid chest, eh? They should look lovely in turquoise... (or coral for that matter!)*sigh*

    Thanks for the info on your background (I went simply from pic, shows you how superficial I can be, HA!). Yeah, America protesting for multicultural mixing is rather at odds with the very basis on which the nation was built. It's a bit like how xenophobia always surprises me here, since we have been at mingling with numerous peoples throughout our history.

    RL Turquoise is technically one of those modern chypres and honestly one of the select few in the line I ever noticed. Yup, you're absolutely right, the nice cap is the parfum extrait. The rest just have that flat silver cap with a slice of blue colour on top, IIRC.
    How interesting you like it! (I do too, although haven't sprung for a bottle). I wouldn't have thought it, but there you are!

  11. Hi all, just to clear up any confusion, the Aqua Sapphire isn't by Guerlain, it is by Risingsun. That luxuryperfumes site has it typed incorrectly.


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