It is not quite right
to refer to faience as a "turquoise imitation" because
genuine, ancient faience is worth more than its weight
Faience, often called Egyptian faience in honor of the
nation of its creation, is a quartz-based ceramic. The
technology of faience ceramic making is believed to date
back to 3500 B.C. This is impressive, as glass was
invented perhaps 1000 years later!
Many different kinds of faience
art pieces were made over the years, including beads for
jewelry-making. By adding ground copper,
malachite, blue azurite and talc, the
Egyptians were able to create beautiful blue-green
shades reminiscent of turquoise. The craft persons
were also able to create pieces closely resembling
another semi-precious stone, lapis. Although
was less expensive than turquoise, it had great cultural
value and significance to the Egyptian people.
Over the years, faience has waxed and waned in
popularity. For example, toward the end of the
1800s, faience was a reclaimed craft in Britain, France
and other parts of the world, producing pieces that are
today valuable antiques. Even now, a search on
Froogle reveals many faience pieces for sale, some
claimed to be ancient.
There are contemporary pottery makers working in the faience
tradition, but we know of no one making faience
turquoise replacement pieces on a commercial scale. It would
be possible to do so.
The Bead Site, a site devoted to the scholarly study
of beadwork, reports on one contemporary bead maker who
was able to replicate many of the ancient Egyptian
faience pieces. In a 1998 article published in
Magazine Antiques, Florence Dunn Friedman describes
her team's rather successful efforts at the Museum of
Art, Rhode Island School of Design to rediscovery the
ancient Egyptians' techniques.