Know Your Stones – Buy Only Quality – Make A Smart Investment

High Grade Natural Turquoise

found in all shades from sky blue to apple green. It is the hardest grade and takes the best polish. The contrast between the color of turquoise and the color of matrix{or mother rock} enhances the beauty of each stone. Many mines produce distinctive stones whose origin can be identified by an experienced person.

Enhanced turquoise

The Zachery or Foutz process impregnates turquoise with vaporized quartz. This makes the stone harder, darkens the color and takes a good polish. This process is hard to detect by normal methods because quartz occurs naturally with some turquoise.

Stabilized or Treated Turquoise

American manufacturers have perfected a process using pressure and heat to fill the microscopic gaps in the stone with plastic resin. When cured the product is a treated stone hard enough to cut and polish. Most nugget and some heishi products are made from real turquoise that has been stabilized. Stabilization allows genuine but lower grade turquoise to be used in jewelry.

Wax Treated

Much of the turquoise from China is wax impregnated. The paraffin treatment deepens and stabilizes the color but only affects the surface.

Know Your Stones – Buy Only Quality – Make A Smart Investment

Reconstituted

This term describes pulverized turquoise scrap from stone cutting mixed with blue dye and plastic binder. Most products marketed under this name should really by labeled as simulated “block”. Compressed Nugget is a similar product made from larger pieces.

Block

A mixture of plastic resin and dyes that is produced in loaf sized blocks. We used to call this reconstituted because we were told it was made from ground up turquoise scraps. In reality there is no actual rock of any sort in block turquoise; it is entirely man-made and should be labeled “simulated”. Block is produced in many colors, simulating many different stones and shells. Except for occasional batches of Lapis Block that contain ground up iron pyrite, these are entirely simulated. Block is used heavily for inlay and heishi.

Dyed Stones

There are several naturally occurring stones that look similar to turquoise when they are dyed blue. These include Howlite, a white rock with black or gray markings, and Magnite or Magnesite, a chalky white mineral that forms in rough nodules looking faintly like the vegetable cauliflower. Other simulations include glass, plastic, faience ceramic and polymer clay.

Is your Turquoise “ Stabilized “

This is a question I get asked all the time. Many people are actually proud of the fact that they will refuse to buy turquoise that has been stabilized, only to go to another store or vendor and purchase turquoise that has been stabilized. Yep, you read that right. They end up buying stabilized turquoise elsewhere, thinking they are getting “natural” turquoise just because someone told them it was natural.

Surprisingly, there are also many people who believe the myth that stabilized turquoise is a bad thing or means you are getting fake or dyed turquoise. This is not always the case, but you can be fooled if you are not careful.

Stabilized does not mean dyed, it means the color has been stabilized, but you DO need to be very careful. Armed with a little bit of information, you can protect yourself against buying turquoise that is not the real deal.

In truth, *about 97% of all (I’m not kidding… all) turquoise on the market today is stabilized. Stabilization is necessary in order to maintain the beautiful color of your turquoise and harden the stone. Turquoise changes color over time because it gradually absorbs oils from the skin as it is worn and as it comes into constant contact with the natural elements. The colors in stabilized turquoise, however, are permanent. The color is stabilized.

Another reason for stabilizing turquoise is that turquoise is a relatively soft stone. Stabilizing hardens the stone so we can easily cut and drill it. (By drilling I mean the little hole we put in the bead so you can string it.) The hardness of gemstones is measured on what is called the Mohs (sounds like hose only with an M) hardness scale measuring from 1 to 10. As a comparison, diamonds are a 10 on this scale; turquoise is a 5 or 6.

Now here is where some of the mis-information comes in. Many people associate stabilization with dying and treating the stone. We (meaning our shop) stabilize our turquoise under pressure using a clear organic process that absorbs into the rock, permanently hardening it and deepening its color. Sort of the way a sponge turns a darker color when you put water on it. We use a proprietary colorless process, meaning we created our own closely guarded formula that organically stabilizes without the use of dyes. All of our turquoise beads are natural color and you will get that in writing when you purchase from us.

Just so you know… it is during the stabilization process than many other processors use dyes to color the stone to make it more blue, which provides a higher perceived value to the stone. In other words, it is very easy to take a stone that is not turquoise (like Howlite for instance) and make it look like turquoise to an unsuspecting buyer. It is also easy to enhance cheap turquoise to make it look like the more expensive Sleeping Beauty turquoise or other American mined turquoise. Those who dye and enhance turquoise know that American turquoise is more valuable and a true investment turquoise that has steadily increased in value over the years, and they know they can put a higher price tag on their turquoise, thinking you won’t know the difference.

DISCLAIMER

This information on the treatments and grades was originally written by Homer Milfred published by the New Mexico Abandoned Mine Land Bureau in the Report 1994 – 1 – November 15, 1995. We feel that this is the most accurate and simplistic information on the grades of turquoise. We would like to add that there are some lesser grades of natural turquoise in smaller pieces that are used in small settings and inlay work. These come in varying grades of hardness. The “block turquoise” referred to here is really imitation or plastic and is quite often marketed as the real thing. They can even create a matrix in it. Plastic turquoise or other block stones can melt, fade and become quite less attractive after purchase and wear. Imitation stones are quite often used in machine stamped silver jewelry made overseas and marketed here as Native American jewelry.