Turquoise jewelry, a must-have for celebrities and fashion divas, is soaring in popularity worldwide. Everyone loves turquoise. Unfortunately, much of what is in today’s market is overpriced or just imitation turquoise.
The mass-production of cheaper versions of turquoise have distorted the value associated with the material. The quality of the stone is one of the most important factors when determining the value of a piece of turquoise jewelry, followed by the design and make, the value of other stones the turquoise is combined with, as well as the piece’s historic relevance.
When shopping for authentic turquoise, there really are some type of turquoise to look for.
Types of Turquoise
Today, most mined turquoise requires some degree of treatment in order to make the stones durable enough for use in jewelry. Below are different types of treated turquoise, in order of desirability:
Natural Untreated Turquoise
This type of turquoise doesn’t require any treatment in order to be used by jewelry-makers. Unsurprisingly, it is the most desirable and valuable type of turquoise, especially when it bears a strong color.
Stabilized turquoise is the most commonly used within the jewelry market. This type of raw turquoise is usually too soft and fragile for manufacturing. Therefore, is often treated by infiltrating a polymer or other binding material to make it durable enough for cutting.
Composite or Reconstituted Turquoise
Otherwise known as “block turquoise,” composite or reconstructed turquoise is made from small pieces of turquoise that are mixed with a polymer and cast into block-shaped pieces. To achieve the effect, finely crushed turquoise and non-turquoise materials are combined to strengthen the material. The end result is labelled as a “man-made product” rather than “turquoise.”
This technique is most commonly used for composite and reconstituted turquoise which is porous, absorbing any dyes easily.
Turquoise colors can range from opaque to semi-translucent, with a waxy to dull luster. Turquoise tones, which are determined by iron and copper content in the stone, span from China blue to deep blue, and from blue-green to yellowy green, with “Persian Blue” being the most valuable. Turquoise sometimes has “inclusions” from the mother stone, resulting in a “matrix” of brown, black, or ochre veins.
American turquoise is characterized by its wide range of blue and green hues and the regular presence of ‘matrix’, distinguishing it from clear blue Iranian turquoise. In general, turquoise with a green to greenish blue color is less desirable — however, there are some designers who actively seek these colors.
How to Tell Real Turquoise Jewelry from Fake
Typically, turquoise is evaluated on three basic quality factors: color, texture, and the presence or absence of “matrix”. Here are some tips to spot the counterfeits:
- Howlite and magnesite are light gray to white minerals with patterning that resembles spider webbing, which are dyed to look like genuine turquoise. Be cautious if the color is a brilliant blue and very uniform. Scratching the surface can also reveal a difference in color.
- Turquoise of lesser-quality is porous, so changes from pale blue to verdant green can occur over time.
- Reconstructed or pressed turquoise is made of turquoise powder or chips mixed with liquid plastic resin, which is then dyed and baked. This can be identified by magnification or heat, which reveals a burning plastic smell.
How to Care for Turquoise Jewelry
Improper care and cleaning of turquoise can significantly alter its color, particularly with American turquoise, which is more porous than the Persian variety. Try not to expose turquoise to prolonged sunlight, direct heat, cosmetics or perspiration. Moreover, pieces which have a “spiderweb” effect are easily breakable if not handled correctly.
To clean your turquoise jewelry pieces, gently wipe with a soft cloth that is wet with a very mild soap solution, followed by rubbing with a soft cloth that has been dampened with water. After the turquoise is dry, store the pieces away from bright light or heat.