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BUYER'S GUIDE TO TURQUOISE


BUYER'S GUIDE TO TURQUOISE Note: This guide just scratches the surface of this complex material. Turquoise types, colors and quality are a vast and varied subject. We hope this will begin to help you wade through some of it and make some good choices when purchasing the "stone of heaven".








Very rare Nacozari Turquoise- Mexico

A BIT OF BACK STORY: The oldest known turquoise mining deposit is believed to be the Maghara Wadi mines located in the Sinai Peninsula. Mining of turquoise in the southern provinces of Ma'anshan and Hubei in China date to 1700 BCE. However most of the turquoise traded in ancient times came from Persia (Iran). Turquoise was discovered in North America around 200 B.C in the southwest. It was treasured by the Anasazi and traded throughout Mexico and Mesoamerica. It is iconic to the jewelry of Southwestern native jewelers In the late 1800's entrepreneur Fred Harvey recognized the beauty of this indigenous turquoise, with his partner Indian Jewelry manager Herman Schweizer began buying rough American turquoise and shipping to Germany to be cut into cabochons in 1899. These stones are know today as "German cut" are found in old Harvey jewelry and some private collections. Turquoise history is long and complex and the subject of an entire article all by itself! But let's look at how you can make smart, educated choices when buying turquoise where ever it may come from.

TURQUOISE GRADING TERMS: Natural: High quality unaltered turquoise. Only 12% of all turquoise on the market is natural. Treated or stabilized: The process of using penetrating chemicals like Opticon or Epoxy and using pressure to harden the stone, sometimes it also intensifies the color. It fills cracks fissures. This process is industry accepted. Color enhanced turquoise: Natural turquoise of poor quality that has had its hardness and color vibrancy increased artificially using a blue or green colored stabilizing compound. The industry has become so good at this process that it can be difficult to tell to the uneducated eye. Block turquoise: A process where poor quality turquoise is crushed and molded into blocks with colored plastics. Turquoise dust is also used. This is sometimes referred to as “reconstituted” turquoise, or more commonly, “brick.” This material is easy to spot as the consistency of the color and matrix is too consistent or perfect. NOTE: Always ask if you are unsure about the turquoise you're buying.All treatments to turquoise should be disclosed.

PRICES: Note: Turquoise is often priced by the gram as opposed to the carat. The formula is 5/ct per gram. So divide the grams by 5 to get your carat price.


Kingman Turquoise Royston Turquoise Cairco Lake Turquoise

  • American Turquoise can vary in price from .50/ct to $300/ct. It all depends on rarity, clarity of color, matrix and cut. Expect to pay premium prices for natural American turquoise from mines such as Morenci, Sleeping Beauty, Royston, Damele, Caldeleria, Carico Lake, Kingman and #8 Nevada. Stabilized material can range from .50/ct to $10/ct. American turquoise is found in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, California,

  • Nevada and Utah.



  • Lander Blue turquoise is the rarest and the most valuable turquoise. Less than 110 pounds of this beautiful spider-web turquoise is available. Beware of other material being passed for Lander Blue. Expect to pay from $80/ct to $450/ct. For information about this rare turquoise contact NevadaGem.com - Owners of the LanderBlue mine.



Number 8 Mine Turquoise Morenci Turquoise Bisbee Turquoise



Demele Turquoise Candelaria Turquoise,


  • Tibetan Turquoise is rare in that is mined in the Himalayas. The finest material comes from an area in the Gangschan Mountains of Ngari-Khorsum in Western Tibet. Another area is in the region between Lhasa. Other mimes include Draya to the west of Bathang, and Derge in Eastern Tibet. Prices for this rare turquoise range from $1/ct to $50/ct


  • Chinese Turquoise: Turquoise from China comes primarily from the Ma'anshan and Hubei mines. Virtually all Chinese turquoise is stabilized, however you can find beautiful natural

Egyptian Turquoise Hubei Turquoise Hubei Nugget



untreated Hubei but expect to pay up to $5 -$25/ct for this turquoise. Stabilized material averages about .50/ct to $10/ct. Chinese prize matrix and veining more than clear material so the more complex the matrix the higher the price. Tricolored turquoise is fetching higher prices as is getting harder to find. Read more about Chinese Turquoise in our article in GUIDES

  • Mexican Turquoise: There is some stunning turquoise coming from Mexico. Santa Rosalia, Baja California, Conception de Ore Zacatecasa ,Necozari are some of the. noted mines. Campitos being the best known. Lately we're seeing some beautiful material coming from the Cannanea mine, trade named Sonoran Gold. A stunning blend of bright blue and deep green with gold matrix. Expect to pay $3 to $5/ct which means $15 to $25 per gram.


Nacozari Turquoise Campitos Turquoise Sonoran Gold Turquoise

  • Kazakhstan Turquoise: Trade named Lavender Turquoise or Golden Hills this turquoise is very beautiful, discovered in 2013, Golden Hills Turquoise comes from a deposit in the Altyn Tyube mine in Kazakhstan. Interestingly the mine is known for Dioptase, the turquoise was long considered a by product. It is very difficult to mine and availability is limited. The stone is a light blue color with a matrix that can be anywhere from a deep lavender to deep reds or browns. It is generally natural which drives the price higher. Prices can range from $5/ct to $30/ct. Read more about Golden Hills Turquoise in our article in GUIDES


Hasan Abbasi - Turquoise From Iran Golden Hills turquoise, Kazakhstan


Golden Hills Turquoise

  • Iranian Turquoise: For thousands of years the most highly prized turquoise came from the Nishapur district of Iran and is trade named Persian blue. Expect to pay $4/ct to $10/ct. for stabilized material and upwards $500/ct for natural perfectly clear cabochons.

  • Egyptian: First found in Egypt well over 7,500 years ago, however the mines today are virtually depleted making it very valuable and highly collected. Prices per carat can reach $100- $500.

MATRIX: Turquoise often has what is referred to as "matrix" or veining within the stone. This is remnants of the host material the copper minerals that make turquoise were formed in. It can be a variety of colors and consist of sandstone (yellow), quartz (white), pyrite(Gray metallic) and Limonite(black and brown). Matrix in most turquoise is considered to add value and some such as Hubei is increases value dramatically. Some turquoise such as Persian is consider more valuable without matrix. BACKING: Backing turquoise is an industry accepted practice. Backing stabilizes material that may be slightly fragile and makes it more durable for use in rings. Backing allows lapidary artists to get more product out of expensive material. Backing material ranges from vintage record vinyl (a favorite among native cutters), Acetate, JB Weld and Micarata. Backing turquoise does not generally reduce the value of the stone. It can however add weight so be aware of this when considering a stone with a very thick backing and is priced by weight. TREATMENTS: Note: Less than 12%. of all turquoise is stable enough naturally to be used. Virtually 90% of all turquoise on the market is stabilized. Waxing: Turquoise (generally fashioned turquoise) is immersed in wax to coat its surface to enhance durability and appearance and prevent discoloration over time. This treatment is industry accepted. Oiling: Turquoise is treated for several days or weeks by various types of oil (e.g., mineral or vegetable oil), which acts as a concealer and filler to hide superficial flaws (such as white spots) and decrease porosity for better color, appearance, and stability. This can fade over time. Porcelain enhancement: A popular treatment technique that decreases the porosity of turquoise and improves the compactness, hardness, and luster without the use of organic polymers. Typically, this treatment involves filling turquoise with aluminum dihydrogen phosphate or sodium silicate. Zachery treatment: Turquoise is treated with a potassium-containing compound for better stability and appearance. Its name refers to entrepreneurial electrical engineer James E. Zachery, who invented this process in the late 1980s It is recognized now as a superior stabilazation method.(Fritsch et al., 1999). Electrochemical method: Rough or cabbed turquoise is treated with electrolytes (usually containing potassium) based on electrochemical fundamentals (similar to the Zachery technique). This can achieve more saturated color not only on the surface but throughout the entire sample (Lin et al., 2019; Shen et al., 2018). Dyeing: Turquoise is colored by various dyes or colored substances. FAKE OR REAL? This is one of the most common questions as turquoise is one of the most widely synthesized and treated materials. Experience and education are the best tools to identifying fake turquoise.


TYPES OF FAKE TURQUOISE INCLUDE: Turqurenite: A fake form of Turquoise usually composed of dyed Howlite, or dyed Magnesite. Block / Reconstituted Turquoise: Small pieces of genuine Turquoise ground up and added to a matrix with resin or other minerals, to form a block. It generally contains very little turquoise. Plastic / Epoxy / Resin: A plastic imitation stone. This should be reasonably easy to identify, although some sellers have added metal or other items to give the piece some weight. Misnamed stones: other stones that look like Turquoise but are not such as African Turquoise Jasper. Real turquoise is an aggregate of tiny crystals. They are so closely packed that gemstone looks opaque. Color is not always a reliable way to identify turquoise it can vastly between mines and countries of origin. A good rule of thumb is feel, real turquoise will be cool to the touch and will not warm readily when held the way plastic based synthetics will. TESTING: There are a few ways to test if turquoise is real here is a list with comments: Mohs Hardness testing: This can be helpful is the suspected material is Howelite or Maganesite.

  • Turquoise: 5-6

  • Howelite: 3.5

  • Magnesite: 3.5 - 4.5

Weight: This is not always reliable but if you're educated this method can help identify fakes. Hot Pin Method: This method is often suggested, but keep in mind you can't do this to material you don't own. Heat a small needle and apply to the surface of the material in question. Fake turquoise made of polymers will melt, real turquoise will not. Acetone: A very aggressive method and again not very useful when shopping. Soak the stone in acetone. Color will leech out of dyed material. Note: some soft real turquoise can be damaged by this method as turquoise is very soft and porous. We do not suggest this method with our professional help. Breaking: There are some that suggest crushing or breaking turquoise to reveal if it is fake or not. We can't stress enough that this is NOT a reliable way to identify fake material. Breaking is destructive and some turquoise is inherently crumbly when not stabilized, such as some Chinese turquoise with black or gold matrix, and it will break easily. This does not mean it is fake, it is simply unstabilized. We suggest getting a professional opinion if you are not sure about the material you're looking at. RECOMMENDED DEALERS Sterling Turquoise and Opal - Sonoran Gold, Blue Bird, Emerald Valley, Sleeping Beauty, Kingman, Nevada Mines and Hubei. Mark Smith Turquoise - Golden Hills, Sonoran Gold. Kameyab Imports - Hubei and Iranian Natural Greg King - High grade designer turquoise cabochons Silver Hill Lapidary - High grade Morenci, Kingman and Ithaca Peak China Mountain Turquoise Inc. - Natural and stabilized Hubei turquoise Lander Blue Collection - Owners of the Lander Blue mine. http://www.landerblueturquoise.com/ Nevada Gem - Dealers in high quality natural turquoise. https://nevadagem.com/ BEST TUCSON SHOWS FOR TURQUOISE: Pueblo Gem Show - Dozens of high quality turquoise dealers - Sterling Turquoise and Opal, Greg King, Mark Smith. JOGS - Great place to find small dealers in American mined turquoise. Kameyab Imports, Sunwest Silver Gem Mall - Chinese turquoise - China Mountain Turquoise Inc. Holidome - American- Kingman Turquoise, Marty Colbaugh, owner of the Kingman mine. Kino Gem & Mineral Show (Electric Park) - Find dealers in American and Mexican turquoise.





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