Turquoise 101 – Learn the Basics
For millennia, turquoise has been a highly valued and sought after gemstone for use in art, religion, trade, and jewelry. The high demand and associated decrease in availability of high quality turquoise led to the development of stone enhancements. These enhancements have been so successful they have made telling the difference between good and bad turquoise more difficult than ever.
The most desirable characteristics of turquoise are its signature color and matrix. Color ranges from light-sky-blue to green. The presence of matrix varies from nonexistent to white to black. Contrary to popular belief, these characteristics do not affect quality or value, as they are individual preferences, with each having its own following. There are many properties to define quality or value, but the most obvious are vivid and uniform color.
Most turquoise on the market has undergone some treatment to enhance or attain these properties. Color-stabilization is one of these treatments. It is the use of dye to turn a pale and chalky stone into a brightly colored and strong stone. Low quality turquoise is often the recipient of color-stabilization; it’s porous nature aids in the absorption of dye. Opposite the opaque nature of high quality turquoise, low quality turquoise can appear translucent, even after color-stabilization. Without proper care, the stone can discolor or fade over time.
On the border between real and fake turquoise is reconstituted turquoise. Sometimes called brick, reconstituted turquoise is a composition of pulverized turquoise dust and pieces, resin as a bonding agent, dye, and other natural minerals to simulate matrix. Reconstituted turquoise can be identified by a distinctive odor produced by the resin.
The use of turquoise enhancements has had positive and negative impacts on the turquoise trade. The treatments are so effective, they transform otherwise unusable materials into appealing pieces of art. They also place real turquoise into the financial grasp of everyday consumers. Unfortunately, unscrupulous dealers have been successful in passing off treated low quality or reconstituted turquoise as high quality untreated turquoise. To avoid being defrauded request written documentation including information of the value, authenticity, and any other verbal presentation which has been made. Any credible dealer will not hesitate to give you a written confirmation. Use your best judgment and intuition; the more informed the purchase, the more you will enjoy it.