Is This Genuine Turquoise?

The mineral turquoise is formed when water gradually seeps through a host rock, where it interacts with copper, iron or aluminum over a period of thousands of years, producing a hard gemstone that can range in color from shades of green, yellow and blue. Other minerals in the turquoise often create lines — or ‘matrix’ — in black, brown and other colors.

The mineral has been known by many names, but the word ‘turquoise’ dates to the 17th century and is derived from the French word for “Turks” because the mineral was first brought to Europe from Turkey. In the U.S., the word turquoise is synonymous with a sky blue color, which is the color of the mineral found in the Sleeping Beauty Mine in Globe, Arizona. This mine ceased mining turquoise in August 2012 to focus on copper mining, and prices for genuine sky-blue, matrix-free Sleeping Beauty turquoise have since skyrocketed.

There are five types of turquoise as described by law:

Natural turquoise:  Turquoise that is so hard and beautiful that it is simply cut, polished and set into a piece of jewelry or carved into a sculpture. Less than 3% of all the turquoise on the market worldwide is natural. Finished pieces can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars and should be accompanied by a signed certificate from the jeweler guaranteeing its authenticity.

Stabilized turquoise:  Soft or ‘chalk’ turquoise that has been infused with a clear epoxy resin. The resin, under pressure, absorbs into the rock, which permanently hardens the rock and deepens the color. Unlike natural turquoise which deepens in color over time by gradually absorbing oils from the skin as it is worn, the colors in stabilized turquoise are permanent. Most of the turquoise on the market is stabilized and can be very beautiful.

Treated turquoise:  Soft or ‘chalk’ turquoise that is stabilized as described above, except that the epoxy resin is also dyed.

Reconstituted turquoise:  Turquoise ‘chalk’ that has been ground into powder, infused with epoxy resin, dyed, and compressed to be cut into shapes for jewelry making.

Imitation turquoise:  The most common imitations of turquoise are dyed howlite and magnesite, both white in their natural states, with the former also having natural black veining. Most of the ‘turquoise’ jewelry sold today is actually imitation turquoise imported from China, including the ‘turquoise’ sold at shops and roadside stands in the Southwest.

African turquoise:  African Turquoise is actually not turquoise at all but a type of jasper found in Africa that is often dyed to achieve a turquoise-like color. Enhanced by its natural matrix, African turquoise jasper is beautiful in its own right.

Treated, reconstituted and imitation turquoise can be made to look remarkably like natural stones. Trust is the bottom line. When you are buying turquoise jewelry, be sure the seller guarantees that the jewelry is what he or she says it is — not just verbally but in writing, including a signature on the sales document with the name of the store on it. Be sure the description is complete. An honest business will offer refunds, whether the item was bought on sale or not.

At Robinette Designs, you can shop in confidence that we clearly and honestly identify all of our materials. Your satisfaction and trust are important to us.