Saturday, February 12, 2011

Turquoise Jewelry Comes in Many Forms

One gemstone which always seems to be in fashion is turquoise. It is noted for its use in Native American and South West jewelry designs, often fashioned in sterling silver. For thousands of years, turquoise has been highly valued and much sought after.

A quick search on Google for turquoise jewelry will give you so many different results that your head will spin. Is all of this jewelry genuine turquoise? Is some of it fake? Or is much of it in between the two?

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The high demand for turquoise jewelry has led to the development of enhancements for the gemstone. These enhancements have added to the look of turquoise, but have also made it difficult to tell the difference between real and fake turquoise.

As a gemstone, turquoise is a soft, sometimes even brittle, stone and is thus susceptible to fracture. The maximum hardness of the stone is under 6 on the Moh's scale, much less than many other gemstones. Also, turquoise is quite porous. Because of this, it is susceptible to staining, discoloration and fading.

These two problems can be addressed in several ways, but most commonly, turquoise is stabilized. During the process, the turquoise is treated with a clear epoxy, resin or other form of liquid plastic. The raw stone is soaked in the hardening liquid, or more recently, pressure is used to force the hardening solution into the rough turquoise. This makes it harder and more resistant to staining. The treated turquoise can then be color treated. This can often be done simultaneously with the stabilizing process. Purists may accept the stabilization, but reject the use of added dyes. It is a personal preference.

Naturally formed turquoise jewelry, without any further treatment, and stabilized turquoise jewelry are both forms of genuine turquoise. But what about reconstituted turquoise? Is this genuine? The quick answer is yes and no, with a leaning to the latter.

Reconstituted turquoise does contain some genuine turquoise. As stated above, turquoise is very soft and brittle in a natural state. Because of this, it can be ground. To make this "reconstituted" turquoise", genuine stones too small to be used for cabochons, beads or free-form nuggets are powered. Resins, and in some cases, dyes are then added to the mixture and poured into molds and then dried. Pyrite is also sometimes added to give the finished product a more natural look.

Reconstituted turquoise can be attractive, but buyers should know that the stones in the jewelry are only part turquoise. As is normal in marketing, not all sellers are honest about the stones, so it is wise to be prepared and to ask questions if you are unsure.

The price of reconstituted turquoise is much less than genuine turquoise, but this is not always the case, particularly with unscrupulous sellers.

A form of turquoise, often found in jewelry imported from China, is wax treated turquoise. This form is wax impregnated with paraffin, which deepens the color and stabilizes the stone, but this process only affects the surface of the gemstone.

Finally, there is a form of imitation turquoise called "block turquoise." This contains no genuine turquoise at all, as does reconstituted turquoise. It is completely synthetic. Block turquoise is often used in inlaid turquoise jewelry.

In doing my research, I came across a site which has a grading page for the various forms of turquoise jewelry from the highest to lowest grades.

Here are some examples of reconstituted turquoise jewelry available in my eBay store - Carolina Collections Vintage Jewelry: