The Stone of the Sea & Sky - Turquoise we Love
There are so many varieties of Turquoise, a stone loved by many for its gorgeous blue and green colors, also ranging in qualities, from authentic Turquoise to plenty of imitations. In this post we will explore the history of this beautiful stone, while we inform and educate those who love it so on what to look and ask for when shopping for it.
The ancient Egyptians may have been the first to mine turquoise, as Turquoise jewelry has been found in five-thousand year-old tombs. The name "Turquoise" originated in medieval Europe, where stones originating from mines in Persia (now Iran) were introduced by Turkish traders. Europeans called it "turceis", and later in French "turquois", after the Turkish people that supplied them.
Turquoise is classified as a semiprecious, opaque mineral, composed of hydrated copper and aluminum phosphate. The amount of copper content in its chemical chain determines its color, making the stone more or less blue or green.
For those in the Turquoise trade, the most valuable Turquoise is dense with deep colors and was mined from renown mines in the American Southwest where production has ceased, such as -- Lone Mountain, Number 8, Lander Blue and Bisbee.
Thankfully for us, there are still a good number of Turquoise mines in the Southwest still producing unique and beautiful stones, such as: Lander Blue (Nevada) , Morenci and Sleeping Beauty (Arizona), and Fox (Nevada).
Only about 15% of all Turquoise available in the market has enough density, size and color to be cut, polished and set in jewelry. So the larger percentage is lower grade and must be TREATED to make it usable. Turquoise is considered "treated" if it has been:
- Dyed: blue, green or yellow pigment is added to deepen its color
- Reconstituted: chips or fragments are pulverized and the powder is mixed with epoxy and cut into stones
- Stabilized: low-grade Turquoise is combined with a bonding agent to harden and darken the color
- Enhanced: low- or medium-grade stone is improved through a patented process
- Oiled or Waxed: the stone is soaked or "cooked" to deepen its color
Furthermore, a large amount of stones represented or sold in the market today as Turquoise is IMITATION. Minerals such as Howlite and Quartzite are often dyed to imitate natural Turquoise and can be hard to detect as fake. There are also other similar stones, such as Chrysocolla, Faustite, Variscite and Azurite that are sold as Turquoise.
So next time you fall in love with a Turquoise that you want to bring home, ask your dealer some of the questions above, as well as for a proper written receipt with as many specifics as possible about your new love.