Turquoise, what is this wonderful rock and how can I know that I am getting the real deal and not a fake?
Turquoise is a Blue-Green phosphate mineral made up of Copper and Aluminum. It's is generally about the same hardness as glass but it can be much softer. Over the years stone cutters and miners have used various methods to enhance and improve specimens so that they can be used in jewelry. Two common enhancements are "Stabilization" and "Backing". Stabilization is be far the most widely used turquoise improvement, which involves using an high-pressure autoclave to infuse the specimen with resin. The other method is using an epoxy resin as a backing to give the stone strength and support while being shaped and once it's in a piece of jewelry.
Both of these methods are common and without them you would rarely be able to create the types of styles that you see myself and other silversmiths making. Over 90 percent of all Turquoise available today is stabilized!
So what are the things to watch out for?
Dyed Howlite is a common fake you can find on the market. It's not that hard to detect with a keen eye however. Dyed Howlite is going to be a very uniform color and it's will almost always have thin black veins, but most importantly it's blue color will only be at best a millimeter deep and if you chip it underneath the stone will be white.
"Howlite" by James St. John is licensed under CC BY 2.0
("IMG_7988 edit copy" by Jacqueline Wales is licensed under CC BY 2.0)
Plastic fakes. Sometimes called reconstituted turquoise. This is just plastic and it's garbage.
Oiled or waxed stones. This is not so common anymore but I have seen it. While this isn't fake it's not going to last very long and your stone will loose it's luster pretty quick if you aren't careful.
The best way to know you are getting the real deal is to buy from a reputable dealer that discloses any processing the stones have gone through. If the seller is not making disclosures about the condition of their stones do not make a purchase from them.
If it sounds too good to be true then it is. Most wholesale American Mined and finished stones are going to cost between 12 and up to 300 dollars or more depending on the size and cut, as well as the quality of the stone. When you see jewelry listed at prices that do not reflect this reality then chances are it's either a very small piece or made of junk (i.e. Dyed Howlite or plastic).
How do I care for my Turquoise pieces?
I clean Turquoise Jewelry with a gentle soap and water mixture. I use dove soap and an old soft bristled toothbrush myself. Avoid temperature swings. Never put Turquoise in an ultra sonic cleaner and keep your stones away from makeup and chemical products.