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How To Choose Quality Turquoise

Do you know how to choose quality when you shop for turquoise jewelry? Can you spot the difference between natural and man-made stones? Do you know that magnesite turquoise and howlite turquoise are not turquoise at all (hello, cheap dyed stones!)? Are you buying turquoise dust glued together or an honest to goodness piece of turquoise gemstone? If answers to some or most of these questions are a total mystery to you, read on.

Photo by Don Agnello

First things first. Let's make it known that anything labeled "imitation turquoise" or "assembled" is what you want to stay away from. Imitation turquoise is self-explanatory: a man-made material created to resemble turquoise in color and appearance. Say, cheap, artificial, icky. Also, you may came across pieces of jewelry stating that they were produced from "assembled" natural turquoise. In plain English, this means turquoise dust or odd-shaped, otherwise unusable chips that are usually a bi-product of cutting natural turquoise gemstones are assembled (mixed and glued together) to resemble a solid turquoise stone. Take for example so-called Mojave turquoise. The many outlets that peddle jewelry made from this human concoction would try to persuade you that this is "the only product in today's market that features real Arizona turquoise and real metal matrix." What they don't tell you is that their real turquoise and metal matrix are actually created by pressing together real turquoise dust or chips with real metal dust to make them look like a solid turquoise stone. Besides, there is still plenty of quality real Arizona solid stone turquoise available on the market today. True, you should expect to pay a pretty penny for for the real deal. Buyer beware!

Now, about that magnesite turquoise and howlite turquoise... Magnesite is a soft, porous, inexpensive natural stone that's easy to dye. It has a similar matrix (veining) to real turquoise, but that's where the similarities stop. Sometimes, the dye job is so good that it's hard to figure out - without doing a dye test - that the stone's a "fake." But, if the piece of "turquoise" jewelry is priced unusually low for the number and size of stones it includes, then you can bet it's not real turquoise. Same goes for turquoise howlite. This is another soft, inexpensive natural stone that's easy to dye. Sometimes, the only way to tell if it's howlite is to scratch the stone on purpose. With hardness of only 3.5 on Mohs scale (compared to 5-6 of real turquoise), howlite would scratch really easily.

Last but not least, don't be fooled by imported natural turquoise either. Although there is some Asian turquoise of excellent quality, most of what you can find imported into the U.S. is not. Great quality Persian, Tibetan, or Chinese turquoise would cost much more than what you see sold in our stores. So, when in doubt, go with U.S. mined or Mexican turquoise. Mexican northern state of Sonora is the home of several different varieties of quality turquoise (Campitos, Campo Frio, Nacozari), although the Nacozari mine is now closed and, once all of the already mined turquoise is sold, will be very difficult to find. In the United States, Sleeping Beauty, Kingman, and Bisbee turquoise are all mined in Arizona, and Royston, Blue Ridge, and Number 8 (mine closed) are from Nevada. You'll also often hear of White Buffalo turquoise. Although this technically isn't turquoise, it's found together with genuine turquoise at the Dry Creek Mine on Shoshone Reservation, and it's very rare, so it warrants to be included in this roundup.

To sum up, if it looks like too good of a deal on turquoise, it probably is. So, if you're not an expert, make sure to ask the jewelry maker or store where their turquoise comes from, and whether it's a genuine, natural stone. The only treatment quality turquoise should undergo is stabilization (if not stabilized, the stone is too soft to turn into durable jewelry pieces). Never buy anything that states it was dyed, pressed, or assembled.

Now that you know how to choose quality turquoise for your jewelry box, you also need to know how to properly store it to help it last a long time, but that's a topic for a whole new blog post. If you purchase turquoise jewelry from Buckaroo Bling, you'll always receive printed care instructions with your piece. So, go shop our closeout sale while supplies last.

 Turquoise jewelry closeout sale

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