Buying Tips: Turquoise

Monday, 8 June 2009 | Tags:

Worn throughout history as a stone of protection, turquoise is one of the oldest known gemstones, worn as adornment in Egypt over 5000 years ago. With turquoise mined around the world, there is a huge variety to choose from. We find out what you need to know about buying turquoise.

We talked to Todd Swift of Taos Indian Trading Co. in Los Angeles to find out more about buying turquoise.

The Basics


Turquoise comes from about 60 different mines around the world, including Arizona, Nevada, Iran, and China, and all produce a different colour and texture of gemstone.

Todd says the Persian turquoise is some of the highest quality. Also, turquoise from Lander, Nevada is some of the most expensive on Earth because it is really hard, like steel; a desirable quality in a natural, pure turquoise gemstone.


Colour is determined by the chemical composition of the stone, which is dependent upon the rocks in which the turquoise is found. That’s why turquoise from around the world is very different in colour. No two stones are identical.

  • The blue in turquoise comes from copper. Intense sky blue is the mose prized colour, and is often the highest price.

  • Green-ish turquoise is a result of iron and aluminum in the gem. This colour combined in a stone with the sky blue will make it the second-most prized gem.

  • Yellowish-green is the result of zinc in the stone and is the least valuable. 

  • Lines or veins of a different colour can create a ‘spider web matrix’.


There are three types of turquoise: natural, enhanced (or treated), and imitation.Natural turquoise is the highest quality, and the most expensive. It is naturally hard and will either be rough or cut and polished, but no other processes are applied. Natural turquoise is extremely rare. Enhanced turquoise is more abundant and affordable. Also mined, these stones undergo a treatment that improves colour, hardness, and durability. Experts say that 80-90% of turquoise on the market is treated.Treatments include:

  • Waxing and oiling, which “wets” the stone and deepens the colour and luster. This practice, used since ancient times, is considered very acceptable. These stones can be prone to ‘sweating’ over time if exposed to heat or too much sun.

  • Stabilization (aka bonding) hardens otherwise crumbly material by injecting plastics, water glass, or other. It also improves the appearance similar to waxing. Gem experts think this treatment is too radical, though it is a common practice.

  • Dying involves injecting Prussian Blue and other dyes as well as stabilizing agents into the stone. Many consider this practice to be fraudulent, especially since the dye may rub off on the wearer.

  • Reconstitution involves taking extremely small fragments and bonding them to form a solid mass, much of which is artificial.

Imitation or synthetic turquoise is commonly the stone howlite and magnesite, both of which are white, dyed turquoise blue. Howlite has natural and convincing black veining that is similar to natural turquoise.


Spotting a fake can be difficult and often require a gemologist to look at the stone under magnification. Shady dealers may try to pass off treated or low quality turquoise as high quality gemstones, so it is important to do your homework.

  • Request written documentation that includes the value, authenticity, and any other claims made. A credible dealer will not hesitate to give you written, signed confirmation.

Sniff the turquoise: if you smell resin, it is reconstituted (lower quality) and has been bonded together.

Be very careful buying nuggets since they are easy to fake.

Check for weight and density. If it’s fake, it will be much lighter. Also, if it’s man-made, it will likely all be one colour. Only Mother Nature can paint turquoise with its dramatic veins.


It is difficult to put a price on turquoise since there is such a wide variety available. As a general guideline, however, the price of a turquoise necklace will run you approximately:

  • Natural turquoise: $200
  • Stabilized turquoise: $30
  • Reconstituted turquoise: $25
  • Imitation turquoise: $10

Wearing Turquoise

To find out the best way to wear turquoise, we talked to Rob Lord, Holt Renfrew Jewelry Specialist.

Anticipated to be the colour of 2010, turquoise really makes a spring and summer statement. It can be worn by any skin tone since it incorporates warm and cool tones.

For a casual look. layer a chain or go with casual style earrings. At the office, try a bold necklace. Turquoise also goes well for day-into-night. For an evening look, it’s a perfect accent for the little black dress. Be sure to keep it simple. Wear only one piece at a time.

Wear it with pinks, purples, and reddish jewel tones from lilac to deep purple. It’s also a great constrast to neutrals like black, white, and khaki. Combined with light green or teal it creates a tropical feel.

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