This summer, turquoise is going to be HUGE. I kid you not, you will see massive chunks of it in necklaces, out-sized cocktail rings, delicate little ankle chains, big dangly earrings and pretty beaded bracelets. Any jeweller/crafter worth their salt will be selling it, every which way they can, myself included. It has always been a popular stone and always will be but here's the thing: Whilst demand for this stone is huge, supply of natural, A grade or higher, turquoise is limited. Very limited actually. We are talking very few mines in only 3 locations, and their production is dwindling. So if more turquoise is being sold than is being produced, what are you really getting and, more importantly, how can you tell?
There are 3 main genuine classes of turquoise: Natural, Stabilised and Treated. Natural turquoise comes directly from mines in New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona. It is of high quality and needs no strengthening and no dyeing. This is the cream of the crop in the turquoise world and single stones can sell for thousands of pounds depending on the mine they came from and the patterning (the veining, called the matrices) of the stone. These are labelled AAAA, AAA, AA, A, B or C. The stones shown are natural turquoise from Arizona.
Next down the rung is stabilised turquoise. This is more porous than the top grade and is strengthened by adding epoxy resin to the stone to stop it crumbling. Stabilised turquoise is great - it looks like natural turquoise, albeit shinier and smoother. Natural turquoise is too brittle for beads so stabilisation opens a much wider market for jewellery-makers and turquoise producers. Stabilised probably constitutes the vast majority of turquoise that ends up in costume jewellery, and quite a lot of fine jewellery to boot. You can still expect to pay hundreds of pounds for stabilised turquoise from a good location, although the weaker, duller, Chinese turquoise is often much more affordable. Stabilised turquoise ranges in quality from A grade through to C grade.
Beneath that,we have treated. This has been stabilised and had dye added to improve the colour. The results can be, quite simply, tacky. This grade of turquoise rarely has any matrices and has a uniformity of colour that quite simply looks artificial. Quality varies quite dramatically across the board though, and there are still some very pretty stones to be had whose matrices have resisted the dye to retain a decent degree of patterning, and which have been dyed a little more subtly than the day-glo creations that litter the markets. If you can find treated turquoise that looks good then by all means go for it, just make sure you're you aren't paying through the nose for it.
As if distinguishing the quality wasn't already difficult enough, there is a vast market out there labelling howlite or magnesite, cheap and widely available stones, as turquoise simply because they have been dyed that colour. This is clearly dishonest and such purveyors are not to be trusted.
Quite frankly, in most cases, no. If you like the look of a piece and are happy to pay the asking price then go ahead. Not all jewellery has to be special, to be precious. I frequently treat myself to cheap beads from Top Shop and Fat Face. If you want a short-trend fashion accessory to wear for a fortnight in Ibiza and throw to the back of your drawer never to be touched again, then it makes perfect sense to go for dyed howlite or treated turquoise. If however you want to buy a truly special gift and are spending hundreds of pounds then it had better be the real deal, and not a chunk of dust held together with glue.
If it isn't already labelled: Ask. Any decent retailer will know what quality their stones are, even if they can't tell you the name of the mine they came from. Chinese, Persian and African turquoise is nearly always stabilised and frequently treated. All beads are stabilised. If someone claims that their £5 wrap bracelets are A grade untreated natural turquoise for instance, you know you are being lied to. If you are paying hundreds then ask for certification. This should send fraudsters running. As a rule, grade A turquoise will cost 4 times as much as grade B turquoise, which will be about 4 times the price of dyed howlite. I hope the information here gives you what you need to make a more informed decision when buying, and to stop anyone charging you natural turquoise prices for dyed howlite. Ultimately the value of any piece is determined by what you are prepared to pay for it coupled with the pleasure you will get from wearing it. With that in mind, whether you are spending thousands at Tiffanys, or a few bob with me, I hope you get your money's worth and enjoy your purchase.
Hi, I'm Jackie. I live in Lytham St Annes with my 3 dogs: Hector, Samson & Barnaby. I worked in retail jewellery for several years in my younger days and have always had a love of semi-precious and precious stones. I am delighted to be making bespoke jewellery for special occasions and special people, it's a pure pleasure to be able to give people exactly what they want, especially at an affordable price.