Turquoise is the definition of timeless.
Possibly the earliest stone know to man, it appears in our old sacred texts from across the world, in Egyptian mummy tombs, and in some Native American mythologies. Long believed to have mystical properties and healing powers, turquoise is one of our most cherished natural resources. Now, it is a draining one.
In the past few years, environmental protection laws restricting the mining of turquoise have caused huge increases in demand and prices.
As natural turquoise increasingly becomes limited to vintage pieces mined decades ago and extremely high-end items, and the industry relies more on selling stabilized turquoise, it can be difficult for customers to know if what they are buying is the real deal, especially as price tags and tastes fluctuate so widely.
Tastes in turquoise are constantly shifting. Pure, veinless blue has waned in favor of heavily matrixes, more irregular stones. And although, or perhaps because, each piece of turquoise is unique, this mercurial stone can be easily faked.
Natural: The most valuable and rare type, most natural turquoise on the market today is in pre-1960 jewelry. Turquoise is naturally soft and porous, and only the hardest-grade stone can be left natural if they are to be used in jewelry; much of what's mined today must be stabilized before it is carved.
Stabilized: Most turquoise on the market is stabilized. It has a soft, almost chalky, texture, is less likely to crack, and will keep its color.
Color-enhanced: Some mines color-enhance during the stabilization process. Color enhancement is hard to detect with our current technology. Color-enchanced stones are popular, with a lower price point.
Brick: Made of small, otherwise un-useable chips of turquoise that have been molded together with resin, brick turquoise is available at a fraction of the price of natural.
What to look for
Hardness: Like many semi-precious materials, turquoise is rated on its hardness scale
Color: Ranging from mottled ocean green to pure lagoon blue, sponge-like natural turquoise can change over time; stabilization prevents this.
Matrix: The veiny effect, coming in ink-black, ashen, brown, white, red, orange and even gold, depending on the mineral, altitude, and host rock, can present in spiderwebs rivulets or smudges.
Howlite: Easily dyed, Howlite is a known turquoise imitator. The giveaways? Its skinny black matrix with no variance, lack of color variations, and the "clacky" sound it makes against glass, nothing like the thump if softer turquoise.
White buffalo: The trendy so-called "white turquoise" is in truth mostly dolomite or calcite. There's nothing wrong with the stone, it just isn't turquoise.
"Block turquoise": This is the worst imitation and the easiest to spot, its just plastic.