View Full Version : Turquoise & ID'ing Navajo jewellery
My maternal grandmother was Native American, and so I've always loved turquoise. Recently, an aunt who has no daughters blessed me with some beautiful rings and bracelets that she has collected over the years. I'd love to learn a bit more about this myself.
Maybe this will be a bit helpful, from:
(written by a forum user known as Mr. Bojangles)
Turquoise is a difficult stone to identify, and typically, ALL the stone out there is what is called "STABILIZED" turquoise.
Basically, what's done is, a, usually black type of plastic is injected into the stone. This enhances both the veining that is so highly sought after, plus, it helps to hold together an otherwise crappy piece of stone.
There are many mines throughout the world that produce good to crappy turquoise. Typically, where ever you have a copper mine, you'll turquoise being mined along side it as a side to the copper.
Copper is where turquoise gets some of it's color, I believe it's a type of oxidation that happens, giving you that blue to green coloration.
The more heavily veined, at least in Southwestern jewelry, supposedly, the more highly prized the stone is.
Bisbee and Morenci are old copper mines, both located in Southern Arizona, Morenci, according to many in the field of Southwestern jewelry.....and more importantly, the ones who actually manufacture it, the Navajos and other southwestern tribes. Value this stone, almost above all others. Cerillos is a mine located near Santa Fe, NM and is an ancient mine. Turquoise mining there dates back to pre-contact times, with alot of it being exported to Central America and the ancient centers there of the Aztecs, the Olmecs and the Toltecs....there is even some evidence of it having been among the Maya.
I know folks that buy up old jewelry and just rip the stones out and basically just melt down the silver or cash it in as scrap.
There is a thriving trade and business in just old stones. You pay by the gram, and typically, it's an upwards of $300 or more for a gram of Morenci. You have mines spreadout thru the West, in Nevada, California. Across the World, in Tibet, parts of the middle east and the Indo-Pakistani Subcontinent.
I know one test you could perform is a simple burn test. Heat a needle till it's cherry red and then stick the stone with it. If it penetrates.....you've got plastic.
Another test, is to take a file, run it across the stone, if it peels or mars...it's a low grade turquoise or a plastic.
Of course.....all this damages your stone, so, you might want to do it, you might not want to.
IF the stone is EXTREMELY BRIGHT BLUE, it's possible it's not turquoise.
Another thing you could do, if you know how, is remove the stone from the setting and look at the bottom. Stabilized turquoise, while infused with a black mastic, is still turquoise. It's done for just that purpose, to stabilize it, keep it from falling apart. Some coloration is also sometimes injected into a stone to enhance it before the mastic goes in. It's a fairly common, almost accepted practice....but, nothing is valued more than the PURE STONE, straight from the mine, worked or shaped raw into something.
Still, stabilized turquoise is turquoise.
If you should get the stone free from the setting, flip it over, typically, if it's a Southwestern piece, you'll probably find some sawdust under there, this is to create some resistance behind the stone so it pushes back against the setting or bezels, it also creates some "give" behind the stone so it allows for expansion and some "padding" behind the stone. Anyway...... if you have like a two millimeter layer of black plastic looking stuff behind the stone. It's turquoise, but it's the stabilized variety.
Another test I've heard of, but, I'm personally not going to endorse because it's so hard to use, and is inherently flawed. Is the finger test. Take a finger, put some rubbing alcohol on it to remove ALL the oil from your finger, dry it, and then rub the stones surface with your finger. Supposedly, a fake stone will have a waxy feel, like a piece of plastic. A real stone will have some resistance under your finger tip, it won't slide as easily.
I personally don't think it's a good test, but, I know several traders in Gallup that swear by it and buy and sell pieces according to this method. Over years and years of just looking at stones and after becoming familiar with veining and coloration as they appear in stones from various mines, a trader sometimes can distinguish what's real and what's not.
It's a tough business identifying real stones from enhanced or fake stones. Even traders get bilked into buying pieces that are made with fake or stabilized stones.
Thanks, bodhran, that was a lot of useful info.
If anyone is interested in purchasing turquoise, I recommend this site. You do get a certificate of authenticity with each piece, and the site tells you exactly where the turquoise in each piece comes from, and in many cases, who made it.
It's expensive, but I expect it to be,,,,
I've gotten things from these places:
amazing! thanks so much for all of your replies! i will try the needle method and report back.
alright so, if the needle doesn't penetrate its turquoise....
what if its dyed howlite/jasper, i might soak it a little, to check..? (should i?) it might sound somewhat crazy, but my other concern is the possibility of it being chinese turquoise, uhh, then i'll just cry. man, turquoise immitations just frustrate me to a scary degree. lol.
i've read that the immitation turquoise began sometime around 1962...
i have my eye on a piece dating the early 1900's, its a necklace w/ Percian turquoise (and tiny pearls! which i began to really love pretty reciently), i pray that i can own it and that it is genuine...it looks so lovely!
does anyone know why Percian turquoise looks glossy?
The more heavily veined, at least in Southwestern jewelry, supposedly, the more highly prized the stone is.
so interesting, i have not read about that do u have any more information?
thanks for all the links! morticia monroe- if it is possible can ya share pictures of your treasures?
just a pictute and "testing" update
so, i did the needle test: not much to report i tried its three times and i didn't go through.
and i tried the file approach too. er a little too enthusiastically. starting lightly first, it didnt mark but i added a little more force a small mark was left (u have to look really closely to see it through) but i am sure if one tries to file any crystle e.g. a quartz i'm sure it'll get a mark too?
i still have my doubts...i mean its so blue and glossy!? (it could be the wax effect, but it almost looks "glassy"!)
PS> do i need an sub to post pics??? oooo nooo.
can't wait for pics :)
Turquoise is so wonderful and comes in so many shades (with the presence of zinc in the stone - it makes for green -a fave!)
- synthetic turquoise got really popular in the 50s. They make this from different materials and even dyed howlite. Most typically synthetic/lab created turquoise (of good quality) is actually the mineral compound of turquoise: hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum.
They are not only able to replicate the structure and color of turquoise but also sometimes the dark matrix inclusion.* (iron pyrite or iron oxide) -even more bad news: it's not too expensive to make.
I agree with the tests being unreliable. So some of these tests you're describing do not work with lab-created Turquoise except that the "scratch test" can detect the presence of parrafin - used in natural turquoise especially in the 60s - but the faux kind is much harder so usually lacks this last treatment. - Lab turquoise is also distinctive under a microscope with a uniform pattern being visible in one direction only. (I have also seen this with a loupe) Lab turquoise of lower value is really very uniform and strikingly blue.
Another thing to consider with turquoise stones is that even natural mined stones are (in today's market) altered or enhanced by electrical current (intensifies the colour) and it's often "Stabalised" or coated with epoxy resin to prevent the stone being damaged in more porous examples.
The worst grade of turquoise (especially for metaphysical use IMHO) is the type that is granulated or reconstituted mineral which is powdered up and in resin. Yuck. (*Note: the matrix inclusion is often an indication of a natural stone but not always)
I should say here.. that in my experience with the energetic properties of turquoise/natural/faux is that with a very similar crystaline structure - the effect is similar but this is so objective. I know for many, natural is the only way to go. I have heirloom pieces and ones from Bisbee and Fairy mines and fakey crud "Navajo" Turquoise that I love - and I feel it's most important that you love your rock :D
Hope this helps! :) Happy holidays!
I was very intrigued by these tests, and I am currently using genuine stone beads to make some jewelry. I was a little worried about the authenticity of some malachite chip beads that I had bought, so I've been putting off using them. On a whim, I tried using a heated needle to test if it was plastic... and then proceeded to just hold the bead under a lighter. My "malachite" caught on fire. I'm assuming that means it's probably not legit, haha. I'm glad I didn't use any!
Singer of peace, yes it is hard to find a genuine supplier of genuine gemstone chips, and beads and raw materials to make jewellry..
Malachite is a gorgeous stone, one of my favourites.. I wear a silver and malachite bracelet, the swirls of green really draw me in..
I bought a Malachite sphere once on ebay.. the biggest piece of crap plastic,
and amber is another one that is being reproduced using plastic resin..
Red coral is extremely rare, and you will be lucky to find the genuine article anywhere. as it is illegal to harvest , the reason it is now rare to find the genuine stuff. I have no idea how to tell the difference on that one. other than, all the new jewellry that claims to be red coral , is definately not genuine red coral. it has been dyed.
It is a bugger when you are a lover of the genuine stones ..
I love semi precious gems.. and make all my jewellry out of them..
I have the most beautiful piece made out of genuine turquoise..
the pendant is more of the greenish turquoise. a Cabochon still blue but a slight green tinge with spidery veins of Limonite and peppered with pyrite . wrapped in silver.. and the beads are chunks of turquoise beads more blue in colour with very very fine veins of limonite they have not been polished, so i have a nice mix of polished cut and coated and raw.. the pendant does have a crystal slither that covers it to protect it, this slither , does have a name but it eludes me at the moment.. Most good gemstone dealers use this crystal coating on the more porous semi precious gemstones to protect them, My grand-dad use to make jewellry out of gemstones he found fossicking all over the country side and used this as well. so if it has a shiny outer coating and not waxy it may be because it has this crystal coating, but as lightbug also suggests some jewellers use epoxy resin , the difference is noticable though.. epoxy resin gives you the shine but still waxy feel.. the crystal gives you the shine but a more of a glass feel. the problem is Turquoise has a natural waxy feel anyway, which makes it hard to detect.. the hot needle may tell you, you have a piece of turquoise coated in resin or a piece of resin made to look like turquoise , I would take my piece to a one concerned with the Lapidary arts ..... a gem and mineral club in your area would most definately jump at the chance to help out. I know my grandads did. they all loved to show off their talents in spotting the genuine and fake articles.
I also have a Lapis Lazuli ring that has this crystal coating. they do wear off eventually and need to be replaced to protect the stone underneath as lapis and turquoise are quite porous and are quite susceptable to absorbing too much of their enviroment such as oils from your skin, products you use etc..which can ruin your stone..
Chrysocolla is also used to imitate Turquoise..
Dancing Bear, I am so sorry yuo got ripped off on E-bay. Not to worry though I have a great seller that wouldn't sell you anything but the REAL thing. Bonnie is really nice and sends things out right away and replies to yur e-mails right away. She has some really pretty crystals.
BONNIES-CRYSTALS on E-bay. She sends the geniune
Also, FireMountainGems and Rio Grande are so huge that they cannot afford to sell you anything other than what they put in writing. The catalog have in print if it is imitation or not.