Turquoise – your complete guide to the magical blue stone
Turquoise is one of the most popular semi-precious stones you can find and is a highly desired gemstone for jewelry. This gorgeous stone with its intriguing hue has the prestige of being the only gemstone with a color named after it! Though it isn’t anywhere near as expensive as a diamond or sapphire, turquoise has no less a magical effect than these expensive stones. This is why I believe that any good jewelry collection is incomplete without a turquoise in it. In this comprehensive shopping guide, I’ll walk you through our top tips for buying the perfect turquoise!
What is turquoise?
So, what exactly is turquoise? Turquoise is an opaque mineral with a beautiful greenish-blue hue. The name ‘turquoise’ is derived from the French word for Turkish, because history tells us that the stone was first brought to Europe from Turkey. The stones were excavated from the mines in Asia and were brought in through the trade routes that passed through Turkey. Hence, Turkish stone.
Turquoise forms over millions of years, occurring when water oozes through rocks that contain certain minerals such as copper and aluminum. When this happens, a chemical reaction is set off and veins are formed, which later bunch together creating turquoise!
Some tips on buying turquoise
Tip 1 – Know your turquoise varieties
Turquoise varieties are generally known by the location where they were found. Each of these varieties have distinguishing factors. For example, famous Persian turquoise is not as porous as other types and so has a better polish while American and Mexican varieties are quite porous and have lighter green-blue colors.
A common variety that is found widely is turquoise matrix, which refers to turquoise containing parts of the host rock. If the matrix is included, this means that it contains the vein-like inclusions so often found on turquoise.
Tip 2 – Evaluate your stone using the 4Cs!
In terms of value, color and saturation are critical factors of turquoise, so check for this when buying. Although the word turquoise evokes a certain color in mind, there are actually several shades of blue and green under this umbrella. You can find the stone in light sky blue, mid-range blues, deep blue, blue-green, vivid green, sea green and leaf green. In terms of value, evenly distributed, mid-range blue colors (which in trade are referred as Persian blue) are the most valuable turquoises.
The turquoise gemstone can be cut into many shapes, the most popular of which are cabochons, ovals, beads and chips. Because turquoise is naturally very beautiful, cutting is not a critical factor to bring out its beauty.
Turquoise is generally opaque, although you can find the rarer translucent turquoise as well. Typically, the stone has a matte appearance and is not a sparkly gemstone. Most turquoise contain included matrix which refers to dark spidery inclusions, which can range from dense to light.
Although shoppers generally prefer clear and glossy turquoise free of any inclusions, turquoise with inclusions can have intriguing designs that make it attractive.
Turquoise is often mined in large slabs and then is broken into smaller chunks for jewelry. You can find it in a variety of sizes, although stones of about 4-8 carats usually work well for jewelry. Larger stones would be more favorable for ornamental pieces. The price for turquoise varies but averages around $30 to $40 per carat for a quality piece.
Tip 3 – Match turquoise with complementary colors
Turquoise is an ideal stone for a chic, classic look. It best suits cool skin tones but even warm tones can pull it off if worn well. (Read this article to find your skin tone and how to match it with the best color).
Of course it’s important to ensure that the stone you choose complements the rest of the outfit. Luckily, turquoise is a versatile colored gemstone and goes well with many other colors. Turquoise best complements neutrals (brown, black, white, gray, nudes). For a striking contrast, pair it with warm colors.
Tip 4 – Glam up your outfit with matching turquoise pieces
Choose quiet pieces to tone down the look for casual or office wear. If you want glam up a minimal outfit , then choose statement pieces.
The best metal to be used with turquoise stone is platinum and gold but silver is no less mesmerizing and usually serves the purpose if you are a little short on budget.
If you want a cocktail ring that speaks vintage class and elegance, you cannot beat turquoise! Often paired with sterling silver or copper colored metals, a turquoise ring goes well for an evening look. Turquoise is ideal for promise rings because in many traditions, giving a turquoise ring means ‘forget me not’.
Depending on your purpose, you can choose a quiet piece as a classy addition to your outfit or a louder statement look. A small turquoise pendant on a silver or gold chain will go perfectly with work-wear. If you are wearing neutrals for a casual occasion, opt for a bigger stone to give your look a pop of color.
You can find turquoise necklaces in all shapes and sizes. Turquoise bead necklaces are casual and elegant. To glam up a minimal outfit for a formal event, choose a more elaborate statement necklace that will immediately elevate your look.
Turquoise earrings, bracelets and cuffs
Turquoise dangle earrings add color to your face while bead bracelets and stylish cuffs also bring color to the outfit. Because turquoise is a gemstone that goes a long way, don’t wear all your turquoise pieces at the same time. It will be an overwhelming look and will not complement you.
Tip 5 – Know the ins and outs of looking after your stone
Buying turquoise is one step but taking good care of it, so that it has a long life, is an entirely different step.
Turquoise is a fairly hard gemstone with a rank of 5-6 on the Mohs hardness scale. What this means is that other stones that are harder than turquoise can damage it when they come in contact in a harsh manner. If turquoise is used together with harder stones such as diamonds, they are more prone to damage when stored.
The outer surface of turquoise is very permeable, meaning that it can absorb liquids or gases it comes in contact with. Wearing turquoise jewelry while doing household chores such as cleaning with harsh chemicals, using soaps, harsh shampoos or applying makeup, can sometimes permanently damage it. Even chlorine in the swimming pool can discolor turquoise. Make sure you remove all pieces of turquoise jewelry when doing these activities.
Wiping the surface of the stone with a cloth that is dipped in hot water is the ideal method for cleaning the stone. But the stone should be dried immediately and use of any kind of soaps are strictly not recommended since they contain oils that can damage the stone. Some stones come with a silver polish and this polish tends to fade away with time. If you notice that your stone is dull, you can polish it once again to regain its former glow.
Tip 6 – Be aware of turquoise imitations
As mentioned earlier, modern technology has helped in inventing many chemical formulas that create a final product similar to turquoise. You would be hard-pressed to find the difference if you aren’t a gemologist. These synthetic imitations come cheap and seldom have the effect the original stone has. There are also many natural minerals that look like turquoise. For example, variscite can be confused with turquoise, although it is greener in appearance.
The most prevalent imitation today is colored howlite. Howlite is a grayish white mineral that not only takes on the color of the dye it comes in contact with, but also looks very similar to the original stone. But it is very important to recognize these fake stones because they do not come under the faux turquoise label but instead is sold as white turquoise, an extremely rare form of turquoise.
Tip 7 – Know how to spot a turquoise imitation like a pro!
Here are some ways that you can check if the stone you hold in your hand is a true turquoise or a fake.
- The first is the price. If it seems too good to be true, then the dealer is probably cheating you. Imitations always come at a cheaper price and real turquoise can be very valuable.
- Check the saturation of the stone. The inside of the stone has to be blue through and through. If it is white then it is most probably howlite as the dye used to turn howlite into turquoise does not penetrate beneath the surface. Wipe the stone with some nail polish and a cotton bud. If the cotton bud becomes blue and the stone in that patch turns lighter, you know that the stone is a dyed howlite.
- Howlite has a Mohs ranking of approximately 3.5, making it softer than turquoise. If your stone scratches easily, it may very well be a fake.
Tip 8 – Check for enhancements
The raw state of turquoise, though attractive, isn’t always made for jewelry. The higher-grade stones can withstand the test of time but the medium and low-grade stones have to be enhanced through various treatments to enhance their appearance as well as make their surface stronger. The commonly used enhancement method is called the Zachary process. The end result is a stone that not only looks colorful but is also very durable.
Some of the enhancements include natural turquoise, stabilized turquoise, plastic turquoise, dyed and infused turquoise. Be sure to know the origin of the stone before buying.
An important note about stabilized turquoise: People without knowledge do not prefer stabilized turquoise since they believe it to be artificially dyed stones or somehow fake. But know that even high-grade turquoise sometime need stabilization. It is a necessary process to make the overall color look as even as possible and to make the stone strong.
Tip 9 – Be savvy when you shop online
From amazon to eBay, there are countless online and offline stores selling turquoise. But finding the right one is of utmost importance. The gemstone in the online picture might look very different from the one that arrives at your doorsteps.
Make sure you search extensively for the exact piece of gemstone that you want and always buy from a reputed seller. Be sure to check the return policy so that when the gemstone arrives, you can conduct your own test and if you find the stone is an imitation or off less quality than mentioned, you can get your money back.
And finally…. No article on turquoise is complete without mentioning the famous mysteries of turquoise, the magical properties and healing powers, which people have always associated with it.
Turquoise is the birthstone for December.
It is believed that the most striking feature of the stone is its ability to change color. The stone is believed to possess certain properties that help it in changing the color depending upon the health condition of the person who wears the stone. There is belief that turquoise stones emit a pale blue color if the owner of the stone is sick and it entirely loses its color if the person dies. But the stone regains its former glory when the ownership transfers and changes according to the health condition of the new owner. Hence, turquoise can be considered the health indicator of the wearer.
Many ancient cultures such as the Persians, Chinese and Egyptian regarded the stone as sacred and believed that adorning the stone would bring unusual luck as well as power.
Although rare for that time, the stone has been found in in every part of recorded history. Some turquoise beads, that are 7000 years old, have been excavated in Iraq. Egyptians, Aztecs and most civilization associated the stone with their ruling deity.
Natives Americans have created beautiful sculptures, pendants, and beads with turquoise and are considered as pioneers of turquoise stone craft. The Indians and Egyptians used them extensively in burial sites to appease the gods and for the smooth passing of the soul into the afterlife. The metaphysical nature of the stone has influenced many and it is believed that the stone has properties that can cure sickness. Other cultures also believe that turquoise can help communicate with the spirits and turn fortunes in one’s favor.
One of the earliest stones known to mankind, turquoise has always been regarded as the talisman of rulers and warriors. The stone represents strength and protection, and is often likened to a piece of heaven that has descended to the earth. Ancient warriors would wear it as an amulet to protect themselves from falling while riding and to stay away from traps. Although superstitious, their belief has prevailed and even to this day, the stone is worn in jewelry form to keep obstacles away from one’s path.
The stone has been a prized gem in the courts of many great rulers simply for its enchanting aura and sheer beauty. But today, turquoise has lost its much of this mystical value due to the modernization that brought in synthetic and fake stones turning the stone from rare to common.
Whether these beliefs hold any scientific credence or not, they have certainly helped the turquoise gemstone to achieve a mystical and magical aura that still persists.