Daily Wire Tip Nov. 4: Kiwi Lapis and Chinese Turquoise

By on November 3, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
November 4, 2010

Question:

What are Chinese Turquoise and Kiwi Lapis? My customers always ask me if this is “real” turquoise or “real” lapis, and I don’t know the answer. Thanks!

-Kathy in Ormond Beach, Florida

Answer:

Thanks for asking a question that had me stumped! As a rockhound and one who studies minerals on a regular basis, I had never heard of Kiwi lapis (obviously I don’t use many beads, so I didn’t know that we carry such a huge supply of Kiwi Lapis). My research resulted in finding that what is being called “kiwi stone” is identified by some as natural pale green quartz that has black and white specks throughout (similar to a slice of kiwi fruit). Evidently this material easily takes dye and polish well.

Therefore, anything that is labeled Kiwi Lapis is a quartz stone that has been dyed in lapis blue hues. Being termed “stone” separates this product from the “fruit” quartzes such as blueberry, cherry and pineapple, as fruit quartz is really glass.

True Chinese Turquoise is a different matter, as it is more than likely genuine. The main difference between Chinese turquoise and similar material from other parts of the world is that most of the turquoise from China has been enhanced. These treatments can include waxing and /or oiling the natural stones, and dying and/or stabilizing the material with plastic resins to make it more durable. If you would like to know more about the history of turquoise, may I suggest reading Turquoise.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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19 Comments

  1. avatar

    Mr Fitz

    November 4, 2010 at 8:22 am

    One slight correction to the “fruit quartz” statement – Strawberry Quartz is, in fact, real quartz whereas the others are glass (expensive glass, but glass nonetheless).

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      November 4, 2010 at 11:01 pm

      Yes Mr Fitz, as I mentioned in my reply above (or below, not sure what order these post in) the whole ‘strawberry’ quartz thing is what began the ‘glass’ quartz revolution.

  2. avatar

    mary

    November 4, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Don’t feel bad Kathy in asking this question. Vendors are taking every advantage they can to promote a stone by now calling it names based on where it comes from or what it resembles despite it already known to us as something else.. A case in point would be using the reference of “jade” to what is really serpentine in dark shades we don’t associate with serpentine.
    You have to study up and get familiar with the different agates and jaspers and such so you are aware of what a vendor is pushing as a new item. By the way, I have some of that “kiwi” in my own stock as well…ROFL

    Mary

  3. avatar

    Chris

    November 4, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Dale, I spoke with a few people from different mines in AZ and NV about turquoise and they told me that all turquoise, beads, etc, sold is stabilized to some degree. They told me that natural means that it most likely isn’t died or enhanced. Since you’re the rockhound, what is your take on this? Thx.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      November 4, 2010 at 10:59 pm

      Well Chris, maybe that’s true on the ‘sales market’, however I do have a bag with about 2 pounds of completely untreated, natural Sleeping Beauty nuggets (some with a sprinkling of tiny pyrite cubes) in my safe. (Yes, I purchased it in Globe, AZ a few years ago.) It could be that ‘on the market’ vendors choose to sell turquoise in the manner you describe – I really don’t know as I have not run into this. When I am back in the SW next year, I’ll check it out.

  4. avatar

    V

    November 4, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Is African Turquoise the stone that our writer was thinking of?
    That is a dyed jasper with black inclusions.

    There’s also Chinese Chrysoprase, which, if I remember correctly, is a dyed serpentine.

    Let’s not even get into the whole ‘New Jade’ terminology. Sigh.

    The marketing terms for enhanced stone and glass sure are confusing!

    There was a time, when the fruit quartzes first came out, (early-mid 1990’s) that people thought they were truly made from quartz. Because of the trade secret clause, no one could really find out until the patent ran out.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      November 4, 2010 at 10:52 pm

      Yes V – I remember being one of the people at a gemshow when ‘strawberry’ quartz appeared. Until we saw a rather large piece that contained miniscule air bubbles, it was a major mystery! (As there IS a natural ‘strawberry’ quartz, but it is so rare and expensive that the gemstone world was lead to believe that a new large deposit had been discovered!)

  5. avatar

    Deb Weller

    November 4, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Dale,
    Thanks for re-iterating that the fruit “quartzes” are actually glass.

    Like you, I’d never heard of Kiwi Lapis. We’ve had what our vendors call Kiwi Jasper (none of the lapis or other colors, though – just green with black specks) in the store for 6 years. Good to FINALLY know that it is quartz. We strive to have the proper classifications on our stone beads. I’ll be changing tags to reflect this information, just as I did with lizardite.

    About “enhanced” stones. Dyed and enhanced are not the same thing. It drives me up a wall to see an obviously dyed coral or magnesite described as enhanced, rather than dyed – if the treatment is disclosed at all!

    If a stone is dyed (magnesite, coral, etc.), the color of the stone is physically changed – from white to blue, green or whatever. I explain to customers that enhanced is similar to when your grandmother added bluing to the wash to make the whites whiter. It may change the intensity of the color, but it does not change the color. Red dyed coral is NOT enhanced!

    Stabilizing, waxing, oiling, heat treatment, etc. are all techniques that are SUPPOSED to be disclosed as distinct (separate) treatments of any stone, according to AGTA. From everything I can discover, these standards are not being applied to (mere) beads and most cabochons. That leaves those of us who sell beads at the mercy of our vendors, hoping that we can trust them to give us accurate information to pass along to our customers. Some are good about this and others are not. I’ve been known to ask vendors trying to sell me “white buffalo turquoise” (aka magnesite or howlite) to leave the store – no sale.

    Sorry about the rant, but correct names and descriptions of stones is a pet peeve of mine. Being the wife of a jeweler, I’ve chosen to hold my store to AGTA standards as much as possible, which is not always easy in the world of LBS and our vendors.

    In the end, those of us who sell stones, beads, or jewelery with beads/stones need to be educated about what we sell and to provide the best information possible to our customers.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      November 4, 2010 at 10:49 pm

      Hi Deb – sales ‘terminology’ drives me nutty! Wire-Sculpture is also at the mercy of some of their suppliers as it should not be necessary for our warehouse employees to have to identify all of the strangely named materials that arrive in the crates. It seems that vendors are taking dyed stones and just naming them to be able to sell them – very confusing for all of us.
      Yes, unless the bead is a ‘serious’ gemstone (like sunstone, amethyst, etc) it’s even difficult to grade them!

  6. avatar

    Cairenn Day

    November 4, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I have found any material with Chinese in it’s name is suspect. Turquoise is a major problem. I have seen some real Chinese Turquoise, but much of what I see is either dyed Magnesite or dyed Howlite. Then there are the ‘yellow’ turquoises that are dyed something, sometimes one of the before mentioned stones, sometimes it is an agate.

    My best advice is to know your dealer, only but from those that KNOW what they have.

  7. avatar

    Rachel Ison

    November 4, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Great information! I had thought the “fruit” quartzes were quartz, good to know they are really glass. I love this site and have learned alot from all these questions. Thanks.

  8. avatar

    MERRY PRINGLE

    November 4, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    I am also a little messed up with some of the beads on WS as I want to know what I am selling, and something I got today almost seems like plastic. I always look to find out on the website.But sometimes it”s not clear.Thanks Dale

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      November 4, 2010 at 10:42 pm

      You are welcome Merry. Wire-Sculpture receives some of their bead supplies ‘en mass’, meaning that we have no idea what is coming in!

  9. avatar

    Deb Weller

    November 5, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Stone from China is a big headache all around. Stone from one quarry will be called “chicken jade” and the same stone from another quarry down the road will be called “yellow house agate”. Many have the gimmick of adding “turquoise” or “jade” to a stone’s name to make it seem more rare, exclusive and valuable. I had a vendor tell me that I could buy magnesite from him for some stupid low price and charge 10 or 20 times more if I called it wild horse turquoise, “because that’s the only name the Indians know”. That was offensive to me on so many levels, it took a minute to recover my power of speech. When I did, that vendor was shown the door and I’ve never spent another dime with him.

    Chris & Dale,

    You can buy rough turquoise that is natural, ie, untreated, but cabs and beads are generally at the very least stabilized, because turquoise in its natural state is relatively soft. I consider stabilized to be a given in just about any stone. I did manage to get hold of some completely untreated turquoise beads at a vendor’s warehouse many years ago, but it’s long been sold out and silly me didn’t keep a bit for herself.

    I’ve been told there was some serious flooding and damage at the Sleeping Beauty mine about a month or so ago when we had some really bad weather, and production of Sleeping Beauty turquoise is slowed or stopped. I haven’t had a chance to verify this – if it’s true, it means that prices for Sleeping Beauty turquoise will be going up as the current supply becomes depleted.

    Dale,
    I know what you mean about trying to keep track of what stone is what, especially when every time you turn around, there’s a “new” stone or a new name for a different color or variety of an old stone. We sometimes get those lots, where we’ve bought kilos of “something” that looked good and was a decent price, only to have the dilemma of trying to figure out what the “somethings” are, and I’m a pretty fair rockhound, myself. I can think of at least 2 things that we’ve changed the tags on as I’ve gotten changes in information.

    When you get to AZ again, please come by and say hello! One of your proteges started in our store and we’re proud of her success.

    All,

    When we buy stones, whether cabs or beads, we should be holding our vendors (and thus their suppliers and ultimately the quarries) to a higher standard than we currently are. “It’s **just** beads (or cabs)” should not be an acceptable answer. We need to let them know that “white buffalo turquoise” or “wild mustang turquoise” or whatever the name of the week is, as well as not disclosing whether a stone is heated, dyed, stabilized or otherwise treated is as unacceptable in beads and cabs as it is in the fine jewelry trade. If we do our homework and educate ourselves AND stick to our guns, dealing only with reputable vendors and suppliers, we can eventually end the confusion. It will also allow us to better serve our customers who buy our products.

    okay, I’m stepping off the soapbox!

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      November 5, 2010 at 11:43 pm

      Deb – (I am laughing) – you are so right when you say ‘name of the week’!! Love it.
      Yes, I will try to get to Apache Jct to visit with you in Feb, or you could come to Jogs.
      Thanks also for the heads-up regarding Sleeping Beauty. I was in globe last March but hadn’t heard about the flooding —-sad.

  10. avatar

    Deb Weller

    November 6, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Dale,
    The flooding at Sleeping Beauty is recent – within the last month or so. I sent an e-mail asking them if the rumor was true, but haven’t heard back yet.

    Wish I could get to JOGS, but not this year. C’mon in whenever you get a chance – the coffee pot is always on (or iced tea in the summer).

  11. avatar

    Val Bogdan

    April 17, 2011 at 9:34 am

    I really am not asking a question but making a comment. I just followed the entire trail of comments on the april 17th post about dyed and enhanced beads and stones and I have to say I got more information on this subject than I have in the past few months trying to find out from vendors or other jewelry artists. THANK YOU for explaining it all so well and honestly! I am passing this along to a number of other jewelry artists who are also wondering what it all means!!!
    Val Bogdan

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      April 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm

      Hi Val, so glad I could solve some of the gemstone ‘mysteries’ for you all : )

  12. avatar

    CHICAGO MARION

    April 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    A friend of mine (who knows how much of a turquoise “nut” I am) was so proud of her discovery — a purple turquoise necklace! It was beautiful, but we all know there is no such thing as Purple Turquoise! She paid a pretty price for what was probably dyed howlite or maybe “chalky” turquoise at best. Misrepresentation is rampant at “jewelry shows” — some vendors do not like to be challenged!

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