Gem Profile- Turquoise Types
by Judy Ellis
As we learned last week, Turquoise is not only a beautiful blue color, but also a stone and a gem! Turquoise has been prized through the ages for protection, healing and of course jewelry making.
One of the problems with turquoise is that it is a soft stone, and finding stones of suitable quality to cut and polish has been difficult. Turquoise also fades to a green color, or develops a white "bloom" on the exterior of the stone through exposure to sweat, chemicals, cosmetics and other environmental conditions. In ancient times, turquoise was treated with a thin coating of oil or wax to keep the color true and help the stone last a bit longer. Turquoise with matrix, the little black or brown veins running through the stone, was also not used due to the difficulty with the stone losing integrity and cracking as it aged.


Robin Taconet wire wrapped these turquoise beads into a lovely pendant necklace.
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Turquoise Types - , General Education, , Triple Turquoise pendant
As society evolved, so did the technology to combat the softness of turquoise and today we have several types of processes for turquoise. You've probably wondered what the differences are between natural, enhanced, stabilized, reconstituted, fracture-sealed, artificial, synthetic, block, boulder and white buffalo turquoise. I know we received a few emails asking these types of questions, so don't be shy! I'll explain them each in turn - some today, and some next Friday, to finish our series on turquoise.


Irisha Patterson carefully selected these turquoise stones with pyrite inclusions and then wrapped this turquoise cabochon set in sterling silver and 14kt gold-filled wire

and

Karen McCoun wire wrapped this gorgeous turquoise nugget into a fitting silver ring.
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Turquoise Types - , General Education, , Turquoise with Pyrite inclusions
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Turquoise Types - , General Education, , Turquoise and Silver wire ring
What is Natural Turquoise?

Natural Turquoise is just that...natural stone that has not been treated in any way. Less than 1% of the turquoise mined today can be used in this natural state. Meaning that it is hard enough to cut and polish without cracking, but over time it will fade to a green color, especially when exposed to light, sweat, time, and other environmental conditions. So the beautiful piece your great-grandmother bought that looks a little green now is probably genuine, natural turquoise that has faded over the years.


Shawnea Hardy has been wire wrapping less than a year, and already she's a pro making wrapped cabochons! This is a greenish turquoise that Shawnea wrapped in antique copper craft wire - and it's even reversible.
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Turquoise Types - , General Education, , Turquoise necklace
Enhanced Turquoise

Enhanced Turquoise is a natural stone that has only been treated with either chemicals and heat, or just heat to enhance the color and harden the stone. This type of treatment keeps the color from fading over time and makes more of the harder turquoise available for the market. Enhancing does nothing to the value of the stone, and those stones treated with only wax or oil, as in ancient times, are considered enhanced because they have been given a protective coating to preserve their color.


Terri McMahon embellished this triskele and spiral leather bracelet with turquoise and rutilated nuggets and copper wire.
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Turquoise Types - , General Education, , Turquoise and copper bracelet
Stabilized Turquoise

Stabilized turquoise is another term you will often hear around the table at the gem show. Stabilization, or fracture filling, occurs when a softer turquoise, perhaps with a weak matrix or cracks in the stone, is impregnated with resin or polymer to make the stone harder so that it will take a polish better and the color will last longer.


Judy Copeland wrapped this turquoise cabochon mined in Iraq, in Argentium Silver wire. Calling it "Mystic Turquoise," Judy made this special turquoise pendant for a friend whose birthday is in December -and her friend loved it!
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Turquoise Types - , General Education, , Turquoise pendant
Stabilization is a very guarded secret in the lapidary community. Some will stabilize their turquoise with a polymer similar to what airplane windows are made of, others recommend letting it sit in a solution of epoxy and acetone. There are many different recipes and techniques out there. Some companies also put dye into the solution to deepen the turquoise color during the stabilization process. Stabilized turquoise is lower in value than natural or enhanced turquoise, but is still considered a gem.


Lauri Ennis used turquoise beads, leather and wire to create this beaded turquoise necklace and earrings set.
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Turquoise Types - , General Education, , Turquoise, leather and wire necklace and earrings
Boulder Turquoise

Boulder Turquoise is a thin vein of turquoise running through the mother rock. When turquoise is mined, it's found in veins and dug out of the ground. Some of the surrounding host rock, or mother rock, is discarded, but still has small seams of turquoise in it. One day someone took a look at these discarded rocks and thought, "Hmm, this would be pretty if I cut and polished it to show not only this seam of turquoise, but also the rock it comes from." Voila! Boulder Turquoise!


Koier VanDyke wrapped this turquoise heart with copper wire and accented with coral beads, Swarovski crystals, copper saucer beads, and a gold freshwater pearl.
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Turquoise Types - , General Education, , Turquoise heart pendant
Resources & Recommended Reading

Turquoise on Wikipedia

Materials

13 Piece Turquoise (Reconstituted) Collar Set - Pack of 1 Set
A2-127
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $3.57
  • Gold Club Price: $2.68
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13 Piece Turquoise Howlite Collar Set
A2-1993Q
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $2.40
  • Gold Club Price: $1.80
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African Turquoise 10x14mm Rectangle Cabochon - Pack of 2
E8-32O
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $5.33
  • Gold Club Price: $4.00
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African Turquoise 10x20mm Double Drilled Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-747
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $24.07
  • Gold Club Price: $18.05
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African Turquoise 30x40mm Oval Cabochon
E8-32F
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $5.00
  • Gold Club Price: $3.75
Out of Stock
Sterling Silver Bezel Connector Turquoise Pear 10X7mm - Pack of 1
K4-85
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $2.54
  • Gold Club Price: $1.91
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Sterling Silver Chain with Turquoise 2 mm - 5 Feet
C8-105U
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $46.87
  • Gold Club Price: $35.15
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Yellow Turquoise Faceted Trapezoid Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-502
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $11.97
  • Gold Club Price: $8.98
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Yellow Turquoise 16mm Round Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-496
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $11.68
  • Gold Club Price: $8.76
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Wire
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Turquoise Beads
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Turquoise Cabochons
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Tools

WireJewelry - Ultimate Wire-Pliers Jewelry Pliers with Case, Set of 5
G15-20
  • G15-20
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $170.72
  • Gold Club Price: $128.04
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Bench Tools
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  • Category: General Education
  • Technique(s): General Education