"I am frequently asked by those unfamiliar with the semi-precious gem, “How can I tell it’s real?”
How can you tell your diamonds are real?”
In gemstones today, every category from diamonds to colored gemstones to semi-precious gemstones, consists of natural, treated and artificial types. Because of increased technology in this area, together with public unawareness, this situation presents challenges to the gemstone buyer. It may be that more people have heard of altered turquoise, but the practice of changing inferior gemstones to beautiful ones is common in up to 95% of all gems, and therefore the buyer must decide what it is that is important to him/her.
The pieces shown here represent an assortment of gold and turquoise jewelry, and are all hand made unique pieces.In the pieces featuring Natural Cerrillos turquoise, the stones are each unique and therefore each stone demands a custom setting, which may change the basic shape of a piece.
Compounding the problem is the fact that few jewelry professionals can tell for sure whether a stone is natural or treated without laboratory analysis. But rest assured, that if a piece of jewelry is available at a low price, the stones are of a low quality, with an almost 100% assurance that stones are not natural.
I cannot speak with authority about most gem materials, but my specialty for over 30 years has been turquoise, and since I have handled and cut virtually every variety, and since I own turquoise mines and am familiar with the materials at the source, I do know something about it. Even so, I will admit that I don’t know everything, and I take comfort in the knowledge that no one else does either. What I do know I will share with you briefly:
- Of all the so called “gemstones” available to the jewelry buyer, turquoise must surely rank in the top ten. It is one of the most ancient of all stones for use in personal and artifact adornment. It is a true mineral with no peers in color and characteristics.
- Its color range is broad, from blues and greens to yellows and khaki. It may be clear and smooth in color, or variegated multi-hued containing impurities and host rock called matrix. It ranges in hardness from chalky MOHS 4, to superior translucent 7, with most about 5 (diamond is 10).
- There is a tremendous variety in the characteristics of turquoise from different sources around the world. Though it is a rare gemstone, it is mined in USA, Chile, China, Mexico, and Iran. The popular standard for clear blue turquoise was established with Persian (Iran). In the USA, China and Tibet, “spiderweb” and matrix-type turquoise tends to be more popular, in both greens and blues.
About the types of Turquoise
- natural, treated, stabilized, enhanced and artificial or simulated, these are terms which commonly describe gemstones, including turquoise.
- Stones as they come from the earth containing no alteration to their properties other than shaping and polishing. In turquoise, as with most gemstones, the largest quantity of material is not of jewelry grade. Only a small percentage of the total mine run is hard and beautiful. The rare “high grade” composing only one to two percent. The best will not change color with wear. Medium grade natural will often absorb oils and chemicals during wear, and discolor. Low grade chalk is not suitable for jewelry and must be stabilized for use.
- This term applies to low grade materials which prior to stabilization, was a popular technique for making poor grades look better. The ancients and even some today will use oils and wax to improve color and the look of poor grades of turquoise.
- The process of chemically altering stones with the addition of acrylics began in the 1960’s. In the best examples chalk turquoise is soaked in clear acrylic and hardened. The stone is rendered workable, and in jewelry, the color is impervious to change, thus the term “stabilized”. In some processes color may be added, also.
- The most technically sophisticated process is know as “enhancement”. This process does not use chemical additives and is undetectable even by analysis. It is used mainly on clear blue “sleeping beauty” turquoise and other clear stone. The process hardens the outside surfaces sufficiently to prevent color changing.
- Any number of artificial turquoises might exist. From glass to composites of turquoise fragments and plastics to pure plastics. There are other treatments which may be used to improve turquoise, fracture sealing and glues, colorings and more. Since ancient times, man has sought to improve the appearance of gemstones.
At Magnus Studios
- We use turquoise from a variety of sources, both natural and stabilized. The choice of material used is a matter of using the one that best fits the piece, it’s intended use and price category.