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Understanding the Value of Turquoise: True Natural Turquoise is Very Rare

Since the late 1950’s, there has been a larger demand for turquoise than there has been supply. Since supply has not been able to satisfy the demand, there have been many market-oriented business people (sometimes unscrupulous), who have tried to fill this void with alternate products. The range of turquoise treatments is huge. Soaking soft, light colored turquoise soaked in a liquid plastic creates the effect of a much higher quality material. This idea was not new as it was done with animal fat and tallow thousands of years ago. Another technique is achieved by grinding soft turquoise into a powder and then compressing it, later adding various resins and sometimes dye, to create a “reconstituted” block of turquoise.

The various possibilities are numerous and I will try to make some sense of them for you. The words treated and stabilized are similar, but not necessarily synonymous. They describe the same type process, and there are several, for impregnating soft porous turquoise with liquid plastic and hardening or stabilizing it. One of the newer processes being used today is called 'enhancing'. This process creates a slurry, and then charges the turquoise with electrical energy, intensifying its hardness and color. The actual chemical structure does not change, as opposed to stabilizing with plastic. Most of these processes are well-guarded secrets, so any description is, at best, only an educated opinion.

The treating of turquoise is not to be condemned and it is not wrong to buy or sell it; but it is wrong to misrepresent it or to mislead people. It should be sold as treated or stabilized and should not hold the status and value of Natural Gem Turquoise, which is the true gemstone. In my opinion 98% of all turquoise mined is stabilized or enhanced in some way. This is generally the turquoise that is softer, porous and chalky and will not hold together by itself. Treating the stone in this way makes it darker and harder, less likely to fall apart or crack when worked.

To complicate the subject even further, there is high-quality turquoise that is stabilized due to the seam-structure in the stone that might fracture if not treated. This material is often treated with “opticon”, a kind of super glue used as a fracture-seal, just before cutting, in an effort to hold the matrix together. It is getting more difficult for even gemologists and turquoise experts to tell the difference between some forms of treated turquoise as opposed to the natural.

The natural turquoise used in many of the pieces we offer on this website represents less than 1 percent of the all the turquoise mined. If we state that the turquoise is untreated and Natural, we will guarantee it. We generally buy our turquoise either from the miner in rough rough stones or cut cabs, or else we cut our own stones from our extensive personal collection of turquoise. In most cases we design our jewelry, and then give the stones to one of the many Native American jewelry artists who work with us, to execute the design. That way we can guarantee the quality and authenticity of our jewelry and stones. The best guarantee to the buyer as to the authenticity of a piece and the stones that are set in it is to deal with a reputable dealer that you can trust. After over 40 years as an Indian Trader, and being fortunate to live and work in Santa Fe, the 'heart of the Indian Jewelry business', we have access to the sources that enable us to offer such quality items. Native American artisans may buy turquoise cabochons directly from miners, but most buy from jewelry supply stores or trading posts.

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