|Because we carry so much turquoise in so many different shapes, sizes, and colors, we often get asked about its composition. What exactly is turquoise and how is it made? How is it colored, and will the color fade or bleed? Admittedly, I am not a gemologist, but I have done a little bit of research to uncover the truth about turquoise.
What Is Turquoise?
Because it takes millions of years and rare geological conditions—high elevations, a certain type of climate, and a region with natural copper deposits—natural turquoise is quite rare and, therefore, can be very expensive. It ranges in color from a pale sky blue to an earthy green to white. The color is determined by the amount of copper found within the stone; the more copper present, the bluer the turquoise will be. In addition, turquoise contains what is commonly referred to as a matrix; these are metal (copper, iron, aluminum) deposits that show up within the stone.
The most common form of turquoise is “chalk” turquoise, which is a very porous stone that is often injected with resins and dyes so it will be “stabilized”. Because the injection process occurs early on when the bead or pendant is being made, the dye usally does NOT fade or bleed. Chalk turquoise is widely sold because it is affordable and more readily available than purely natural turquoise. This does not mean chalk turquoise is not “real”; it simply has a lower metal content and is fused with other substances to make it more durable. Other stones that are commonly called turquoise are actually dyed howlite or are magnesite (which is a mosaic form of chalk turquoise and resin). The major difference between a chalk, howlite, or magnesite version of turquoise versus authentic turquoise is that the former versions will be uniform in color whereas natural turquoise varies greatly.
How Can There Be Colored Turquoise?
Because natural turquoise is mined in very earthy tones (and chalk turquoise is often found in these hues as well), any turquoise that comes in a bold color—red, purple, etc.—is dyed. In fact, many forms of blue and green turquoise are dyed or at least color enhanced so that the color will be more uniform and the matrix will be enhanced. Most of the turquoise found at Auntie's Beads is in fact dyed to give it this color-enhancement. As I stated earlier, the dye is often inserted at the time the turquoise is being manufactured so it becomes part of the bead. In addition, turquoise is also often heat treated with a resin coating after it is made to help seal the color and ensure durability.
Whatever its form or composition, turquoise is a beautiful, timeless gemstone that adds color and dimension to all of your jewelry designs. It looks great when paired with any metal – silver, copper, brass – and can be versatile in its use with other colors as well.
Shanna Steele, Auntie's Beads Designer