The Best Turquoise Gemstones for Silversmiths: A Comprehensive Guide

The Best Turquoise Gemstones for Silversmiths: A Comprehensive Guide

Turquoise gemstones have captivated silversmiths and jewelry enthusiasts for centuries with their vibrant hues and unique patterns. As a silversmith, selecting the best turquoise is essential for creating stunning, high-quality pieces. This comprehensive guide delves into the different types of turquoise, their origins, quality markers, and expert tips on selecting the best stones for your designs.

Types of Turquoise Gemstones

Turquoise gemstones vary greatly in color, matrix, and overall appearance. Here are some of the most popular types:

Sleeping Beauty Turquoise

  • Origin: Arizona, USA
  • Characteristics: Known for its pure sky-blue color with little to no matrix. It's highly sought after for its uniformity and vibrant hue.
Kingman Turquoise
  • Origin: Arizona, USA
  • Characteristics: Ranges from light blue to deep blue with black or brown matrix. It's one of the oldest and most famous turquoise mines.

Persian Turquoise

  • Origin: Iran
  • Characteristics: Renowned for its robin's egg blue color and minimal matrix. Persian turquoise has been prized for thousands of years for its beauty and rarity.

Royston Turquoise

  • Origin: Nevada, USA
  • Characteristics: Exhibits a wide range of colors from blue to green with a brown matrix. Each stone is unique, making it a favorite among artisans.

Chinese Turquoise

  • Origin: China
  • Characteristics: Available in various shades of blue and green with intricate matrix patterns. It's more affordable but can be equally beautiful when high quality.

Tibetan Turquoise

  • Origin: Tibet, Himalayas
  • Characteristics: Features a greenish-blue color with a pronounced matrix, often in rich brown or black. Known for its spiritual significance and striking appearance.

Kings Manassa Turquoise

  • Origin: Colorado, USA
  • Characteristics: Known for its beautiful green to blue-green colors with a golden-brown matrix. It has a unique charm and historical significance.

Quality Markers of Turquoise

Understanding the quality markers of turquoise is crucial for selecting the best stones for your jewelry:

  • Color: The most valuable turquoise is a deep, vibrant blue, often referred to as “robin’s egg” or "Persian blue." Greenish hues can be attractive but are generally less valuable.
  • Matrix: The presence and pattern of the matrix (the web-like or blotchy patterns) can add character. However, uniform, matrix-free stones are often more desirable. Spiderweb matrices are particularly prized.
  • Hardness: High-quality turquoise is relatively hard (Mohs scale 5-6). Softer turquoise may require stabilization to be usable in jewelry.
  • Texture: Look for a smooth, waxy luster, indicating a good polish and fine quality.
  • Treatment: Ensure you know whether the turquoise is natural or treated, as treatments can affect durability and appearance.
  • Enhancement: Be aware of any enhancements or treatments applied to the turquoise, such as waxing or resin filling, which can improve appearance and durability. 

Understanding Turquoise: Natural, Enhanced, and Treated Stones

  • Natural Turquoise - Natural turquoise refers to stones that are completely untreated—no chemicals, waxes, or any other enhancements. Less than 5% of all turquoise is hard enough to be used in jewelry without any treatment. These stones are typically more porous and prone to cracking or absorbing oils from the skin, which can cause color changes over time. The rarity and durability of natural turquoise make it highly sought after and more expensive.
  • Enhanced Turquoise - Enhancement is a treatment that improves the color and luster of turquoise without altering its natural makeup. This process, invented by James Zachery and later developed by Elven Jennings, involves electrochemically treating the stones. Enhanced turquoise retains its natural characteristics while appearing more vibrant. Although enhancement is less intrusive than other treatments, it prevents the stone from being classified as "natural."
  • Stabilized Turquoise - Stabilization is a common treatment where epoxy is used to harden porous turquoise, making it suitable for jewelry. This process, developed by the Colbaugh family in the 1950s, involves high pressure to infuse the stone with epoxy. Stabilized turquoise is widely available and affordable, maintaining durability and shine.
  • Waxing and Oiling - An ancient method of treating turquoise involves using wax, oil, or animal fat to enhance the color and protect the stone. While this method is still in use, it requires reapplication over time as the oils and waxes wear off. Although it does not harm the stone, it is considered a temporary treatment.
  • Dyed Turquoise - Dyeing changes the color of turquoise, often to mimic more expensive varieties. Some stones, like howlite or marble, are dyed to resemble turquoise. An example is Mohave turquoise, which is often dyed purple but does not naturally occur in this color.
  • Reconstituted Turquoise - Reconstitution involves grinding low-quality turquoise into a powder, mixing it with epoxy and dye, and forming it into new shapes. This process results in a product that is largely synthetic and not considered genuine turquoise. Reconstituted turquoise is typically used in inexpensive costume jewelry and should be clearly labeled as such.

Tips for Choosing the Best Turquoise for Your Designs

Selecting the right turquoise gemstone involves balancing aesthetics, quality, and suitability for your design. Here are some tips:

Match the Stone to the Design:

  • Consider the overall design of your jewelry. Bold, statement pieces might benefit from a large, striking turquoise, while delicate designs may require smaller, more refined stones.
  • Ensure the stone’s color and pattern complement your design vision.

Check for Treatments:

  • While stabilized turquoise can still be beautiful and valuable, untreated stones will hold a higher value due to their rarity. Be vigilant against imitations. Genuine turquoise has a unique, vibrant hue and a distinct matrix.

Consider the Matrix:

  • Decide if you want a stone with a distinctive matrix or a cleaner look. Both have their own charm and appeal.
Source from Reputable Dealers:
  • Purchase your gemstones from reputable dealers who provide accurate information about the origin and treatment of the stones. Ensure you’re purchasing from reputable suppliers who provide detailed information about the stone’s origin, treatment, and quality.
Inspect the Stone Thoroughly:
  • Look for consistent color, a desirable matrix pattern, and sufficient hardness. Check for cracks or inclusions that may weaken the stone. Opt for stones that are hard enough to withstand crafting and daily wear.
Balance Color and Quality:
  • While deep blue is highly valued, sometimes a unique matrix or a greenish hue can make a piece truly special. Balance the color with the stone's overall quality and your artistic vision.
Consider the End Use:
  • Think about how the turquoise will be worn. For rings and bracelets, which endure more wear and tear, choose harder, more durable stones. For earrings and pendants, you can opt for slightly softer varieties.

    Caring for Turquoise Gemstones

    Proper care is essential to ensure the longevity and beauty of turquoise gemstones. Here are some maintenance tips for silversmiths:

    • Cleaning: Use a soft cloth to gently clean the turquoise. Avoid harsh chemicals or ultrasonic cleaners that can damage the stone.
    • Storage: Store turquoise jewelry separately to avoid scratches. Keep it away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.
    • Handling: Handle with care to prevent damage. Avoid exposing turquoise to cosmetics, oils, and perfumes, which can alter its color and luster.

    Conclusion

    Turquoise gemstones offer endless possibilities for creating exquisite jewelry. By understanding the types of turquoise, recognizing quality markers, and following these selection tips, you can elevate your silversmithing craft and create pieces that stand out. Whether you prefer the pure blue of Sleeping Beauty or the character of Royston turquoise, there's a perfect stone for every design.

    Enhance your silversmithing creations with the best turquoise gemstones. Happy crafting!

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    Share your favorite turquoise pieces or design tips using #TurquoiseGemstones and #SilversmithJewelry. Visit our website to explore a wide range of high-quality turquoise gemstones perfect for your next masterpiece. Embrace the vibrant world of turquoise and let your creativity shine!

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