Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tacky Turquoise

We've all been to Michaels and viewed their strands and strands of dyed howlite and magnesite that the store clerks tout as real turquoise. Ri-ight. I generally roll my eyes every time one of them tells a customer that, and there have been times when I straight up told them to stop lying. You are NOT going to find quality turquoise for under $10. Even the really bad stuff that is basically powdered bits and pieces that have been glued together is sold for more than that. One lady even gave the store clerk the stink eye when she couldn't come back with anything and asked what I paid for my "real" turquoise when she left. I told her about the shop I go to (because I am more than happy to advertise for her whenever possible) and that the cheapest strand of turquoise chips she had was about $20. She raised her eyebrows and shot back with the whole, she didn't want chips, she wanted chunks. I reached in my purse and pulled out my pair of turquoise earrings that I made, nicely packaged in their ziploc bag, and told her that the two 12mm rounds I used cost about $6 together. I was only able to buy two of them at the time because the whole 16" strand was $55. She said that was ridiculous and turned her nose up. I told her to go ahead and buy the dyed stones off the hanger and make whatever she wanted because she obviously didn't want them to be genuine.

This is my BIGGEST pet peeve - when people sell stones that aren't actually what they're advertised as. If I'm going to fork over full price for an expensive strand of cultured saltwater pearls, they damn well better be saltwater pearls and of high quality. I am not going to make a piece of crap and sell it to a customer. 1) I wouldn't want to buy it and 2) that's just bad for business. I make and sell quality pieces and your poor quality standards would hurt my business to no end.

That said, there are those that buy (even if it's wholesale to use for their own jewelry lines) GREAT turquoise that is real. They put a lot of time and effort into pairing it with the perfect stone and metal to make a piece of jewelry that you will fall in love with and (hopefully) purchase from them. Even if it is a single chunk of turquoise on a tiny silver chain, that turquoise still needs to be cared for. Here is the paper I send with every piece of turquoise I sell about taking care of it:

Turquoise in its natural state can be white to powdery blue to sky blue, and blue-green to yellow-green. This is due to the variable nature of the minerals that make up the stone. However, turquoise can never be red, orange or pink or other such colors. Dyeing turquoise is considered fraudulent by some. The dyeing can be done to enhance the original color of the stone or to darken the veins. These dyes are very likely to fade or rub off on the wearer’s skin.

Turquoise is not much harder than the glass that is used to make the windows in your house. Because of this it is recommended that you keep your turquoise jewelry in its own container to avoid it being chipped and damaged by harder stones. Turquoise may fade when exposed to sunlight for extended periods of time. Applying sunscreen or hairspray before going out with your turquoise can help to prevent this fading in the color. When you return home and remove the jewelry, wipe it off with a soft dry cloth and put it away until next time.

Common “turquoise imposters” are howlite and magnesite. Howlite is most popular because of its very convincing veins that resemble turquoise. This is the stone most often used to make red or pink or other brightly colored “turquoise.” Howlite is a naturally white stone, as is magnesite, and takes well to dyeing. Turquoise will always be more expensive than these other stones, so don’t make the mistake of paying turquoise prices for non-turquoise items.

Jewelry cleaners, chemicals, and the chemistry of your own skin can cause changes to natural turquoise. Turquoise has copper in it, and just as copper gains a patina over time due to chemical changes, turquoise can change as well. Some turquoise is even waxed or oiled to give it a better shine and make it more appealing. This is not frowned upon as it does not change the make up of the stone. However, when the stone is exposed to heat or the sun this waxing or oiling may cause a blooming effect or eventually leave a white film on the stone that clouds the color. Don’t fear, this can be remedied and does not hurt the stone.

So don’t go to the beach with your turquoise necklace. If you suspect that the stone may have been dyed, don’t get it wet at a pool or anything. Even sweat may cause the dye of the stone to stain your skin, so be careful. There are non-damaging ways to tell if your turquoise is real, however none of them can be done at home unless you are a gemologist. The methods require a microscope or jewelers loupe and a knowledge of the structure of the stone as opposed to a fake.

Very little turquoise is actually mined in China. Most “Chinese” turquoise is fake.

That's all for tonight, folks. I will try to post other care information this coming week. I hope this helped!

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