Turquoise is one of the most valuable non-transparent minerals in the jewelry trade. Like many of you, we love turquoise and have been layering ourselves with this gemstone for years. Turquoise has a stunningly rich history, from once being worn as a holy stone for protection to adorning Kings and Pharaohs as a status symbol much like today’s diamonds. Turquoise continues to hold its weight gracing the cover of Cowboys and Indians Magazine, frequenting Vogue Paris, and sneaking its way onto high fashion runways.
For most of its history, the finest turquoise came from Iran, dubbed “Persian-Turquoise”, which is a beautiful robin’s egg blue (but can vary from teal to green). However, this changed during the late 19th and early 20th century as a result of the European influence on the Southwestern United States. While Native American tribes had been using turquoise for centuries, it was during this time that the Europeans shared their silversmithing techniques and the art of inlay with the tribes, and the look of southwestern jewelry was born. People around the world fell in love with the southwestern style and North American Turquoise. Thus, North American Turquoise began to rival, and in some instances surpass the infamous Persian Turquoise.
Over the next 100 years, the popularity of turquoise continued to grow, and jewelry connoisseurs began favoring specific hues. According to the Gemological Institute of America, “The most-prized turquoise color [in regards to price and history] is an even, intense, medium blue. But some consumers prefer a greenish blue, and some contemporary designers actively seek avocado and lime green turquoise.” The color of turquoise is a direct response of the amount of copper or iron present in the mine. The higher the copper content, the bluer the stone, whereas a higher iron content yields a greener stone. Mines became known for the type of turquoise they produce, and the name of the stone is directly correlated to the name of the mine (ie. “Kingman Turquoise”, “Sleeping Beauty Turquoise”, “Royston Turquoise”). Many people started collecting jewelry that had a particular type of stone based on the mine and the mine’s popularity. Going back to basics of supply and demand, as the popularity of the stone continues to rise, so does the price.
J.Forks Designs Informational Turquoise Photograph with two Turquoise Stones and the chemical makeup of turquoise | In general, the higher the copper content in the mine, the bluer the stone, the higher the iron content, the greener the stone.
As the demand for premium turquoise continued to rise, so did the technology to produce counterfeit or forced stones. Some turquoise is tampered with in efforts to enhance the color. In addition, epoxy can be added to stabilize a weak stone when on its own would not hold its form. In some cases, other stones such as magnesite or howlite are dyed to replicate turquoise. These stones are being sold and used in jewelry, and this jewelry is loved by thousands of people world wide.
This production of counterfeit turquoise caused a rift in the turquoise trade. For, there are purists that would not dream of selling or wearing anything but real, authentic turquoise. However, there are others that just like the look and color holding no allegiance to authenticity. While there is an industry standard for evaluating and pricing turquoise based on its color, clarity, cut, and weight, there is not an industry standard that can regulate personal taste. Which brings us to the question, what is the best turquoise?
For that, we turned to Marty Colbaugh owner of the Kingman Mine.
“I have been in turquoise mines in several countries and different states. Normally each mine does have some general colors and qualities that are common to the particular area, like a color or a matrix pattern for instance.
Every mine is capable of producing some very high quality unique turquoise. Many mines can produce very similar colors and qualities, but most people seem to judge the value more by where the material was mined rather than by the quality of the individual piece.With that said, it is much more expensive to mine here in the US than in third world countries, which does have a bearing on pricing.
Some people are color blind, so they do not see things the same as people that are not color blind. In this particular instance, who is anyone to tell that individual that what they are drawn to is wrong or low quality?”
J.Forks Designs Informational Turquoise Photograph with two Turquoise Stones and the chemical makeup of turquoise | According to the Gemological Institute of America, "Turquoise is found in only a few places on earth: dry and barren regions where acidic, copper-rich groundwater seeps downward and reacts with minerals that contain phosphorus and aluminum" such as (but not limited to) the United States, Mexico, Iran, China, and Australia.
Therefore, with turquoise, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. If you like something, wear it. Own it. Be proud of it. But be aware, often times, people are told they are purchasing real turquoise and paying a high price for fake stones. So, when purchasing turquoise, make sure you research reputable jewelers and traders, so you are not paying a premium for imitation turquoise.
All of J.Forks turquoise jewelry is in fact turquoise in its natural color. Jenny primarily works with Kingman, Royston, Campitos, and Old # 8 because she trusts the integrity of the stones, and they produce some of her favorite variations in color.
Janzen Tew of Denim & Velvet Marketing + Design.