How To Tell If You Are Buying Dyed Turquoise

Comparing dyed, fake (middle strand) to true turquoiseIf a stone is advertised as turquoise it could be referring to the color rather than the stone. If it is advertised “turquoise like” or if advertised with turquoise in front of the name of the actual stone, i.e., turquoise Howlite, then you know it isn’t turquoise and the price should be lower than what you would expect to pay for actual turquoise.

Everybody has their pet peeve. Mine is “purposeful misinformation” when it comes to selling gemstones. Not just turquoise, but any gemstone. You know, when you ask a seller or dealer a question about a stone they are selling, they should have an answer for you.

At first, the number of people who told me they like knowing the mine their turquoise comes from when they buy from us surprised me. After doing some online research, however, I was even more surprised to see the number of sellers who never even mention what kind of turquoise they are selling. It was all labeled the same, just “turquoise”, i.e., Turquoise Necklace or Turquoise Earrings, etc. After asking around I found that the sellers didn’t know where their turquoise came from.

In checking further, I was astonished at how many people were selling turquoise on the Internet that was clearly not turquoise at all, but rather, dyed stone of some kind. That was several years ago. Not much has changed since then. In fact, I think the situation is worse now.

It’s very hard to tell sometimes whether or not beads are dyed, especially if you only have photos on the Internet to look at, but there are some things you can watch out for.

One of the most common problems for consumers is the enormous amount of dyed Howlite being sold. Because of the veining, it can be very hard to tell if you are getting real turquoise or an inexpensive stone like Howlite that has been dyed to look like turquoise.

Here is a link to a page I created for you with several different photos of dyed Howlite.

This will give you an idea of what to watch out for. The egg photo on this page is used as an example on Wikipedia of what dyed Howlite looks like and how real it can look to an unsuspecting buyer.

There are also some photos on this web page of plastic beads next to authentic turquoise beads so you can see the difference. Of course you won’t have the luxury of seeing these side-by-side when buying online or perhaps even in person, but you can at least get an idea of what to look for. You will notice that up against the ‘just a little bit too perfect’ fake beads, even spherical turquoise has some color variation which is apparent in all natural color beads (i.e. the little swirls of color variations you see, plus the beads are not all exactly the same color).

There is actually Howlite for sale on the Internet right now called “Sleeping Beauty turquoise Howlite” and is priced in the range of what you would expect to pay for turquoise. Believe me, there is no such thing as “Sleeping Beauty turquoise Howlite”. This is clearly dyed Howlite and has no actual turquoise within the stone itself.

To their credit, some sellers will actually tell you they are selling turquoise Howlite (turquoise, referring to the color in this case). Obviously this is dyed stone because Howlite is white in its natural state. If this is what you like and what you want, then by all means buy it! Buy what you are attracted to. Obviously, the seller is being honest. Just make sure you are not paying authentic turquoise prices for an inexpensive stone that has been dyed.

I receive mail frequently from people asking me to tell them if they bought “real” turquoise or not or asking me to tell them something about the turquoise they bought from a “dealer” they found online. The most recent letter was from a woman who was told she was buying Pilot Mountain turquoise. The picture she sent me was of travertine (also called Mexican Onyx) and reconstituted turquoise inlay. In reality, there was very, very little turquoise in the beads she probably paid handsomely for.

There are times when dyed Howlite or other stone dyed to resemble turquoise looks so real that the average person cannot tell. The very best way you can protect yourself from misrepresentation is to obtain written documentation of your purchase. Turquoise dealers are required by law to accurately and truthfully represent the stones they are selling. The Federal Trade Commission guidelines suggest that buyers get a receipt from the seller that includes vital information about their purchase such as the condition of the turquoise they are buying, the mine it came from and whether or not the color is natural or dyed.

If you are buying a Native American made piece of jewelry (with or without turquoise) you should also make sure you are buying the real thing by asking for the name of the person who made the piece and the name of the tribe, and get it in writing. An authentic piece of Native American made jewelry with documentation is far more valuable than a replica. A reputable dealer will not hesitate to give you this information.

A customer should always be able to trust the person who is selling to them and should be able to “get it in writing” when in doubt. Your biggest defense is to educate yourself about turquoise as much as you can and to always “get it in writing”.

Until Next Time… Rock On!

Lin Valentine

Turquoise Specialist

Copyright © 2009 Lin Valentine and The Turquoise Chick
This article may not be used without the express written permission of the author.