“Is your turquoise stabilized?” This is a question I get asked all the time. Many people are actually proud of the fact that they will refuse to buy turquoise that has been stabilized, only to go to another store or vendor and purchase turquoise that has been stabilized. Yep, you read that right. They end up buying stabilized turquoise elsewhere, thinking they are getting “natural” turquoise just because someone told them it was natural.
Surprisingly, there are also many people who believe the myth that stabilized turquoise is a bad thing or means you are getting fake or dyed turquoise. This is not always the case, but you can be fooled if you are not careful.
Stabilized does not mean dyed, it means the color has been stabilized, but you DO need to be very careful. Armed with a little bit of information, you can protect yourself against buying turquoise that is not the real deal.
In truth, *about 97% of all (I’m not kidding… all) turquoise on the market today is stabilized. Stabilization is necessary in order to maintain the beautiful color of your turquoise and harden the stone. Turquoise changes color over time because it gradually absorbs oils from the skin as it is worn and as it comes into constant contact with the natural elements. The colors in stabilized turquoise, however, are permanent. The color is stabilized.
Another reason for stabilizing turquoise is that turquoise is a relatively soft stone. Stabilizing hardens the stone so we can easily cut and drill it. (By drilling I mean the little hole we put in the bead so you can string it.) The hardness of gemstones is measured on what is called the Mohs (sounds like hose only with an M) hardness scale measuring from 1 to 10. As a comparison, diamonds are a 10 on this scale; turquoise is a 5 or 6.
Now here is where some of the mis-information comes in. Many people associate stabilization with dying and treating the stone. We (meaning our shop) stabilize our turquoise under pressure using a clear organic process that absorbs into the rock, permanently hardening it and deepening its color. Sort of the way a sponge turns a darker color when you put water on it. We use a proprietary colorless process, meaning we created our own closely guarded formula that organically stabilizes without the use of dyes. All of our turquoise beads are natural color and you will get that in writing when you purchase from us.
Just so you know… it is during the stabilization process than many other processors use dyes to color the stone to make it more blue, which provides a higher perceived value to the stone. In other words, it is very easy to take a stone that is not turquoise (like Howlite for instance) and make it look like turquoise to an unsuspecting buyer. It is also easy to enhance cheap turquoise to make it look like the more expensive Sleeping Beauty turquoise or other American mined turquoise. Those who dye and enhance turquoise know that American turquoise is more valuable and a true investment turquoise that has steadily increased in value over the years, and they know they can put a higher price tag on their turquoise, thinking you won’t know the difference.
If you prefer natural color turquoise, my advice is that you make sure if you are buying stabilized turquoise that the process did not include dyes of any kind. Stabilized does not mean “dyed“. This is another misconception floating around in the public domain. When in doubt about anything during your turquoise purchase, insist on getting it in writing from the seller. Ask them to certify the turquoise as natural (not stabilized and not dyed) or natural color turquoise (stabilized but not dyed or enhanced in any way). You can see some examples of dyed turquoise on our website at http://www.theturquoisechick.com/examples.htm to help you discern your purchases online or in person.
Also, please check out our reference guide to the five kinds of turquoise as described by law available on our website. Here is the link: http://www.theturquoisechick.com/kinds.htm Remember, knowledge is the best way to protect yourself when buying turquoise online or otherwise.
Until next time…
Copyright © 2011 Lin Valentine and Southwest Turquoise
This article may not be used without the express written permission of the author.