What is Turquoise Stabilization?
We will admit that here at The Alchemy Bench, we’re a bit of turquoise snobs. This beautiful stone has such a rich and wonderful history and we believe it deserves the very best treatment (pun!). While the idea of using raw natural turquoise straight from the earth is romantic, it is not always practical, particularly for turquoise engagement rings and wedding bands which are worn daily.
As opposed to a diamond, turquoise is a relatively soft and
porous gemstone, meaning it can fracture on impact and discolor from absorbing
skin oils and chemicals. To strengthen this beautiful stone and keep it from
discoloring, most turquoise is stabilized before use. Stabilization is
particularly important for jewelry that may see a lot of wear, such as
bracelets and rings. This is not an uncommon treatment; most turquoise jewelry
is fashioned from stabilized turquoise to preserve its beauty and
The process of stabilizing turquoise begins with the natural gemstone. This stone is soaked or pressurized with a hardening solution of resin or clear epoxy. This permeates the stone with the solution, minimizing the chance that it will discolor or fracture. After the turquoise has been fully impregnated, the stone is then cut into its desired shape and polished. Stabilization allows the turquoise to take on a beautiful shine and keeps scratches at bay.
We are in full support of turquoise stabilization because it is a minimal treatment that keeps turquoise intact and looking amazing. There are a few other treatments and sneaky imposters that we feel the need to mention, since we are on the topic.
What is Turquoise Stabilization NOT
While turquoise stabilization works with the natural stone to enhance its beauty and functionality in jewelry, there are numerous other techniques that are not as accepted in the fine jewelry market. These include color treatments, reconstitution and synthetic turquoise.
Some turquoise is not the vivid blue color that many find so appealing. In fact, turquoise ranges from dark to light and green to blue depending on the presence of iron and/or copper and other minerals in the surrounding ground. While these colors are all beautiful, most seek turquoise that is the quintessential “blue with a slight touch of green” color. In order to reach this demand, some will add blue coloring to the stabilization resin. Other dyes can be added to create a truly unique type of “turquoise” – such as purple turquoise. While there is nothing inherently wrong with dyed turquoise, we believe it is important for the customer to be aware of the treatment it has undergone.
Below is an example of purple dyed turquoise. It is a beautiful stone, but it is not natural turquoise. This was being sold at a rock and mineral show as "[insert fancy name] turquoise." The phrase "color enhanced" or "dyed" was never mentioned and we believe this is a little misleading to consumers.
Turquoise stabilization is not the same as reconstituted turquoise at all. Reconstituted turquoise is little bits of leftover turquoise ground up, mixed with glue and molded to form new “turquoise.” To put it in perspective, imagine you are hosting two dinner parties in a row. For the first, you serve delicious high-quality steak. (The steak is the turquoise in this metaphor.) Perhaps you marinate it first to enhance the flavor. This is stabilization. Now imagine at the end of the meal you scrape the bits of fat and uneaten pieces from each plate into a grinder, mix the ground-up beef in with some dough to bind it all together, press it into steak-shaped molds and serve those “steaks” at the second dinner party. This is reconstitution. Some may not notice the difference, while others would be horrified. The same is true of reconstituted turquoise. It is a great way to make very affordable turquoise jewelry, but it has no place in the fine jewelry market.
Dyed Non-Turquoise Stones
This technique is exactly what it sounds like; another stone, such as howlite, is dyed to look like turquoise. At least the base material is a natural product of the earth in this case, but it’s important for the consumer to be aware of this. Generally, if you’re dying another stone to look like turquoise, you’re not going to tell the consumer that it is not really turquoise, and that is where the danger lies.
Block Turquoise (i.e. Synthetic Turquoise)
Block turquoise is at the very bottom of the turquoise quality spectrum, because it is not actually turquoise. This is a completely synthetic material that some try to pass off as reconstituted turquoise (because there is no way you could pass this off as real turquoise.) Be very wary of those “great turquoise deals!”
See the image below? That is a string of authentic turquoise beads next to a few synthetic turquoise beads. Notice how the synthetic beads almost look like Play-Doh, with swirling colors to give them the illusion of a natural stone. The plastic beads are so obviously fake (to most people) that few would try to pass them off as real turquoise, but it is good to see the stark comparison nevertheless. More sophisticated techniques can make fake turquoise look more like the real thing, so be careful out there!
We hope you learned some new information about turquoise. As a fun exercise, take some time to scope out the turquoise jewelry during your next shopping adventure. See if you can tell fine turquoise from reconstituted or synthetic turquoise. (Hint: The price is a good indicator!) At The Alchemy Bench, all of our displayed turquoise rings are crafted from stabilized turquoise. Please be aware that this does NOT guarantee that your turquoise will never crack or discolor. Please read our jewelry care guidelines to ensure your turquoise wedding rings remain brilliant.