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Turquoise is a gemstone known for thousands of years, so a lot of fakes have appeared during that long history. Fake turquoise was already known to ancient Egyptians who used blue glass or ceramic to imitate robin’s-egg blue valuable gemstone.
The main differences between real and fake turquoise are an inhomogeneous concentration of color and the presence of white spots and zones. Conchoidal fractures are typical for glass-made fakes. Plastic fakes are soft and warm to the touch.
Turquoise is so rare now that most probably all the materials available on the market are stabilized and dyed low-quality turquoise or simply fakes. We will discover what kinds of turquoise should be called fake and the difference between imitation, synthetic, and treated material. And the most crucial part is how to differentiate between real and fake turquoise and where to buy genuine turquoise.
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How to Tell if Turquoise is Real
Real turquoise is an aggregate of tiny crystals. They are so closely packed that gemstone looks opaque and even. Real turquoise has an evenly distributed greenish blue color without any concentrations. It has no white spots and is cold to the touch. The color can not be removed by acetone or scratched away.
Turquoise is semitranslucent to an opaque compound of hydrated copper and aluminum phosphate (CuAl6(PO4)4(OH)8.5 H2O). The most highly praised quality of the stone is its consistent, intense, medium blue color. However, turquoise also occurs in greenish blue and avocado hues.
Turquoise is highly valued for its combination of ancient heritage and striking color. It was known to the rulers of ancient Egypt, Aztecs, Native Americans, and Chinese people for over 3,000 years.
With such a long history and few sources, turquoise fakes have flooded the market since ancient times. The most popular turquoise imitation is plastic and glass.
However, today there are many sophisticated turquoise imitations that are hard to distinguish from natural turquoise with the naked eye only. Therefore, state-of-the-art spectroscopic methods are used to tell apart real and fake turquoise.
First of all, let’s clarify the terminology. The main goal of this clarification is to show that two terms usually confuse people. They are “stabilized turquoise” and “reconstructed turquoise.”
The stabilized turquoise is a treated real turquoise. This is the natural material impregnated with polymers to improve the porosity of real gemstones.
On the other hand, the reconstructed turquoise term is considered misleading because it often contains no turquoise at all. Reconstructed turquoise is a mixture of powdered minerals dyed and bonded with plastic or epoxy resin. This is a fake.
Turquoise imitations made of other natural minerals only meet turquoise color and texture. They are also described as fakes as they don’t contain parts of real turquoise.
Synthetic turquoise is a material that fully corresponds to the chemical composition of real turquoise. We will also consider it fakes, as the material can be mistaken for real turquoise without proper disclosure of artificial origin. And, of course, the material made of plastic, resin, polymer, glass, and so on are fakes.
What Does Real Turquoise Look Like
Real turquoise is an opaque gemstone with intense neon blue color and often with limonite or sandstone matrix in the form of splotches or veins resembling a spider web. In a polished state, it has a waxy luster. Real turquoise never has white zones or spots and sparkling glassy luster.
The understanding turquoise formation can give you a clue about real vs. fake stone identification. Unlike minerals like rubies, sapphires, diamonds, and emeralds created due to metamorphic, volcanic, and metasomatic processes requiring severe temperature and pressure conditions, turquoise forms near the surface.
It 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. Therefore turquoise often contains matrix or country rocks where turquoise veins were formed.
Always pay attention to turquoise texture and matrices. The more natural it looks, the more chances that the stone is real.
BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
Does Real Turquoise Have White Spots
Real turquoise has no white spots as it is an aggregate of tiny blue-colored crystals that sometimes have an orange to a dark-brown matrix.
White spots signify other minerals like magnesite or howlite, dyed to imitate the turquoise. White spots indicate places where the blue dye was not able to penetrate.
TIP: Tumbled turquoise is even more beautiful than the natural one. So what about tumbling turquoise on your own? Find out more about how expensive rock tumbling can be in the article below:
Is Rock Tumbling Expensive? Complete Cost Breakdown
How to Spot Fake Turquoise Stone
There are so many sophisticated turquoise fakes, so the best way to spot a fake is to ask for professional gemologist help. Green or yellowish colors are not indicators of fake, as turquoise can occur in variations of green and blue.
For example, iron causes the turquoise to appear greenish blue, while copper creates the more desirable pure blue color.
To spot a fake turquoise, inspect your sample for white spots, which signify a fake. Pay attention to holes of a bead – the conchoidal fracture is a sign of glass fakes. A repetitive pattern of a matrix, a lightweight, and a warm-to-the-touch surface are indicators of fakes.
Further, you can find a table where you can pay attention to non-destructive features to spot a fake by visual observation only. And for those who like practical experiments, there are some guides that require a fracture of material to be sacrificed.
What Does Fake Turquoise Look Like
After hundreds of years of fake turquoise manufacturer attempts, we can say that fake turquoise looks identical to the real.
Sophisticated fakes have similar color, texture, luster, and matrix. Some commonly distributed fakes, however, have some characteristic features. We are going to shed light on them.
Fake turquoise is too perfect and evenly blue colored. It may have a repetitive matrix pattern, usually of even dark-gray color.
Sometimes glass-made fakes have a shiny, glassy luster and conchoidal fractures. Fakes made of other dyed minerals can have white spots and zones of dye concentrations.
Examples of Fake Turquoise
The most widespread examples of fake turquoise are plastic and glass. Other widespread turquoise fakes are dyed howlite and marcasite minerals. Variscite and chrysocolla are natural minerals usually used as turquoise substitutions. There is also synthetic Gilson turquoise and numerous polymer fakes.
Plastic is the most common turquoise fake. The composition, texture, color, presence or absence of matrix and hardness can vary dramatically.
Therefore, it is hard to spot plastic when it is mounted in jewelry. However, scratch and hot needle tests can spot even mounted specimens.
Fakes made of glass characteristics can also vary. Glass can imitate the waxy luster of turquoise. It can be opaque and mimic porous texture.
Glass can even be beautifully carved to imitate turquoise carving. Look for conchoidal fractures and bubbles that help spot this type of fake.
Magnesite and howlite imitations
Magnesite and howlite are natural white opaque minerals that are beautiful on their own. However, they are widely used to imitate turquoise.
They are dyed to match the authentic turquoise colors. Low penetration of dye helps spot these types of fakes. It can be removed by acetone or scratched away.
Synthetic turquoise and natural blue minerals
Synthetic Gilson turquoise matches real turquoise’s chemical composition, color, transparency, and luster. Therefore, it is impossible to distinguish this type of fake with an unaided eye.
Variscite occurs in bright green colors, so it’s an ideal substituent for green turquoise. Chrysocolla is also an excellent imitation of blue turquoise; however, it sometimes can have white and red inclusions that are not typical for turquoise.
TIP: By making your own sea glass, you can have much more significant quantities to craft with or use in the garden. Check out how to do it in the article below:
Step-by-Step: Making Sea Glass With & Without Rock Tumbler
Main Differences Between Real and Fake Turquoise
The main difference between real and fake turquoise is the presence of white spots, specific gravity differences, and the ability to withstand hot needle and acetone tests. Fakes have white spots and can be lighter and warmer to the touch. They can be melted and revealed by a cloth soaked in acetone.
This is the table of characteristic properties that can help you to tell apart between real and fake turquoise. The table is divided into two parts.
The first one is non-destructive and is limited by observation only.
|Characteristic Property||Real Turquoise||Fake Turquoise|
|Luster||Luster is waxy for quality turquoise and dull for the lower quality gemstone.||Glassy luster is a characteristic of fake turquoise made of glass.|
|Fracture||Real turquoise has an uneven fracture.||Fakes made of glass have a conchoidal fracture.|
|Texture||Real textures are never repetitive.||Fake turquoise made of polymers and plastic can have repetitive texture or matrix patterns.|
|Matrix color||The color of a real turquoise matrix slightly changes its color within a mineral sample. As it is composed of limonite or sandstone, the color and thickness of the vein vary somewhat.||Manufacturers of fake turquoise ignore the matrix and only add a dye of plain gray, black, or brown color to imitate veins.|
|Presence of white spots||White color is not typical for real turquoise.||The white color is a sign of dyed howlite or marcasite. It can be observed in holes of beads or near the chips.|
|Concentrations of blue color between lighter mineral grains.||This is atypical for real turquoise and indicates fake or dyed turquoise.||Can be visible under magnification and are a sign of treatment.|
|Touch test||Real turquoise is cold to the touch and has a noticeable weight.||Fakes made of plastic are warm to the touch and are lighter than expected from a real stone.|
TIP: Being fluent in mineral properties gives the opportunity to identify any kind of mineral. Check out the all mineral properties with explanation in the article below:
Guide: All Rock & Mineral Properties Explained by Expert
The second part is for those who like experiments and can partly damage a stone.
|Characteristic Property||Real Turquoise||Fake Turquoise|
|Hot needle test||No reaction||If the stone starts to melt and black smoke is released, the gemstone is a plastic-made fake.|
|Scratch test||Mineral stays blue after the surface is scratched by a knife, foil, or a harder mineral.||In case scratching reveals white color – the stone is fake.|
|Acetone test (nail polish remover)||After rubbing a real turquoise with a cloth soaked in acetone, no color should be removed.||Blue color can be removed from the stone surface, or at least some color will be left on a cloth.|
|Crushing the rough||Bluish-green color from the surface continues to the gemstone interior.||The color is confined to the shallow outer layer. The Interior of the stone is white.|
Where to Buy Real Turquoise
Real turquoise is a truly rare gemstone. Historical deposits in Iran and Egypt are exploited, and turquoise comes mainly from two locations. They are Southwestern US (including the famous Sleeping Beauty mine in Globe, Arizona) and China’s Hubei Province.
The best way to buy real turquoise is to contact suppliers from the deposit. The southwestern US and China’s Hubei Province are the world’s largest producers. In a retail store, always ask a seller about turquoise origin. Unfortunately, online platforms are insecure places for buying until you are sure about a seller.
Another good place to buy genuine turquoise is mineral shows, where you can observe the material and communicate with the seller.
It’s always better to buy from a family business and sellers focused exclusively on turquoise. Always ask about the origin and presence of possible treatments. It will help to avoid disappointment.
TIP: Turquoise is an extremely valuable gemstone. It is one of the oldest gemstones known to humanity. Find out more about value of turquoise in the article below:
3 Key Factors of Turquoise Value: Is It Worth Any Money?
Turquoise is a spectacular and rare gemstone with dozens of possible fakes. They are imitations made of natural and dyed minerals, synthetic analogs, plastic and glass substituents, and polymer bonded mineral powders.
There are many sophisticated turquoise fakes. To be sure whether the gemstone is real turquoise or not, it is better to send it to a gemological laboratory or consult with your local jeweler.
Some common fakes made of plastic or glass can be spotted by the new non-destructive observations:
- Luster. Shiny, glassy luster is a sign of a fake.
- Fracture. Conchoidal fractures near the bead hole or on the cabochon girdle are characteristic of fakes made of glass.
- Texture. Repetitive patterns of texture are a sign of plastic or reconstructed turquoise fakes.
- Matrix color. Even gray matrix color and uniform size of matrix veins are indicators of fakes.
- Presence of white spots. White colors in turquoise are signals of fakes made of dyed magnesite or howlite.
- Concentrations of blue color between lighter mineral grains. This phenomenon says about dyeing.
- Touch test. The touch test can separate plastic fakes from natural turquoise by the surface’s warmth and the stone’s weight.
Additionally, some destructive methods of fake identification can be applied if you are working with rough turquoise.
- A hot needle test will separate plastic fakes.
- A scratch test can identify dying.
- Acetone test (nail polish remover) also reveals dying.
- Crushing the rough will determine whether the stone is made of dyed marcasite or howlite or is genuine.
Pay attention to all the properties and find your perfect-colored genuine turquoise.
TIP: Turquoise is generally found in dry climates and forms in sedimentary or volcanic rocks through a chemical reaction. Check out the best locations where to find turquoise in the United States in the article below:
Finding Turquoise: 8 Best Locations Near Me (United States)