Now that you have a
better understanding about the variations of the stone nature has
created let us look at the next factor affecting quality. The turquoise
must be separated from the host rock. This is done by sawing the stone
to expose and remove the turquoise. Then it is cut into slabs. The
slabs of turquoise are then laid upon a thin coat of epoxy backing
material. The process was developed by Bill King of Manassa, Colorado
many years ago. This process provides backing for the stone. Thinner
pieces of turquoise can be used and the finishing process is easier.
After the backing hardens individual stones are cut. The turquoise is
then ground and polished.
The entire process is an
art in itself. Some people become very good at it with considerable
experience. Some people cut stones all their lives and never produce
high quality finish. The quality of the cut and the polish of turquoise
has a great deal to do with the value of the stone. The finish can
affect the final value up to ten times. Just think, the same quality of
turquoise when not well finished may well be worth $1.00 per carat and
the same stone with an outstanding finish may be worth $10.00 a carat.
Another factor affecting
the value is hardness of the matrix which is usually softer than the
turquoise. Will the matrix soften and crumble over time, leaving voids
in the stone or will the matrix be there for the life of the piece?
Turquoise mined, cut and polished in natural, untreated form is
estimated to be only about 10 percent of the total produced. Only three
to five percent can be considered “high grade.” A
good percentage of the mined turquoise can be stabilized or treated to
enhance the value and make it usable in jewelry. The remainder of the
turquoise mined is considered to be too soft or chalky to be enhanced.
This stone is ground and mixed with epoxy to form
“reconstituted turquoise”. This reconstituted stone
is used in costume jewelry which is quite prolific on the market today.
It requires a great amount of training and experience to discern
between natural and treated turquoise. Stone enhancement processes
become increasingly sophisticated or simply improve daily. Since 90
percent of the turquoise on the market today is enhanced or
reconstituted, it becomes more difficult for the buyer to determine
“high grade” and buy with confidence. This can be
more easily understood if we look at what has happened to the diamond
business as synthetics have become more prolific. It has become more
and more difficult for the untrained eye to determine what a real or
high grade diamond is. Buying a “high grade” or
“high quality” diamond from other than a reputable
dealer is like trying to find the needle in a haystack. The odds are
The same applies to buying turquoise. Many reputable turquoise jewelry
dealers sell enhanced or reconstituted stone as well as natural. Most
salespeople working in the stores selling turquoise jewelry have
little, if any, knowledge of turquoise quality. If you buy from road
side stands worked by Indians, department stores, drug stores, souvenir
shops, the odds of you getting a high grade stone are slim and none.
If you want to obtain quality turquoise go to knowledgeable, reputable
dealers and expect the price to be in direct proportion to the quality.
And remember no one knowingly sells a quality stone for less than its
When you shop at Turquoise Buffalo you can depend on getting what you
pay for. The salespeople receive training in turquoise quality. They
are also taught not to attempt to deceive the customer. Each stone has
been carefully examined, evaluated and priced by the owner.
OUR INDIAN HAND MADE TURQUOISE JEWELRY
Our stones are
selected from the highest grade turquoise found anywhere.
Each stone is cut to
maximize its appearance and value.
No two stones are
alike, each one is unique.
Each stone is
selected for a particular piece of jewelry.
Jewelry style is
determined to best compliment the high grade turquoise.
All of the jewelry made by our highly skilled Navajo silversmith, Oliver Smith, is made with natural turquoise. He creates highly prized individual, unique, one-of-a-kind jewelry for the Turquoise Buffalo.
Thank you for learning
Owner of Turquoise Buffalo Gallery in Sedona, Arizona
and online at Turquoisebuffalo.com