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Value of Turquoise Jewelry

Value of Turquoise
By G. Shultz (Owner of Turquoise Buffalo)

Much has been written about the composition of turquoise, the history of turquoise in the United States and throughout the world. I want to take you a step beyond. The information presented here will help you learn what makes a piece of turquoise from a particular mine more valuable than another stone from that same mine. Much has been written about the value of turquoise from various mines with the assumption that all the stones from each mine are of equal value.

There has been very little written to explain that every mine has produced variations of color ranging from light green to dark blue, and also stone of various grades or quality. People have talked about Lander Blue as the most valuable turquoise today selling for an average price of $80.00 per carat. I have seen a lot of Lander Blue that I would not set in jewelry if it were given to me. On the other hand I have seen pieces of Lander Blue that I would almost give my right arm for.

People have described those things that determine the value of turquoise as hardness, rarity, of the stone and “zat”. Believe me, “zat” is everything. But what is “zat?” It has been said that it is the eye appeal of the stone. I define “zat” as not only eye appeal but also the character of the stone. One of the most important factors, to me, is how hard nature had to work to produce a particular piece. Look at the sky when it is very clear without a single cloud as compared to a sky with some clouds or those great bellowing white thunderheads with a beautiful background. Look at the same sky with a magnificent sunrise or sunset.

Look at a body of water when you can’t see below the surface compared to crystal clear water you can see deep into. Add a few fish or plants to provide depth of field or some fern and look at the difference.

We can look at turquoise the same way. For example, Blue Lander has a spider web matrix that is dark brown or nearly black with small nodules of turquoise which are a deep blue color. Without the spider web matrix, the stone would be pretty, but the small nodules or turquoise intertwined with the host rock provide dimension and character. A piece of turquoise with variations of color and matrix provides a piece one can look at a long time and sometimes visualize the images of clouds in the sky, a bird, a mountain or one of the rarest, a fern appearance know as dendrite. Some pieces provide the appearance of many small pools of water. One of the rarest sights of all is when vivid green and blue are created in the same host stone.

Shown below are stones from some turquoise mines demonstrating at least three grades of quality. The various factors reflecting in each stone are highlighted to help you to understand the variations of price value between these grades.

Blue Gem Turquoise

Light Blue Solid Color Light blue Matrix Dark Blue, Mata
Light Blue color
Typical of Blue Gem
Light blue color Rare dark blue
Excellent cut and finish Small amount of black matrix Enough matrix to add character
Low Grade Medium Grade High Grade

 

King’s Turquoise

Uniform green throughout Creamy green
Darker green
Matrix
Matrix
Dark Cream Green
Darker Green
Beautiful finish Combinations of color in turquoise and matrix provides greater interest The combination of green colors and the finish on this stone provides eye appeal.
Good Color   The combination of color is more rare
Low Grade Medium Grade High Grade

 

Number 8 Turquoise

(Number 8 is in great demand throughout the world.)

Typical #8 Blue Matrix Brown Light Tan Material Light Blue Dark Blue Small nodules of turquoise surrounded by matrix creates spider web appearance
Attractive Stone Variations of color provide more interest Small tight nodules of turquoise are rare in #8
Good Finish Most common form or typical #8 formation Good finish Vivid variation of color Eye Appeal and Spider web increase the value
Low Grade Medium Grade High Grade

 

Royston Turquoise (Blue)

Matrix Light Blue Green Streaks Blue-Green Strong Hard Matrix. Flecks of lighter matrix. Vivid Example of host stone Individual nodules of turquoise Light Green
Nice Color Color combinations along with variations of matrix provide depth perception Beautiful Deep color Various shades of green and brown provide great interest.The color along with a variety of matrix give this stone great eye appeal and interest.
Outstanding Finish Outstanding Finish This combinations is quite rare in Royston turquoise
Low Grade Medium Grade High Grade

 

Royston Turquoise (Green)

Strong green color Matrix hard and soft Strong green White Matrix adds character Strong Green Typical Matrix Mild Green, Brown tone
Typical Royston Green Clean well shaped edges High Gloss Finish Typical Royston Green Matrix shows host stone Matrix adds character and interest Typical Royston green turquoise fading into blue-green.Color variations mixed with matrix add depth and character
Lacks Depth White adds more character This combinations is quite rare in Royston turquoise
Low Grade Medium Grade High Grade

 

White Buffalo Turquoise

  Black, Grey, White Pink, Grey, White, Black, Yellow
This stone is hard Edges rounded nicely Top grade finish This stone is more interesting Has character More variations of color Greater character
Lacking character No depth perception More interest due to variations of color Excellent finish Five colors very rare Excellent Finish
Low Grade Medium Grade High Grade

 

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?

BUYING TURQUOISE

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 very slim.

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 true value.

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.

ABOUT 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 about Turquoise,

G. Shultz

Owner of Turquoise Buffalo Gallery in Sedona, Arizona and online at Turquoisebuffalo.com