Following is a summary of the types of turquoise, or things that look like turquoise, being used in the jewelry market today.
Natural, straight out of the ground non-treated turquoise
Turquoise is hard enough to be considered a gemstone, but it is comparatively soft. Turquoise of this quality is hard and stable enough to be cut with no form of treatment. It is extremely rare to find turquoise of this quality in today’s market. Only 1-2% of turquoise mined is in this category, and it is very expensive.
Genuine stabilized turquoise
When turquoise is mined, it is generally too soft and brittle to sustain being cut, shaped, and polished for use in jewelry. Sometimes turquoise is mined in large chunks straight out of the ground, but it needs to undergo a process that allows it to be cut into cabs and beads, so the turquoise has to first be stabilized. This method involves filling the tiny porous parts of the turquoise under pressure and slowly filling it with a clear stabilizing agent like epoxy or acrylic. This process takes weeks to achieve. The result is a harder stable material that can be cut and polished to a beautiful shine. Sometimes smaller pieces are also stabilized, and are usually done so by forming them together in a ‘brick’ of turquoise that fuses the genuine pieces together, and stabilizes them. This allows larger slabs of turquoise to be cut into beautiful ‘statement’ pieces.
Genuine stabilized turquoise, color enhanced
This is the same as the above; however during the stabilizing process coloring agents that are compatible with the stabilizing materials are added to obtain a color of turquoise that does not naturally exist. Lime green turquoise and purple turquoise are examples of this.