Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Turquoise for Decembers birthstone

I have always been drawn to a more hand crafted style of jewelry, which is why I think I have always stayed away from the traditional birthstones, and the traditional settings. Growing up, I remember traditionally, blue topaz as the birthstone of December. Until I started researching for this post. I had intended on writing about turquoise being the non-traditional birthstone for December, but the more I read, the more it appears that turquoise has been considered the traditional birthstone for some time now. When I discovered that there are in fact non-traditional birthstones, it was very exciting to me. It allowed me to wear my "birthstone", and be the unique individual that I am and not look like my jewelry had been stamped out of a catalog.

It is said that turquoise gets it name because it was brought to Europe by way of Turkey. It was considered by ancients to be a sacred stone, protecting the wearer from evil. It was also one of the first stones used in jewelry. Turquoise is the stone of communication and great friendship. Giving a gift of turquoise is the sign of a true friend.

You will see turquoise sold in many different ways - natural, stabilized, enhanced, and reconstituted(pressed) - natural being the most expensive.

Stabilized turquoise: Turquoise can be very porous and fragile depending on the source. This involves soaking the rough material in an artificial resin or impregnating it with wax, to improve its color, to harden its surface for cutting or to maintain its appearance and strength over time. American turquoise is very porous and quite crumbly to work with, so it is nearly always stabilized or coated in some way.

Enhanced turquoise:Means just that - the color of the turquoise has been enhanced. Oil, paraffin or copper salt are used to improve color and luster,most times only leaving temporary results. One way to check for enhancement is to look inside the holes of beads or scratch the turquoise with a sharp point the interior of the bead or scratch mark will be a lighter color than the exterior.

Reconstructed or pressed turquoise: (very common)Turquoise powder and small chips are bonded with liquid plastic resin, dyed and then baked. Once the material is solid, it is cut in the same way as natural turquoise and can be dyed to various colors, including the expensive dark blues and sky blues. One way to tell for sure is by heating a small piece of turquoise. It will produce the sharp odor of burnt plastic.

Unless you are looking for the just the 'turquoise color' - don't be fooled by imposters. You will see dyed howlite, dyed magnesite, and dyed resin being passed off as turquoise. There is a heft and 'glassy' feel to howlite. The veins in howlite can be too regular as well. Magnesite can be a tough one to distinguish from turquoise. It can be light weight like turquoise and 'waxy' as well. The one quick way to know is the price. If you are getting big chunks or slabs of 'turquoise' and it is below 20 bucks - most likely it isn't. Turquoise is sold by the gram by most vendors who have the real thing.

Two great places to get turquoise on line is Rings & Things and Art Beads. They tell you exactly what you are getting, and they are priced just right.

Here are some great examples from Rings & Things

Bead, Gemstone, 8-12mm Nugget (Chinese Turquoise)*

Bead, Gemstone, Nugget, Medium (Turquoise) *

A great selection from Art Beads -

Irregular Stabilized Chinese Turquoise Heishi Beads *

Irregular Stabilized Turquoise Flat Pear Drops *

So many ways to showcase turquoise -

Accented with bali style spacers and crystals on sterling

Like a strand of turquoise pearls.

Classically strung with coral

As a focal for a pendant

Have fun with your designs. It is not your mothers turquoise anymore. No more set in heavy silver, or on thick wrist bands. Let your imagination run!!

*FTC compliance disclosure: the '*' items mentioned in this post credited to Rings & Things and Art Beads were not provided as a promotional gift or for review. These are only examples of items that can be purchased online to give the readers a source for their beading needs. Permission was given by Rings & Things and Art Beads to use their images in this post.

1 comment:

  1. Nice resource for those looking to wow a December baby -- like me :)

    at Rings & Things