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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip

Question:

Hi Dale,
I have recently purchased a purple turquoise pendant drop that I want to use in a necklace. I was assured that the stone was genuine. However, in my research since the purchase, I can find no mention of purple as a natural color of turquoise. Is purple really a natural color of turquoise? Also, I have seen Howlite turquoise advertised. What is Howlite? Thanks so much–I have learned a great deal from the Daily Tip emails!

-Pat in Ringgold, Georgia

Answer:

Hey Pat, I am sorry, but there is no natural purple turquoise. Turquoise is a hydrous phosphate of copper and aluminum, both of which cause the blue to green color. The natural color of turquoise ranges from chalky white to a yellowish green. Of course this leads into "yellow" turquoise, which is a natural material, but an extremely rare form of turquoise. Most of the yellow turquoise on the market today is actually a type of jasper. Remember: If a "rare" product is inexpensive, it’s not genuine!

More than likely, what you have is actually a form of reconstituted turquoise, where the dehydrated rock was ground up and mixed with a red dyed resin, forming the purple color in a plastic reinforced product. The term "purple turquoise" has also been used as a synonym for the mineral Sugilite, but turquoise and sugilite are two totally different substances! For more information, we have a great article on Turquoise that describes the different treatments used, as well as its amazing journey through history: Turquoise, by Mary Bailey.

Howlite is an amazing mineral because it is abundant and it takes a dye really well. With a Mohs hardness of 3.5, stone carvers enjoy working with Howlite, producing all forms of small to large charms and statues. Because Howlite has black veining, it is often dyed to resemble turquoise and in its natural color it is most often misrepresented as "white turquoise" or "white buffalo turquoise". (Yes, when natural turquoise is dehydrated, it is a soft, chalky, white material, but unless it is stabilized with resin, it is impossible to work with.) The dye process is what needs to be watched; some factories will use a mixture of dye, sugar, and heat, resulting in a temporary dye that will come off in just water or on the skin. Click here to read more on howlite.

The following is just a little story from my experiences while rockhounding in the American Southwest. My husband and I met a prospector who had an unusual way of stabilizing the turquoise he dug. He collected old paint cans, loaded them halfway with dehydrated turquoise pieces, and then added a plastic resin. Then he placed the cans on old picnic tables in the desert behind his home. The natural heat from the sun added to the curing resin heat, and when the paint can tops blew off, the stabilized turquoise was ready. No kidding – it worked for him! (Don’t try this at home!)

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

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