Turquoise

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Turquoise
Turquoise-40031.jpg
General
Category Phosphate minerals
Formula
(repeating unit)
CuAl6(PO4)4(OH)8·4H2O
IMA symbol Tqu [1]
Strunz classification 8.DD.15
Crystal system Triclinic
Crystal class Pinacoidal (1)
(same H–M symbol)
Identification
Colour Turquoise, blue, blue-green, green
Crystal habit Massive, nodular
Cleavage Perfect on {001}, good on {010}, but cleavage rarely seen
Fracture Conchoidal
Mohs scale hardness5–6
Luster Waxy to subvitreous
Streak Bluish white
Specific gravity 2.6–2.9
Optical propertiesBiaxial (+)
Refractive index nα = 1.610
nβ = 1.615
nγ = 1.650
Birefringence +0.040
Pleochroism Weak
Fusibility Fusible in heated HCl
Solubility Soluble in HCl
References [2] [3] [4]

Turquoise is an opaque, blue-to-green mineral that is a hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminium, with the chemical formula Cu Al 6(PO4)4(OH)8·4H2O . It is rare and valuable in finer grades and has been prized as a gemstone and ornamental stone for thousands of years owing to its unique hue. Like most other opaque gems, turquoise has been devalued by the introduction of treatments, imitations and synthetics into the market. The robin's egg blue or sky blue color of the Persian turquoise mined near the modern city of Nishapur in Iran has been used as a guiding reference for evaluating turquoise quality. [5]

Contents

Names

The word turquoise dates to the 17th century and is derived from the French turquois meaning "Turkish" because the mineral was first brought to Europe through the Ottoman Empire. [6] [3] [4] [7] [8] However, according to Etymonline, the word dates to the 14th century with the form turkeis, meaning "Turkish", which was replaced with turqueise from French in the 1560s. According to the same source, the gemstone was first brought to Europe from Turkestan or another Turkish territory. [9] Pliny the Elder referred to the mineral as callais (from Ancient Greek κάλαϊς) and the Aztecs knew it as chalchihuitl. [7]

Properties

The finest of turquoise reaches a maximum Mohs hardness of just under 6, or slightly more than window glass. [3] Characteristically a cryptocrystalline mineral, turquoise almost never forms single crystals, and all of its properties are highly variable. X-ray diffraction testing shows its crystal system to be triclinic. [4] [10] With lower hardness comes greater porosity. [11] The lustre of turquoise is typically waxy to subvitreous, and its transparency is usually opaque, but may be semitranslucent in thin sections. Colour is as variable as the mineral's other properties, ranging from white to a powder blue to a sky blue and from a blue-green to a yellowish green. The blue is attributed to idiochromatic copper [12] while the green may be the result of iron impurities (replacing copper.) [13] :29

The refractive index of turquoise varies from 1.61 to 1.65 on the three crystal axes, with birefringence 0.040, biaxial positive, as measured from rare single crystals. [2]

Crushed turquoise is soluble in hot hydrochloric acid. [11] Its streak is white to greenish to blue, and its fracture is smooth to conchoidal. [4] Despite its low hardness relative to other gems, turquoise takes a good polish. Turquoise may also be peppered with flecks of pyrite or interspersed with dark, spidery limonite veining.

Turquoise is nearly always cryptocrystalline and massive and assumes no definite external shape. Crystals, even at the microscopic scale, are rare. Typically the form is a vein or fracture filling, nodular, or botryoidal in habit. [2] Stalactite forms have been reported. Turquoise may also pseudomorphously replace feldspar, apatite, other minerals, or even fossils. Odontolite is fossil bone or ivory that has historically been thought to have been altered by turquoise or similar phosphate minerals such as the iron phosphate vivianite. Intergrowth with other secondary copper minerals such as chrysocolla is also common. Turquoise is distinguished from chrysocolla, the only common mineral with similar properties, by its greater hardness. [2]

Turquoise forms a complete solid solution series with chalcosiderite, CuFe6(PO4)4(OH)8·4H2O, in which ferric iron replaces aluminium. [2]

Formation

"Big Blue", a large turquoise specimen from the copper mine at Cananea, Sonora, Mexico Big turquoise from Cananea.jpg
"Big Blue", a large turquoise specimen from the copper mine at Cananea, Sonora, Mexico

Turquoise deposits probably form in more than one way. [14] However, a typical turquoise deposit begins with hydrothermal deposition of copper sulfides. This takes place when hydrothermal fluids leach copper from a host rock, which is typically an intrusion of calc-alkaline rock with a moderate to high silica content that is relatively oxidized. The copper is redeposited in more concentrated form as a copper porphyry, in which veins of copper sulfide fill joints and fractures in the rock. Deposition takes place mostly in the potassic alteration zone, which is characterized by conversion of existing feldspar to potassium feldspar and deposition of quartz and micas at a temperature of 400–600 °C (752–1,112 °F) [4] [15] [16]

Turquoise is a secondary or supergene mineral, not present in the original copper porphyry. [4] It forms when meteoric water (rain or snow melt infiltrating the Earth's surface) percolates through the copper porphyry. Dissolved oxygen in the water oxidizes the copper sulfides to soluble sulfates, and the acidic, copper-laden solution then reacts with aluminum and potassium minerals in the host rock to precipitate turquoise. [17] This typically fills veins in volcanic rock or phosphate-rich sediments. [4] Deposition usually takes place at a relatively low temperature, 90–195 °C (194–383 °F), and seems to occur more readily in arid environments. [17]

Turquoise in the Sinai Peninsula is found in lower Carboniferous sandstones overlain by basalt flows and upper Carboniferous limestone. The overlying beds were presumably the source of the copper, which precipitated as turquoise in nodules, horizontal seams, or vertical joints in the sandstone beds. The classical Iranian deposits are found in sandstones and limestones of Tertiary age were intruded by apatite-rich porphyritic trachytes and mafic rock. Supergene alteration fractured the rock and converted some of the minerals in the rock to alunite, which freed aluminum and phosphate to combine with copper from oxidized copper sulfides to form turquoise. This process took place at a relatively shallow depth, and by 1965 the mines had "bottomed" at a depth averaging just 9 meters (30 ft) below the surface. [17]

Turquoise deposits are widespread in North America. Some deposits, such as those of Saguache and Conejos Counties in Colorado [17] or the Cerrillos Hills in New Mexico, [18] are typical supergene deposits formed from copper porphyries. The deposits in Cochise County, Arizona, are found in Cambrian quartzites and geologically young granites and go down at least as deep as 54 meters (177 ft). [17]

Occurrence

Massive Kingman blue turquoise in matrix with quartz from the Mineral Park mine, Arizona, US Turquoise with quartz.jpg
Massive Kingman blue turquoise in matrix with quartz from the Mineral Park mine, Arizona, US

Turquoise was among the first gems to be mined, and many historic sites have been depleted, though some are still worked to this day. These are all small-scale operations, often seasonal owing to the limited scope and remoteness of the deposits. Most are worked by hand with little or no mechanization. However, turquoise is often recovered as a byproduct of large-scale copper mining operations, especially in the United States.[ citation needed ]

Turquoise of Madan-e Olya of Nishapur Turquoise of Nishapur - village of Ma'dan 14.JPG
Turquoise of Madan-e Olya of Nishapur

Deposits typically take the form of small veins in partially decomposed volcanic rock in arid climates. [2]

Iran

Iran has been an important source of turquoise for at least 2,000 years. It was initially named by Iranians "pērōzah" meaning "victory", and later the Arabs called it "fayrūzah", which is pronounced in Modern Persian as "fīrūzeh". In Iranian architecture, the blue turquoise was used to cover the domes of palaces because its intense blue colour was also a symbol of heaven on earth. [6] [19] [20]

Persian turquoise from Iran Persian Turquoise.jpg
Persian turquoise from Iran

This deposit is blue naturally and turns green when heated due to dehydration. It is restricted to a mine-riddled region in Nishapur, the 2,012 m (6,601 ft) mountain peak of Ali-mersai near Mashhad, the capital of Khorasan Province, Iran. Weathered and broken trachyte is host to the turquoise, which is found both in situ between layers of limonite and sandstone and amongst the scree at the mountain's base. These workings are the oldest known, together with those of the Sinai Peninsula. [8] Iran also has turquoise mines in Semnan and Kerman provinces. [6]

Sinai

Since at least the First Dynasty (3000  BCE) in ancient Egypt, and possibly before then, turquoise was used by the Egyptians and was mined by them in the Sinai Peninsula. This region was known as the Country of Turquoise by the native Monitu. There are six mines in the peninsula, all on its southwest coast, covering an area of some 650 km2 (250 sq mi). The two most important of these mines, from a historical perspective, are Serabit el-Khadim and Wadi Maghareh, believed to be among the oldest of known mines. The former mine is situated about 4 kilometres from an ancient temple dedicated to the deity Hathor.

The turquoise is found in sandstone that is, or was originally, overlain by basalt. Copper and iron workings are present in the area. Large-scale turquoise mining is not profitable today, but the deposits are sporadically quarried by Bedouin peoples using homemade gunpowder.[ citation needed ] In the rainy winter months, miners face a risk from flash flooding; even in the dry season, death from the collapse of the haphazardly exploited sandstone mine walls may occur. The colour of Sinai material is typically greener than that of Iranian material but is thought to be stable and fairly durable. Often referred to as "Egyptian turquoise", Sinai material is typically the most translucent, and under magnification, its surface structure is revealed to be peppered with dark blue discs not seen in material from other localities.

A selection of Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) turquoise and orange argillite inlay pieces from Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, US (dated c. 1020-1140) show the typical colour range and mottling of American turquoise. Some likely came from Los Cerrillos. Chacoan turquoise with argillite.jpg
A selection of Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) turquoise and orange argillite inlay pieces from Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, US (dated c. 1020–1140) show the typical colour range and mottling of American turquoise. Some likely came from Los Cerrillos.

United States

A fine turquoise specimen from Los Cerrillos, New Mexico, US, at the Smithsonian Museum. Cerrillos turquoise was widely used by Native Americans prior to the Spanish conquest. Turquoise Cerillos Smithsonian.jpg
A fine turquoise specimen from Los Cerrillos, New Mexico, US, at the Smithsonian Museum. Cerrillos turquoise was widely used by Native Americans prior to the Spanish conquest.
Bisbee turquoise commonly has a hard chocolate brown coloured matrix. Turquoisecollection.jpg
Bisbee turquoise commonly has a hard chocolate brown coloured matrix.
Untreated turquoise, Nevada, US. Rough nuggets from the McGinness Mine, Austin. Blue and green cabochons showing spiderweb, Bunker Hill Mine, Royston Turq mcGuin bunker.jpg
Untreated turquoise, Nevada, US. Rough nuggets from the McGinness Mine, Austin. Blue and green cabochons showing spiderweb, Bunker Hill Mine, Royston

The Southwest United States is a significant source of turquoise; Arizona, California (San Bernardino, Imperial, Inyo counties), Colorado (Conejos, El Paso, Lake, Saguache counties), New Mexico (Eddy, Grant, Otero, Santa Fe counties) and Nevada (Clark, Elko, Esmeralda County, Eureka, Lander, Mineral County and Nye counties) are (or were) especially rich. The deposits of California and New Mexico were mined by pre-Columbian Native Americans using stone tools, some local and some from as far away as central Mexico. Cerrillos, New Mexico is thought to be the location of the oldest mines; prior to the 1920s, the state was the country's largest producer; it is more or less exhausted today. Only one mine in California, located at Apache Canyon, operates at a commercial capacity today.

The turquoise occurs as vein or seam fillings, and as compact nuggets; these are mostly small in size. While quite fine material is sometimes found, rivalling Iranian material in both colour and durability, most American turquoise is of a low grade (called "chalk turquoise"); high iron levels mean greens and yellows predominate, and a typically friable consistency in the turquoise's untreated state precludes use in jewelry.

Arizona is currently the most important producer of turquoise by value. [8] Several mines exist in the state, two of them famous for their unique colour and quality and considered the best in the industry: the Sleeping Beauty Mine in Globe ceased turquoise mining in August 2012. The mine chose to send all ore to the crusher and to concentrate on copper production due to the rising price of copper on the world market. The price of natural untreated Sleeping Beauty turquoise has risen dramatically since the mine's closing. The Kingman Mine as of 2015 still operates alongside a copper mine outside of the city. Other mines include the Blue Bird mine, Castle Dome, and Ithaca Peak, but they are mostly inactive due to the high cost of operations and federal regulations. The Phelps Dodge Lavender Pit mine at Bisbee ceased operations in 1974 and never had a turquoise contractor. All Bisbee turquoise was "lunch pail" mined. It came out of the copper ore mine in miners' lunch pails. Morenci and Turquoise Peak are either inactive or depleted.

Nevada is the country's other major producer, with more than 120 mines which have yielded significant quantities of turquoise. Unlike elsewhere in the US, most Nevada mines have been worked primarily for their gem turquoise and very little has been recovered as a byproduct of other mining operations. Nevada turquoise is found as nuggets, fracture fillings and in breccias as the cement filling interstices between fragments. Because of the geology of the Nevada deposits, a majority of the material produced is hard and dense, being of sufficient quality that no treatment or enhancement is required. While nearly every county in the state has yielded some turquoise, the chief producers are in Lander and Esmeralda counties. Most of the turquoise deposits in Nevada occur along a wide belt of tectonic activity that coincides with the state's zone of thrust faulting. It strikes at a bearing of about 15° and extends from the northern part of Elko County, southward down to the California border southwest of Tonopah. Nevada has produced a wide diversity of colours and mixes of different matrix patterns, with turquoise from Nevada coming in various shades of blue, blue-green, and green. Some of this unusually-coloured turquoise may contain significant zinc and iron, which is the cause of the beautiful bright green to yellow-green shades. Some of the green to green-yellow shades may actually be variscite or faustite, which are secondary phosphate minerals similar in appearance to turquoise. A significant portion of the Nevada material is also noted for its often attractive brown or black limonite veining, producing what is called "spiderweb matrix". While a number of the Nevada deposits were first worked by Native Americans,[ which? ] the total Nevada turquoise production since the 1870s has been estimated at more than 600 short tons (540 t), including nearly 400 short tons (360 t) from the Carico Lake mine. In spite of increased costs, small scale mining operations continue at a number of turquoise properties in Nevada, including the Godber, Orvil Jack and Carico Lake mines in Lander County, the Pilot Mountain Mine in Mineral County, and several properties in the Royston and Candelaria areas of Esmerelda County. [21]

In 1912, the first deposit of distinct, single-crystal turquoise was discovered at Lynch Station in Campbell County, Virginia. The crystals, forming a druse over the mother rock, are very small; 1 mm (0.04 in) is considered large. Until the 1980s Virginia was widely thought to be the only source of distinct crystals; there are now at least 27 other localities.[ citation needed ]

In an attempt to recoup profits and meet demand, some American turquoise is treated or enhanced to a certain degree. These treatments include innocuous waxing and more controversial procedures, such as dyeing and impregnation (see Treatments). There are some American mines which produce materials of high enough quality that no treatment or alterations are required. Any such treatments which have been performed should be disclosed to the buyer on sale of the material.

Other sources

Turquoise prehistoric artifacts (beads) are known since the fifth millennium BCE from sites in the Eastern Rhodopes in Bulgaria – the source for the raw material is possibly related to the nearby Spahievo lead–zinc ore field. [22]

China has been a minor source of turquoise for 3,000 years or more. Gem-quality material, in the form of compact nodules, is found in the fractured, silicified limestone of Yunxian and Zhushan, Hubei province. Additionally, Marco Polo reported turquoise found in present-day Sichuan. Most Chinese material is exported, but a few carvings worked in a manner similar to jade exist. In Tibet, gem-quality deposits purportedly exist in the mountains of Derge and Nagari-Khorsum in the east and west of the region respectively. [23]

Other notable localities include: Afghanistan; Australia (Victoria and Queensland); north India; northern Chile (Chuquicamata); Cornwall; Saxony; Silesia; and Turkestan.

History of use

Trade in turquoise crafts, such as this freeform pendant dating from 1000 to 1040, is believed to have brought the Ancestral Pueblo people of the Chaco Canyon great wealth. Chacoan turquoise pendant.jpg
Trade in turquoise crafts, such as this freeform pendant dating from 1000 to 1040, is believed to have brought the Ancestral Pueblo people of the Chaco Canyon great wealth.
Moche turquoise nose ornament. Larco Museum Collection, Lima, Peru Turqoise nose ornament.jpg
Moche turquoise nose ornament. Larco Museum Collection, Lima, Peru
Backswords, inlaid with turquoise. Russia, 17th century Drevnosti RG v3 ill094 - Palash.jpg
Backswords, inlaid with turquoise. Russia, 17th century
Turquoise mosaic mask of Xiuhtecuhtli, the Aztec god of fire. The Aztecs differentiated turquoise based on quality: xihuitl, a more mundane version used for decoration such as in mosaics, and teoxihuitl, a special version embued with qualities of Teotl and valued for its beauty. Xiuhtecuhtli (mask).jpg
Turquoise mosaic mask of Xiuhtecuhtli, the Aztec god of fire. The Aztecs differentiated turquoise based on quality: xihuitl, a more mundane version used for decoration such as in mosaics, and teoxihuitl, a special version embued with qualities of Teotl and valued for its beauty.
The iconic gold burial mask of Tutankhamun, inlaid with turquoise, lapis lazuli, carnelian and coloured glass CairoEgMuseumTaaMaskMostlyPhotographed.jpg
The iconic gold burial mask of Tutankhamun, inlaid with turquoise, lapis lazuli, carnelian and coloured glass

The pastel shades of turquoise have endeared it to many great cultures of antiquity: it has adorned the rulers of Ancient Egypt, the Aztecs (and possibly other Pre-Columbian Mesoamericans), Persia, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and to some extent in ancient China since at least the Shang dynasty. [25] Despite being one of the oldest gems, probably first introduced to Europe (through Turkey) with other Silk Road novelties, turquoise did not become important as an ornamental stone in the West until the 14th century, following a decline in the Roman Catholic Church's influence which allowed the use of turquoise in secular jewellery. It was apparently unknown in India until the Mughal period, and unknown in Japan until the 18th century. A common belief shared by many of these civilizations held that turquoise possessed certain prophylactic qualities; it was thought to change colour with the wearer's health and protect him or her from untoward forces.

The Aztecs viewed turquoise as an embodiment of fire and gave it properties such as heat and smokiness. They inlaid turquoise, together with gold, quartz, malachite, jet, jade, coral, and shells, into provocative (and presumably ceremonial[ clarification needed ]) mosaic objects such as masks (some with a human skull as their base), knives, and shields. Natural resins, bitumen and wax were used to bond the turquoise to the objects' base material; this was usually wood, but bone and shell were also used. Like the Aztecs, the Pueblo, Navajo and Apache tribes cherished turquoise for its amuletic use; the latter tribe believe the stone to afford the archer dead aim. Among these peoples turquoise was used in mosaic inlay, in sculptural works, and was fashioned into toroidal beads and freeform pendants. The Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi) of the Chaco Canyon and surrounding region are believed to have prospered greatly from their production and trading of turquoise objects. The distinctive silver jewellery produced by the Navajo and other Southwestern Native American tribes today is a rather modern development, thought to date from around 1880 as a result of European influences.

In Persia, turquoise was the de facto national stone for millennia, extensively used to decorate objects (from turbans to bridles), mosques, and other important buildings both inside and out,[ citation needed ] such as the Medresseh-i Shah Husein Mosque of Isfahan. The Persian style and use of turquoise was later brought to India following the establishment of the Mughal Empire there, its influence seen in high purity gold jewellery (together with ruby and diamond) and in such buildings as the Taj Mahal. Persian turquoise was often engraved with devotional words in Arabic script which was then inlaid with gold.

Cabochons of imported turquoise, along with coral, was (and still is) used extensively in the silver and gold jewellery of Tibet and Mongolia, where a greener hue is said to be preferred. Most of the pieces made today, with turquoise usually roughly polished into irregular cabochons set simply in silver, are meant for inexpensive export to Western markets and are probably not accurate representations of the original style.

The Ancient Egyptian use of turquoise stretches back as far as the First Dynasty and possibly earlier; however, probably the most well-known pieces incorporating the gem are those recovered from Tutankhamun's tomb, most notably the Pharaoh's iconic burial mask which was liberally inlaid with the stone. It also adorned rings and great sweeping necklaces called pectorals . Set in gold, the gem was fashioned into beads, used as inlay, and often carved in a scarab motif, accompanied by carnelian, lapis lazuli, and in later pieces, coloured glass. Turquoise, associated with the goddess Hathor, was so liked by the Ancient Egyptians that it became (arguably[ clarification needed ]) the first gemstone to be imitated, the fair structure created by an artificial glazed ceramic product known as faience.

The French conducted archaeological excavations of Egypt from the mid-19th century through the early 20th. These excavations, including that of Tutankhamun's tomb, created great public interest in the western world, subsequently influencing jewellery, architecture, and art of the time. Turquoise, already favoured for its pastel shades since around 1810, was a staple of Egyptian Revival pieces. In contemporary Western use, turquoise is most often encountered cut en cabochon in silver rings, bracelets, often in the Native American style, or as tumbled or roughly hewn beads in chunky necklaces. Lesser material may be carved into fetishes, such as those crafted by the Zuni. While strong sky blues remain superior in value, mottled green and yellowish material is popular with artisans.

Cultural associations

In many cultures of the Old and New Worlds, this gemstone has been esteemed for thousands of years as a holy stone, a bringer of good fortune or a talisman.[ citation needed ] The oldest evidence for this claim was found in Ancient Egypt, where grave furnishings with turquoise inlay were discovered, dating from approximately 3000 BCE.[ citation needed ] In the ancient Persian Empire, the sky-blue gemstones were earlier worn round the neck or wrist as protection against unnatural death. If they changed colour, the wearer was thought to have reason to fear the approach of doom.[ citation needed ] Meanwhile, it has been discovered that the turquoise certainly can change colour, but that this is not necessarily a sign of impending danger. The change can be caused by the light, or by a chemical reaction brought about by cosmetics, dust or the acidity of the skin. [26]

The goddess Hathor was associated with turquoise, as she was the patroness of Serabit el-Khadim, where it was mined. Her titles included "Lady of Turquoise", "Mistress of Turquoise", and "Lady of Turquoise Country". [27]

In Western culture, turquoise is also the traditional birthstone for those born in the month of December. The turquoise is also a stone in the Jewish High Priest's breastplate, described in Exodus chapter 28. The stone is also considered sacred to the indigenous Zuni and Pueblo peoples of the American Southwest. [28] [29] The pre-Columbian Aztec and Maya also considered it to be a valuable and culturally important stone. [30]

Imitations

Some natural blue to blue-green materials, such as this botryoidal chrysocolla with drusy quartz, are occasionally confused with or used to imitate turquoise. Chrysocolla USA.jpg
Some natural blue to blue-green materials, such as this botryoidal chrysocolla with drusy quartz, are occasionally confused with or used to imitate turquoise.

The Egyptians were the first to produce an artificial imitation of turquoise, in the glazed earthenware product faience. Later glass and enamel were also used, and in modern times more sophisticated porcelain, plastics, and various assembled, pressed, bonded, and sintered products (composed of various copper and aluminium compounds) have been developed: examples of the latter include "Viennese turquoise", made from precipitated aluminium phosphate coloured by copper oleate; and "neolith", a mixture of bayerite and copper(II) phosphate. Most of these products differ markedly from natural turquoise in both physical and chemical properties, but in 1972 Pierre Gilson introduced one fairly close to a true synthetic (it does differ in chemical composition owing to a binder used, meaning it is best described as a simulant rather than a synthetic). Gilson turquoise is made in both a uniform colour and with black "spiderweb matrix" veining not unlike the natural Nevada material.

The most common imitation of turquoise encountered today is dyed howlite and magnesite, both white in their natural states, and the former also having natural (and convincing) black veining similar to that of turquoise. Dyed chalcedony, jasper, and marble is less common, and much less convincing. Other natural materials occasionally confused with or used in lieu of turquoise include: variscite and faustite; [8] chrysocolla (especially when impregnating quartz); lazulite; smithsonite; hemimorphite; wardite; and a fossil bone or tooth called odontolite or "bone turquoise", coloured blue naturally by the mineral vivianite. While rarely encountered today, odontolite was once mined in large quantities—specifically for its use as a substitute for turquoise—in southern France.

These fakes are detected by gemologists using a number of tests, relying primarily on non-destructive, close examination of surface structure under magnification; a featureless, pale blue background peppered by flecks or spots of whitish material is the typical surface appearance of natural turquoise, while manufactured imitations will appear radically different in both colour (usually a uniform dark blue) and texture (usually granular or sugary). Glass and plastic will have a much greater translucency, with bubbles or flow lines often visible just below the surface. Staining between grain boundaries may be visible in dyed imitations.

Some destructive tests may be necessary; for example, the application of diluted hydrochloric acid will cause the carbonates odontolite and magnesite to effervesce and howlite to turn green, while a heated probe may give rise to the pungent smell so indicative of plastic. Differences in specific gravity, refractive index, light absorption (as evident in a material's absorption spectrum), and other physical and optical properties are also considered as means of separation.

Treatments

An early turquoise mine in Madan, Khorasan Province, Iran Madan Turquoise Mines.jpg
An early turquoise mine in Madan, Khorasan Province, Iran

Turquoise is treated to enhance both its colour and durability (increased hardness and decreased porosity). As is so often the case with any precious stones, full disclosure about treatment is frequently not given. Gemologists can detect these treatments using a variety of testing methods, some of which are destructive, such as the use of a heated probe applied to an inconspicuous spot, which will reveal oil, wax or plastic treatment.

Waxing and oiling

Historically, light waxing and oiling were the first treatments used in ancient times, providing a wetting effect, thereby enhancing the colour and lustre. This treatment is more or less acceptable by tradition, especially because treated turquoise is usually of a higher grade to begin with. Oiled and waxed stones are prone to "sweating" under even gentle heat or if exposed to too much sun, and they may develop a white surface film or bloom over time. (With some skill, oil and wax treatments can be restored.)

Backing

Since finer turquoise is often found as thin seams, it may be glued to a base of stronger foreign material for reinforcement. These stones are termed "backed", and it is standard practice that all thinly cut turquoise in the Southwestern United States is backed. Native indigenous peoples of this region, because of their considerable use and wearing of turquoise, have found that backing increases the durability of thinly cut slabs and cabochons of turquoise. They observe that if the stone is not backed it will often crack. Early backing materials included the casings of old model T batteries, old phonograph records, and more recently epoxy steel resins. Backing of turquoise is not widely known outside of the Native American and Southwestern United States jewellery trade. Backing does not diminish the value of high quality turquoise, and indeed the process is expected for most thinly cut American commercial gemstones.[ citation needed ]

Zachery treatment

A proprietary process was created by electrical engineer and turquoise dealer James E. Zachery in the 1980s to improve the stability of medium to high-grade turquoise. The process can be applied in several ways: either through deep penetration on rough turquoise to decrease porosity, by shallow treatment of finished turquoise to enhance color, or both. The treatment can enhance color and improve the turquoise's ability to take a polish. Such treated turquoise can be distinguished in some cases from natural turquoise, without destruction, by energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, which can detect its elevated potassium levels. In some instances, such as with already high-quality, low-porosity turquoise that is treated only for porosity, the treatment is undetectable. [31] [32]

Dyeing

The use of Prussian blue and other dyes (often in conjunction with bonding treatments) to "enhance” its appearance, make uniform or completely change the colour, is regarded as fraudulent by some purists, [33] especially since some dyes may fade or rub off on the wearer. Dyes have also been used to darken the veins of turquoise.

Stabilization

Material treated with plastic or water glass is termed "bonded" or "stabilized" turquoise. This process consists of pressure impregnation of otherwise unsaleable chalky American material by epoxy and plastics (such as polystyrene) and water glass (sodium silicate) to produce a wetting effect and improve durability. Plastic and water glass treatments are far more permanent and stable than waxing and oiling, and can be applied to material too chemically or physically unstable for oil or wax to provide sufficient improvement. Conversely, stabilization and bonding are rejected by some as too radical an alteration. [33]

The epoxy binding technique was first developed in the 1950s and has been attributed to Colbaugh Processing of Arizona, a company that still operates today.

Reconstitution

Perhaps the most extreme of treatments is "reconstitution", wherein fragments of fine turquoise material, too small to be used individually, are powdered and then bonded with resin to form a solid mass. Very often the material sold as "reconstituted turquoise" is artificial, with little or no natural stone, made entirely from resins and dyes. In the trade reconstituted turquoise is often called "block turquoise" or simply "block".

Valuation and care

Slab of turquoise in matrix showing a large variety of different colouration Turquoise-slab.jpg
Slab of turquoise in matrix showing a large variety of different colouration

Hardness and richness of colour are two of the major factors in determining the value of turquoise; while colour is a matter of individual taste, generally speaking, the most desirable is a strong sky to robin egg blue (in reference to the eggs of the American robin). [23] Whatever the colour, for many applications, turquoise should not be soft or chalky; even if treated, such lesser material (to which most turquoise belongs) is liable to fade or discolour over time and will not hold up to normal use in jewellery.

The mother rock or matrix in which turquoise is found can often be seen as splotches or a network of brown or black veins running through the stone in a netted pattern; [2] this veining may add value to the stone if the result is complementary, but such a result is uncommon. Such material is sometimes described as "spiderweb matrix"; it is most valued in the Southwest United States and Far East, but is not highly appreciated in the Near East where unblemished and vein-free material is ideal (regardless of how complementary the veining may be). Uniformity of colour is desired, and in finished pieces the quality of workmanship is also a factor; this includes the quality of the polish and the symmetry of the stone. Calibrated stones—that is, stones adhering to standard jewellery setting measurements—may also be more sought after. Like coral and other opaque gems, turquoise is commonly sold at a price according to its physical size in millimetres rather than weight.

Turquoise is treated in many different ways, some more permanent and radical than others. Controversy exists as to whether some of these treatments should be acceptable, but one can be more or less forgiven universally: This is the light waxing or oiling applied to most gem turquoise to improve its colour and lustre; if the material is of high quality to begin with, very little of the wax or oil is absorbed and the turquoise therefore does not rely on this impermanent treatment for its beauty. All other factors being equal, untreated turquoise will always command a higher price. Bonded and reconstituted material is worth considerably less.

Being a phosphate mineral, turquoise is inherently fragile and sensitive to solvents; perfume and other cosmetics will attack the finish and may alter the colour of turquoise gems, as will skin oils, as will most commercial jewellery cleaning fluids. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight may also discolour or dehydrate turquoise. Care should therefore be taken when wearing such jewels: cosmetics, including sunscreen and hair spray, should be applied before putting on turquoise jewellery, and they should not be worn to a beach or other sun-bathed environment. After use, turquoise should be gently cleaned with a soft cloth to avoid a buildup of residue, and should be stored in its own container to avoid scratching by harder gems. Turquoise can also be adversely affected if stored in an airtight container. [ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Emerald</span> Green gemstone, a beryl variety

Emerald is a gemstone and a variety of the mineral beryl (Be3Al2(SiO3)6) colored green by trace amounts of chromium or sometimes vanadium. Beryl has a hardness of 7.5–8 on the Mohs scale. Most emeralds are highly included, so their toughness (resistance to breakage) is classified as generally poor. Emerald is a cyclosilicate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gemstone</span> Piece of mineral crystal used to make jewelry

A gemstone is a piece of mineral crystal which, in cut and polished form, is used to make jewelry or other adornments. However, certain rocks and occasionally organic materials that are not minerals are also used for jewelry and are therefore often considered to be gemstones as well. Most gemstones are hard, but some soft minerals are used in jewelry because of their luster or other physical properties that have aesthetic value. Rarity and notoriety are other characteristics that lend value to gemstones.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jewellery</span> Form of personal adornment

Jewellery (UK) or jewelry (U.S.) consists of decorative items worn for personal adornment, such as brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings, pendants, bracelets, and cufflinks. Jewellery may be attached to the body or the clothes. From a western perspective, the term is restricted to durable ornaments, excluding flowers for example. For many centuries metal such as gold often combined with gemstones, has been the normal material for jewellery, but other materials such as glass, shells and other plant materials may be used.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Topaz</span> Silicate mineral

Topaz is a silicate mineral of aluminium and fluorine with the chemical formula Al2SiO4(F,OH)2. It is used as a gemstone in jewelry and other adornments. Common topaz in its natural state is colorless, though trace element impurities can make it pale blue or golden brown to yellow orange. Topaz is often treated with heat or radiation to make it a deep blue, reddish-orange, pale green, pink, or purple.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tourmaline</span> Cyclosilicate mineral group

Tourmaline is a crystalline silicate mineral group in which boron is compounded with elements such as aluminium, iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium, or potassium. Tourmaline is a gemstone and can be found in a wide variety of colors.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chalcedony</span> Microcrystalline varieties of silica, may contain moganite as well

Chalcedony ( kal-SED-ə-nee, or KAL-sə-doh-nee) is a cryptocrystalline form of silica, composed of very fine intergrowths of quartz and moganite. These are both silica minerals, but they differ in that quartz has a trigonal crystal structure, while moganite is monoclinic. Chalcedony's standard chemical structure (based on the chemical structure of quartz) is SiO2 (silicon dioxide).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chrysoberyl</span> Mineral or gemstone of beryllium aluminate

The mineral or gemstone chrysoberyl is an aluminate of beryllium with the formula BeAl2O4. The name chrysoberyl is derived from the Greek words χρυσός chrysos and βήρυλλος beryllos, meaning "a gold-white spar". Despite the similarity of their names, chrysoberyl and beryl are two completely different gemstones, although they both contain beryllium. Chrysoberyl is the third-hardest frequently encountered natural gemstone and lies at 8.5 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, between corundum (9) and topaz (8).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Opal</span> Hydrated amorphous form of silica

Opal is a hydrated amorphous form of silica (SiO2·nH2O); its water content may range from 3 to 21% by weight, but is usually between 6 and 10%. Due to its amorphous property, it is classified as a mineraloid, unlike crystalline forms of silica, which are considered minerals. It is deposited at a relatively low temperature and may occur in the fissures of almost any kind of rock, being most commonly found with limonite, sandstone, rhyolite, marl, and basalt.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jade</span> Ornamental stone, commonly green

Jade is a mineral used as jewellery or for ornaments. It is typically green, although may be yellow or white. Jade can refer to either of two different silicate minerals: nephrite, or jadeite.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tiger's eye</span> Chatoyant gemstone from the quartz family

Tiger's eye is a chatoyant gemstone that is usually a metamorphic rock with a golden to red-brown colour and a silky lustre. As members of the quartz group, tiger's eye and the related blue-coloured mineral hawk's eye gain their silky, lustrous appearance from the parallel intergrowth of quartz crystals and altered amphibole fibres that have mostly turned into limonite.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tanzanite</span> Blue to purple variety of the mineral zoisite

Tanzanite is the blue and violet variety of the mineral zoisite, caused by small amounts of vanadium. Tanzanite belongs to the epidote mineral group. Tanzanite is only found in Simanjiro District of Manyara Region in Tanzania, in a very small mining area near the Mererani Hills.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cuprite</span>

Cuprite is an oxide mineral composed of copper(I) oxide Cu2O, and is a minor ore of copper.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Variscite</span> Hydrated aluminium phosphate

Variscite is a hydrated aluminium phosphate mineral. It is a relatively rare phosphate mineral. It is sometimes confused with turquoise; however, variscite is usually greener in color. The green color results from the presence of small amounts of trivalent chromium.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chrysocolla</span> Phyllosilicate mineral

Chrysocolla is a hydrated copper phyllosilicate mineral and mineraloid with formula Cu
2–x
Al
x
{H
2–x
Si
2
O
5
)(OH)
4
•nH
2
O
(x<1) or (Cu,Al)
2
H
2
Si
2
O
5
(OH)
4
•nH
2
O)
.

Turquoise, also known as Persian blue, is a blue-green color, based on the mineral of the same name. The word turquoise dates to the 17th century and is derived from the French turquois, meaning 'Turkish', because the mineral was first brought to Europe through Turkey from mines in the historical Khorasan province of Iran (Persia) and Afghanistan. The first recorded use of turquoise as a color name in English was in 1573.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wavellite</span> Aluminium phosphate basic hydrate mineral

Wavellite is an aluminium basic phosphate mineral with formula Al3(PO4)2(OH, F)3·5H2O. Distinct crystals are rare, and it normally occurs as translucent green radial or spherical clusters.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Larimar</span> Blue gemstone from The Dominican Republic

Larimar is the tradename for a rare blue variety of the silicate mineral pectolite found only in the Dominican Republic, around the city of Barahona. Its coloration varies from bluish white, light-blue, light-green, green-blue, turquoise blue, turquoise green, turquoise blue-green, deep green, dark green, to deep blue, dark blue and purple, violet and indigo and the larimar can come in many varieties and color mix.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Prasiolite</span> Mineral, quartz variety

Prasiolite is a green variety of quartz.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Howlite</span>

Howlite, a calcium borosilicate hydroxide (Ca2B5SiO9(OH)5), is a borate mineral found in evaporite deposits.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ammolite</span> Opal-like organic gemstone

Ammolite is an opal-like organic gemstone found primarily along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains of North America. It is made of the fossilized shells of ammonites, which in turn are composed primarily of aragonite, the same mineral contained in nacre, with a microstructure inherited from the shell. It is one of few biogenic gemstones; others include amber and pearl.1 In 1981, ammolite was given official gemstone status by the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO), the same year commercial mining of ammolite began. It was designated the official gemstone of the City of Lethbridge, Alberta in 2007.

References

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Further reading