What is Enhanced Turquoise?
Enhanced turquoise means that the stones have been treated to become better than the stone’s raw state. Most raw natural turquoise is a fairly brittle and porous material. The stone’s color can fade or change over time, and the stone itself is subject to cracking. High-grade turquoise stones don’t have many of these issues, but medium to low grade stones have a serious durability and longevity problems. Enhancement usually means that some kind of chemical or physical process has been applied to the stone. Industrial processes use glues, epoxies, or resins for the stabilization of the stone. There are also processes which use dyes to enhance the color of the stone. These enhancements should be labeled properly to inform a buyer that the stone’s appearance has been enhanced. There are different levels of enhanced turquoise. The enhancement state of the turquoise is a direct correlation to the value of the gemstone.
The term was originally coined by the R.H. and Company of Glendale California. The company invented a revolutionary treatment called the Zachary process. The process consists of a chemical treatment and controlled heating of the turquoise stone. The Zachary process results in a harder, more durable stone, and it also increases color longevity. A secondary process of fusing vaporized quartz increases the structural integrity.
Different States of Turquoise Enhancement
Natural turquoise is quality raw turquoise that has been cut or polished. When a turquoise stone is called natural, it has not been enhanced. This is usually the most valuable form of turquoise. However, it is rare that raw turquoise is durable enough to be used in the jewelry industry. Most turquoise on the market has been enhanced in some way to increase stability. This is called Stabilized Turquoise.
Stabilized turquoise is turquoise that has been assisted by some other material to maintain its natural state. Stabilized turquoise is often misunderstood and confused with reconstituted turquoise. There are many degrees of how a turquoise stone has been stabilized, which can greatly affect its respective value. About 98% of all turquoise on the market today has undergone some kind of stabilization. Turquoise is soft and chemically absorptive, the stone’s color is susceptible to change when exposed to other chemicals. Even the oils from the human skin can effect turquoise color. If the stones are not protected, then the turquoise will change color over time.
Generally, it is acceptable to stabilize the natural color of the turquoise by coating it with protective oils and waxes or using a few complicated scientific processing techniques. These surface treatments keep the stone looking its best for years to come. Other techniques of stabilization can be poorly done that have a range of impact on the value of the original stone.
Low grade turquoise tends to express limited color or is inconsistently hued. It is common to have lower grade turquoise stones dyed to improve their appearance. Dyed turquoise is considered less valuable because the end result is very artificial. It is common to see the use of dyes in conjunction with other stabilization processes, like the techniques used to make reconstituted turquoise.
Turquoise is porous and easily absorbs applied liquid substances. Turquoise that has been artificially introduced to another substance, to enhance its appearance, is called infused turquoise. For example, a new technique that is becoming more common is to enhance turquoise with a metallic bronze coating to give the matrix an extra kick. This is called bronze infused.
Reconstituted turquoise is a material compound that contains real turquoise; usually chalk turquoise in conjunction with other materials such as plastics, dyes and resins. Turquoise in this state has a plastic feel to it and is often dull. This material can be molded into shapes to make it appear to look like turquoise nuggets. Technically, this material can still be called turquoise because of its color, and also because it actually contains traces of raw turquoise. But this is considered unethical for anyone selling a reconstituted stone to call it “real” or “natural” turquoise without informing the consumer of the actual state.
Block Turquoise is a type of reconstituted turquoise that is mass-produced and sold in cubical blocks. Artists can cut off and shape this material into any shape they desire. Block turquoise is often found in mass produced foreign import jewelry, because it is cheap and easy to work.
Plastic turquoise is 100% plastic, with no real stone inside. Because turquoise is also an official name of a color, plastic turquoise can still be marketed as turquoise. We are against this practice here at Turquoise Skies, as we feel it is confusing and misleading to the consumer. We feel it is unethical for a seller to sell plastic as turquoise without labeling the material as plastic.
Source( Fritsch, Emmanuel. McClure, Shane. Ostrooumov, Mikhail. Andres, Yves. Koivula, John. Kammerling, Robert. The identification of Zachery treated Turquoise 1999. Website pdf : http://image1.fmgstatic.com/pdf/The-Identification-of-Zachery-Treated-Turquoise.pdf