A Tour of Turquoise

Pile of turquoise stones in an assortment of shapes, sizes, and shades of blue.

In this blog post, I’m going to take you on a tour through our different types of turquoise and through buying turquoise to help you make the best decisions for you!  

First of all, congratulations on taking your first dive into turquoise - it’s such a beautiful stone to look at and wear; but not an easy stone to buy.  This is due to a variety of reasons; but don’t worry, I’m going to walk you through it as much as possible.  

The most important inconvenience is turquoise’s constitution, and specifically it’s fragility.  Turquoise generally speaking hits between a 5-7 on the Mohs hardness scale with the majority of the non-gem quality stones sitting closer to a 5.  This is an extremely soft stone that is extremely prone to crumbling under pressure.   To put this in perspective, turquoise has the same Mohs score as the notoriously soft and breakable opals.  

How does this affect the production of turquoise for jewelry? 

Well, it means that when turquoise is cut into shapes, there is a lot of waste stone that crumbles off.  Rule of thumb: the more waste created when cut, the more expensive purchasing a natural stone will be.  The only turquoise hard enough to keep its shape without crumbling is generally considered “gem-quality” turquoise - and you’re definitely going to pay for it.  

What’s the deal with the vast majority of the turquoise on the market? 

Let’s start by assuming that what you’re looking at is turquoise stone (many fast fashion markets tend to label turquoise enamel, glass, resin, etc. as just ambiguously “turquoise”).  The highest tier of jewelry turquoise below gem-quality is a natural turquoise that has been stabilized.  Stabilized turquoise is when natural slabs of turquoise inject epoxy into the microscopic porous holes in the stone to harden the slab so that it doesn’t break in cutting or drilling.  Note: that this category of turquoise has no additional treatments or color treatments.  This is the type of turquoise we carry.  The nature of our turquoise being drilling to string thread or wire through the stones means we cannot use un-stabilized turquoise.  This is why most gem-quality turquoise are cabochons set into metal settings in order to preserve the stone as best as possible. 

Beyond the type of stabilized turquoise mentioned above, there are stabilized turquoise that is also enhanced with color dyes, treatments, wax and/or oil coating, and more.  The aim is to make the blue more vivid and closer to the highly desired Persian turquoise tone coveted by high-end jewelry collectors.  The reality is that none of the color treatments mentioned are permanent - dyes fade, especially in sunlight; and oil and wax coatings either melt or wear off over time.  Your color treated turquoise will always eventually fade, which is why we do not use this turquoise in our jewelry.

Beyond this is reconstituted turquoise - this is the majority of the turquoise found on the fashion jewelry market.  When turquoise is cut, it creates large amount of waste that can’t be used.  This waste is essentially turquoise chalk.  These turquoise dust/crumbles are them mixed into resin or epoxy and formed into stones.  They generally need to be dyed as well to retain both a turquoise color as well as to create the neutral colored inclusions known as matrix in the stones.  It is up to you as to whether this is considered turquoise stone or not; but keep in mind this will be sold as “turquoise”.  

Legally, US law states that you are required to disclose whenever turquoise is not natural; however many gemstones suppliers come from outside of the USA.  When a designer purchases a turquoise strand that is supposedly natural (you’ll see “AAA quality natural turquoise” on a $30 strand), they may not know better (or may not care, but that’s a whole other issue) than to sell you an inexpensive necklace as being natural turquoise as their supplier sold that turquoise to them as “natural turquoise”.  Also take into account that fake turquoise jewelry, especially in fashion jewelry using non-fine metals, is rarely prosecuted; and you’ll get the idea of how tricky purchasing turquoise can be.

Put all of this information together and you’re probably wondering how do we know we are selling real turquoise?

Simply put, we know we are selling real turquoise because we have continuously researched for over six years now to find reliable suppliers.  We purchase solely from small, family-based suppliers that purchase directly from the mines themselves.  They are primarily turquoise suppliers to the Native American reservations throughout the Western/Southwestern United States; and then we are able to pick from the stock that’s left over afterwards.  Next, I’m going to run you through our different types of turquoise currently in stock.

Sleeping Beauty - Arizona, USA

Sleeping Beauty turquoise is known for its sky blue coloring with only moderate black veining up to no veining at all in finer specimens.  It used to be found in a mine in Arizona that was called “sleeping beauty”, because the mine’s formation looked like a woman lying on her back with her arms crossed.  It is the only mine that produces Sleeping Beauty turquoise, so natural turquoise of this form is very limited. 

The Sleeping Beauty mine closed to gemstone mining in 2012 due to rising fees and taxation from the US government towards gemstone mining.  As it was no longer profitable to mine for gemstones, the mine was sold to a copper mining company.  Sleeping Beauty turquoise is still produced as a by-product of the copper mining; however it is much less than historically produced, and not produced in gem-quality stones.  

Three strands of sleeping beauty turquoise with randomly placed 14k gold beads
Sleeping Beauty turquoise nuggets hand-knotted into a single strand necklace.
Large green-blue sleeping beauty turquoise nuggets hand-knotted into a single strand statement necklace.


7.5-18.7mm sleeping beauty natural chunks hand-knotted into a single strand necklace.



Kingman Turquoise - Arizona, USA

The Kingman Turquoise Mine is one of (if not the) oldest and highest producing mine in Arizona.  Native Americans found the mine over 1000 years ago.  It is famous for both its sky blue turquoise on one side of the mine and its green turquoise on the other side (via Turquoise Mountain).  Its sky blue variant is the most expensive and sought after turquoise specimen, and the greener variant rivals Sleeping Beauty in value and demand.  It is currently the most popular variant of turquoise currently coming from Arizona.


Bright blue Kingman turquoise rondelle shaped stones hand-knotted into a single strand 16.5 inch necklace.


Egg-shaped natural nuggets with mixed blue, green, & brown colors hand-knotted into a 33 inch necklace.


Green-blue Kingman turquoise oblong nugget necklace with gold vermeil spacer beads in-between.
Large chunky natural Kingman turquoise nuggets hand-knotted into a 20.5 inch necklace.


Nacozari Turquoise - Sonora, Mexico

Limited supply doesn’t even begin to describe the Nacozari turquoise.  Found in one copper mine in Sonora, Mexico; Nacozari turquoise is known for its two variants: a sky blue color, and a dark navy blue color.  Unfortunately a Canadian company bought out the copper mine and declared that they would allow no more turquoise mining and that the mine was closed “for good”; so whatever Nacozari turquoise is on the market is all that is left for the foreseeable future.  (NOTE: as of 2023, the mine has re-opened to turquoise mining as well; but there are no guarantees that this will last as  principal operations continue to be copper mining.)

Large graduated Nacozari turquoise discs made into a single strand statement necklace.

Castle Dome Turquoise - Pinto Valley Mine, Arizona

Castle Dome turquoise comes from the Pinto Valley Mine in the Sleeping Beauty mountains approximately 30 miles from the Sleeping Beauty mine in Arizona. Castle Dome turquoise is one of the most prominent types of turquoise found in Southwestern jewelry as well as Native American Zuni Jewelry.  It is known for its stunningly bright blue color caused by the rich copper deposits in the mine.

Small bright blue castle dome turquoise nuggets hand-knotted into a 17.25 inch necklace.

Small bright blue castle dome turquoise nuggets mixed with oval 24k vermeil beads to create a 16.5 inch necklace.



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