There is a lot of vintage turquoise
jewelry floating around in the market today. Real turquoise
is as precious as real diamond. For centuries turquoise jewelry has been highly valued and people from Asia, Europe and especially America created beautiful jewelry from this precious stone. The demand for authentic vintage turquoise jewelry is going up every day, especially the Native American bead work and jewelry.
Native Americans were making jewelry long before the Europiens arrived. Though there were differences in styles from one tribe to another the materials they used were very similar. They used beads mostly made out of shells, coral, turquoise, amber and other
Native American bead work was extremely advanced in the Pre-Columbian era. Finely ground turquoise and coral beads were used to make heisi necklaces. Stitchery with thousands of tiny beads were used to make purses, vests or such things.
When the Spaniards came in 1800s, from the Spaniards silversmiths they took their metal inlay techniques and integrating with their own style created exquisite art that we see manifested in the Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo and other South Western jewelry art. One of them is the famous Squash blossom design.
Now, how would you know if the piece you are buying is authentic turquoise jewelry?
Look at the stamp:
If you are looking for a vintage Native American piece and find it has a stamp saying '925' be sure it is not authentic. This stamp is used in jewelry out side of USA. Jewelry that is claimed to be hundreds of years old will not have this modern stamp. Modern Native Americans may use the stamp or sign the word 'silver' if that metal is used.
Vintage jewelry is old. It will not have the shiny new look that a more modern piece might have. These days turquoise is stabilized with epoxy or other chemicals or silica dust to make it harder and brighter. Again this is a modern process.
Blemishes and streaks:
Real turquoise has the shade of blue-green with blotches or marks on them, except the ones from Persia, which is very rare and extremely expensive. These marks are called matrix. Depending on the metals that were mixed with it in the natural process of the stone forming stage, the marks or spots may be black, white or yellowish in color.
In modern days these blemishes can be taken off and can be covered up. So if you get very nice, blemish free, smooth, bright turquoise piece then it may be imitation and not real.
The only exception- if it is from Persian mines, it may be blemish free with the robin egg blue shade and it will be extremely expensive. This kind is very, very rare today.
The style of the jewelry will also say something to you. Before buying something that is claimed to be a vintage turquoise jewelry of a certain period or certain place, do some home work to know their styles. Especially for the Native American jewelry there are significant characteristics that authenticate that jewelry.
Similarly if you are buying vintage turquoise jewelry from Nepal or Turkey you must be aware of their styles to understand if it is really vintage piece or not.
If a piece feels much lighter than a similar volume stone it is probably mixed with plastic.
The Pin Test
Heat a pin and touch to the spot that is kind of hidden. If it melts you know that plastic is mixed.
If you have a piece that is not light but quite cheap in price, it could be howlite instead of the real stone- we call it chalk turquoise. A drop of hydrochloric acid (HCL) will prove it. If it fizzes and turns green then it is howlite.
Real turquoise is like real diamond. Therefore the price will reflect that. In the market today to make it affordable what we get is stabilized turquoise or reconstructed turquoise.
Sometimes there is hardly any real stone but just chalk and colors mixed with epoxy. Sometimes bones, plastic or howlite might be mixed with a little bit of turquoise. This will also be quite cheap. Sometimes only the blotches and marks are erased, eliminated or cut out from a real turquoise piece and polished with silica dust, dyes and epoxy. Depending on the amount of the real stone the price is determined.
In any case if you want authentic vintage turquoise jewelry you must go for that, buy it from a trusted dealer and know what you are getting.
Like the styles it is also important to know about the turquoise mines of the world that generate different kinds of this precious stones. Also some idea about Native American jewelry will give some foundation to find out if a jewelry piece is authentic vintage turquoise jewelry or not.
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