|Genuine American Turquoise|
There are no bad beads, only uninformed, ignorant and (yes, a few) bad sellers who intentionally mislead buyers. These buyers then resell the beads, marked up accordingly, dispersing the misinformation to their own customers, because they trust the person they originally purchased from, know no better, and make no effort to educate themselves. Today's market is flooded with fakes, and their quality is often better than ever. There's a time and place for using fakes, but nobody likes paying for the genuine article, and later discovering its an inexpensive forgery. As long as we are honest, there is no shame in using good quality fakes, which allow customers to own a great look without high dollar investment. My issue is with the coyote tricksters who think its shrewd business to lie about what they are selling, and intentionally rip off their customers.
Over the years I've worked with a few old hands in the bead trade, collectors & antique dealers. Also, with artists like myself who enjoy recreating antique looks in contemporary pieces - not to fool anyone, but as one facet in the creative journey toward achieving a unique line blending old and new. In the learning curve I often abuse a few beads or metals just to see what happens - maybe the effect will be one I like! In doing so I learn a great deal about materials, and those who sell them.
Turquoise is a great example. Back in the day fake turquoise was obvious, but today's copies can be difficult to spot. I'm not a lapidary expert, gemologist, or geologist. The following is from my own experience and what other, more experienced designers have shared.
|ABOVE, the beads as they look right off the strand.|
This seller resells this particular style for about $160.00 wholesale, $250 retail per strand depending on gram weight He buys the new, shiny beads from this same Chinese vendor, tumbles them a few days to remove the shine, has family restring them on cobalt blue threads (Afghan beads are often sold this way), then represents them as handmade the primitive way, and that by purchasing them, customers are also helping poor people and war orphans in Afghanistan to get back on their feet financially, by making and selling these beads as micro businesses Yes, he also has "we support fair trade!' announcements posted all over his booths at shows.
Placed them for 5 minutes in a mild glass etching solution.
A comparison of the beads after dye and protective coating is removed....genuine turquoise might loose its shine, but color remains intact.
What had originally appeared to be dark brown matrix was really a soft, crumbly, pale pulverized material, dyed and tamped into a broken bead. It was then shaped, over dyed blue, and coated in sealant.
What you see below is magnasite, a low grade, soft carbonate stone that is often sold as 'white turquoise' but is really a dressed up version of the same chalk your teacher used to write on the blackboard. The matrix is remarkably similar to turquoise! The soft pale surface takes dyes very well, and is then coated to prevent breakage and color leaching into clothing, also referred to as "stabilizing". Genuine turquoise is often stabilized, because it is also a soft stone, absorbing skin oils that deepen the color. To prevent scratching, chipping, and to keep the color as it is when bought new, dealers often seal it. Also, low grade turquoise is often dyed, or "enhanced" to deepen the color.
|Left and center are magnesite. Far right is magnesite as it looks without|
color: note the matrix, exactly like turquoise
Left. The oval bead was from a well known online bead/gem shop, who sold it as 'fabulous Chinese turquoise from the Hubei !!!" Note the white, undyed area in the center of this bead -they didnt show this i the online photos!
LESSON: Dont buy turquoise online!
The flat, disk like bead was bought on a strand several years ago and stored in my studio. Over the years it faded from deep blue to this pale robin's egg shade. Genuine turquoise, unsealed, will darken in hue, or go from blue to green, even dark green into dark brown if exposed on a regular basis to skin oils, but it won't fade.
BELOW, Follow that yellow arrow! This undyed turquoise is blue all the way through. Dyed turquoise looks more like a jawbreaker inside, the dye line is clearly visible. This strand came from a small mine located in Nevada
ABOVE: Dealers selling genuine turquoise often offer certification and information about the mine.