Identifying turquoise

Hello All

A family has contacted and asked me to set the turquoise stones
collected, cut, polished, (some based on Devcon? backing) by their
ancestor. All of the material was collected from New Mexico mines
before 1951. I would like to add an I.D. tag to each piece and,
therefor am trying to id entify the mine from which the material was
collected. A quick net searc h indicates that these stones probably
come from the Santa Rita and Tyrone mines in Grant County, New

I can send photos off-line to anyone interested in helping me
identify the origin of the sontes.

Many thanks, Lois

I can send photos off-line to anyone interested in helping me
identify the origin of the sontes. 

Anyone who will tell you they can reliably identify the origin of a
piece of turquoise by sight, especially by looking at it on line,
doesn’t know what they are taliking about. Some dealers might be
highly accurate assessing some top grade pieces from some mines, but
all mines produce turquoise of varying quality. The lower the grade
the more common it is to more mines.

Jerry in Kodiak


You might try contacting Ernie at Sunwest Silver in Albuquerque, NM.
He has been collecting turquoise for over 40 years, has a huge
collection himself and might be able to help you identify the New
Mexico Turquoise.

Jessica Duke
New Mexico


I’d recommend Oscar T. Branson’s book, “Turquoise, The Gem of the
Centuries”. Although it is only 62 pages, it has photographs of
turquoise jewelry from 36 mines in the Southwest. There is also a
map showing the locations of the mines.


I must comment here and will probably be refuted, but, in my many
years of collecting, polishing and setting turquoise, I have found it
nearly impossible to identify by examining in person, much less by
pictures, most turquoise. Many “experts” will state positively that
the stone in question is from such and such mine, and while most
mines do have some characteristics in general, many mines have a wide
variety of stones coming from the same vein.

While the identity of the stones you are setting is not critical,
you should be wary of anyone positively identifying from pictures.

Since I live and work in New Mexico and have an ongoing love affair
with turquoise, I would be interested in seeing some pics if you
would care to email me some.

Jim Pace

I’m with Jim on this one. Knowing the mine (as in buying it from the
miner) is important and can drive price way up! But, to me a more
important aspect in this day and age is to be able to determine if
the stone is natural, stabilized, reconstituted, enhanced (as in
dyed) or is just plain fake!! Without going into the various points
of each, there are ways to determine these characteristics “and
still be fooled”!!

Cheers from Don in SOFL.

I have been working with turquoise for 30 plus years and all I know
is that I know nothing about it. I can identify pieces I have in my
studio and give educated guesses on other pieces but I take cues
from many sources. I bought a bag of rough a few weeks ago which I
thought was Nevada and It turned out to be Chinese, so there you go.
If the piece has certain matrix and color combinations it can be
perhaps pinned down to a state or country. But the difference between
many Nevada turquoises is such that to pin it down to a certain mine
is difficult, same with Arizona and New Mexico. To ID turquoise on
line is damn near impossible. I do love turquoise for those very
reasons, always something to learn about it.

Sam Patania, Tucson

This comment is not exactly addressed to the original message.
However, I do want to point out (just in case you didn’t know) that
there is a ton of fake turquoise on the market. The fake is
sometimes easy to ID, but sometimes not. The Chinese are getting very
good at making imitation turquoise. Most often it is dyed magnesite,
but sometimes it is other dyed stone such as howlite. Then, of
course, there is the plastic stuff, which is easier to identify just
by feel. One characteristic of magnesite is a triangle shaped matrix
pattern. Also, the matrix is usually brown rather than black. Howlite
has a gray matrix. Although, genuine turquoise can also have brown
matrix. Get a good look at some magnesite and you should be able to
spot that triangle pattern pretty easily. However, if the magnesite
has little or no matrix, then you just cannot tell by looking. I, for
one, would like to know if there is an easy way to verify genuine
turquoise for the layman (me) that does not require special
equipment. I’ve been getting some turquoise that looks like it is
real, but does have a few triangle shaped matrix patterns mixed in
with the more organic shapes. In these stones, the matrix is black
and brown mixed. I suspect perhaps it is dyed magnesite, but wish I
could perform a test that would confirm before I claim it to be
genuine or not. I do try to be truthful to my customers.

Here is a pendant that shows the magnesite matrix pattern. My
supplier swore it was genuine turquoise, but I seriously doubt it
due to the matrix pattern. What do
you think? Is it spider web turquoise or magnesite?

Sun Country Gems LLC

I agree with all the other posts about not being able to positively
identify turquoise from a picture. I have a small stash of natural
(untreated, undyed, unanythinged) Morenci, Az. turquoise and the
difference between pieces is huge, both in color and matrix pattern
even though they all come from the same area. That being said, if I
had to guess at your piece, It looks a great deal like some Chinese
Turquoise I have, both color and matrix pattern. My opinion only.


I, for one, would like to know if there is an easy way to verify
genuine turquoise for the layman (me) that does not require special

The answer is no, there is no easy way to identify any gem material.
If it would be, gemologists would be out of business. Turquoise is
especially difficult, because it exist in many different forms and
qualities. If you follow to my website, I have wrote sometime ago an
introduction to turquoise. I doubt it will make things easier, but
maybe more understandable.

Leonid Surpin

I agree. Doesn’t look like any turquoise I’ve ever seen.

Jerry in Kodiak

I agree. Doesn't look like any turquoise I've ever seen. 

Then perhaps you’ve not seen much “spiderweb” turqoise. From that
small image, it’s impossible to say much of anything, but it is not
inconsistant with that sort of matrix pattern. In material available
recently, I’d guess that it would be more likely to be chinese
turqoise than U.S. source, but that’s based only on what I see at
the gem shows. There’s nothing much I see in that “spiderweb” matrix
pattern that’s obviously unlike what one can find in the real thing.
Of course, there’s also nothing visible in that image that also
rules out any of several fakes, but from what I can see, it’s
possible it’s real. I have a number of pieces of turqoise, some quote
old, some more recent, which a similar spiderweb pattern, and these,
I know to be genuine…

Peter Rowe G.G.

Looks just like some Chinese turquoise I bought in the mid eighties.
I bet I still have it as I liked the odd matrix and the light robin
egg blue.


Then perhaps you've not seen much "spiderweb" turqoise.

No, I’ve seen plenty of spiderweb. Perhaps I should have been more
clear and said it doesn’t look like any SPIDERWEB turquoise I’ve ever
seen. There is something about the regularity of the blue segments
and eveness of the black matrix that doesn’t look right. I agree with
you though that it does have a Chinese look to it.

Jerry in Kodiak

There is something about the regularity of the blue segments and
eveness of the black matrix that doesn't look right. 

One thought about the color of the matrix is that at least in my
experience, it’s not uncommon for turqoise that has an attractive
matrix pattern like spiderweb, or some other patterns, but which are
lighter brown or varied in color, to be enhanced by adding a bit of
(I think) black shoe polish to the matrix to make it more dramatic
appearing… I’ve seen that a number of times with turqoise from the
U.S. southwest, and would assume that similar simple treatments are
not uncommon to other sources as well…