What is Chinese Turquoise?

I am new to Orchid and am trying to absorb some of the wealth of
knowledge on this site. Thank you to all!

My first questions are about chinese turquoise (I’ve checked the
archives, and don’t think I found what I am looking for). What is it
really? I bought a few strings of beads about a year ago for a
minimal amount, so have somewhat assumed the material is treated in
some way. I smacked a bead with a hammer and when it cleaved, the
inside of the bead was a consistent material with no matrix despite a
matrix appearance on the surface. Obviously the beads were dyed since
I can see the depth of the dye on the one I cracked with a hammer. Is
this stabilized turquoise, or just dyed resin/plastic? How do I tell
the difference?

Priscilla Fritsch
LuckyDog Designs, Inc.
(Yup, you guessed it, my dog’s name is Lucky)

Hi Priscilla,

China has mines that produce lots turquoise but we get very little
of the high quality, unstabilized material here in the U.S. Almost
everything we get here is medium to low grade and has been
stabilized or reconstituted in resin.

Of course that only speaks about natural turquoise. I have seen huge
amounts of “turquoise” coming out of China that is either dyed
howlite, magnesite, dolomite, or dyed concrete (yes I have seen some
actual poorly dyed concrete). I have seen hardly any of this stuff
that could fool a person by sight if they are experienced in working
with real turquoise. Unfortunately, so much of this stuff is being
sold as genuine turquoise with no mention of treatments, dyes or

I think that the only way you will know for sure what you are buying
is to either deal with a reputable business that you trust, buy
directly from a U.S. mine, or become very experienced in what high
grade turquoise is, what the enhancement and stabilizing techniques
are and how they affect the stone. I don’t see anything wrong with
stabilizing natural mid-grade turquoise. If it wasn’t done, there
wouldn’t be enough sellable turquoise available for the markets’
demand and there wouldn’t be enough affordable material. But, I have
a huge problem with dyeing to enhance color or dyeing other stones
and passing it off as natural.

The first indicator about whether or not you are buying the real
thing should be price. If you can get a strand of 8mm “turquoise”
beads for $2.00, they are either reconstituted chalk turquoise or
some other dyed stone. The other way to figure it out is what you
did, smack a bead and look inside. Unfortunately you’ll have to buy
the strand to do this since I don’t think any bead vendor wants you
smacking their beads. Of course you can just skip worrying about it
at all and just sell all of your turquoise jewelry as “simulated” to
be safe. Or, you can be like me and avoid the stone altogether. I
think the market is oversaturated with turquoise jewelry anyway.

Best of Luck to You,
Nancy Stinnett
Geosoul Arts

Chinese turquoise is Chinese turquoise. That is, it is turquoise,
from China. What you had was probably not turquoise, it was just
called that. But there is a genuine article.


Not only would I like to know the answer to that question, but also,
what is “chalk” turquoise?

Thanks to anyone who can provide the


Not only would I like to know the answer to that question, but
also, what is "chalk" turquoise? 

Chalk turquoise is turquoise which is as soft and porous as chalk.
It is not cuttable in its naturally occurring form, so it is treated,
generally by heating to drive off moisture followed by immersion in
an acrylic solution. Often the acrylic solution contains blue dye as

I am told that this stabilized turquoise accounts for roughly 90% of
all turquoise on the market.


Smacking a bead is the way to go. Unscrupulous vendors will mark up
the price of the junk just to make it look like they are high end.

When you hammer a chalk turquoise bead, you’ll see that it crumbles
much like a sweet tart. And, if you decide to go forward with the
cheap stuff, make sure that your clients understand what they are
getting. It can be relatively easy to break the chalk, reconstituted
and poor quality turquoise. Your reputation may be at stake should
the customer think that he or she is getting the higher end product.


Chinese turquoise is simply turquoise from China. =-O. Seriously,
it’s not a term for any particularl grade or formulation of
turquoise… Some of the turquoise out of China is really high quality
material. Some is junk. Same as American turquoise for that matter…
It sounds like the stuff you bought was the junk variety. As for
"chalk", that’s a term for very low quality, very soft, very porous
turquoise which is really not usable and is usually impregnated with
plastic to “stabilize” it. I really get a kick out of that term. The
plastic not only makes it useable but it also really improves the
color. I’m sure that is an unintended result. O:-)

As for how you tell which is what, well, it takes experience working
with it, and the gaining of some gemological knowledge, which is
available through things like GIA courses, and books and such. There
are a lot of different treatments. Some are easy to detect, some are
not. Your best be is to find a reputable dealer. I wish I could
offer some easy and quick answer to your question, but there just
isn’t one.

Jerry in Kodiak

I did some research on this for one of my websites and the
I found can be summarised like this:

“Chinese turquoise, which must not be confused with ‘Chinese
Turquoise’, originates from China and is true Turquoise. ‘Chinese
Turquoise’ is not turquoise at all although it looks similar, but is
a mixture of steatite, calcite and quartz that has been dyed blue”

Pat Waddington

‘Chalk turquoise’ is the name given to low grade turquoise in its
natural state (very soft and friable), particularly the yellows and
greens found in the US.

Pat Waddington

I stablize turquoise and if the bead was processed properly the
matrix of soft turquoise would have saturated fully and this would be
through out the bead. By your discription it appears to be something
other than turquoiuse.

Not only would I like to know the answer to that question, but
also, what is "chalk" turquoise?

Dyed chalk or howlite. A simulant.

When I was first making jewelry, I stored some beads in a
compartmented container that had been used to store vitamins, I
found that the Chinese turquoise I had stored in there absorbed the
odor of the vitamins, and the smell was almost impossible to get out.
Whatever it is, it is very porous.

Janet Kofoed

Chinese turquoise is turquoise from china. It comes in all grades
from poor color and hardness to very hard and high grade color. The
color can vary from green to a gray blue to deep blue to sky blue. I
have seen some natural Chinese turquoise that looks like treated
turquoise. Its too high in color.

The high end natural turquoise is probably some of the best
turquoise on the market. Almost all Chinese turquoise has a lot of
black matrix. Very little is pure blue. Very little raw material is
available on the market. Most Chinese turquoise is sold as cabs.

Some of the turquoise is treated to make it more stable and in hence
its color. Cutting this turquoise will produce a perfume fragrance.

It appears there is a fairly new treatment of turquoise. It involves
some sort of electric treatment. I am not sure how it works but it
seems to produce very hard stone. I have noticed that some of the
cabs I buy have a beautiful color and finish on the surface but the
color changes as you cut into the stone.

I buy large cabs rather than raw turquoise and cut them to the size
cabs I need. This allows me to judge the quality of a stone. Its
more expensive than buying raw stones and cutting them into cabs
however you never know what the inside of a raw stone is like. Its
very frustrating to buy a large stone that looks good on the surface
and is lousy on the inside.

Chalk turquoise is very soft with light color. It is treated with
some kind of plastic material that can have some color added. One
advantage of treated turquoise is that it will not change color as
it is worn. It does not absorb oil from the skin.

Lee Epperson

I have been following all these emails on Chinese Turquois and of
course have to add my two cents. As an old timer I am familiar with
this term… It is an old trade name used about 40 years ago
for reconstructed Turquois. Had absolutely nothing to do with origin.
Goes back to the old days prior to full disclosure and fancy names
sounded better