Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Working with turquoise


Dear Ganoksin, I’m a perpetual lurker on this list- and spend my
time with you being variously entertained, enlightened & a bit dazed
in regard to lots of technical bench (over my head at

I have the chance of a lifetime to spend May-September in Gdansk,
Poland helping to run a small, new amber boutique on Mariacka
Street, which is more or less the Vatican of Baltic amber. I would
also be designing pieces, particularly mixing amber with other
especially North American turquoise.

I’m mostly up to speed with bead necklaces, but my Polish parter–
who is taking a nervy, calculated risk in bringing other gemstones
to this particular street, no joke-- has asked me to obtain raw
turquoise. I have a great, good- spirited Native American supplier
who provides a range of Chinese/North American Turquoise, but is at
a loss for raw.

So far, what I’ve learned is that we probably need stabilized
turquoise to work into cabochons. His people are incredibly
well-versed with silver and amber, but turquoise will bring with it
both a learning curve, some waste, and will most likely require some
new equipment.

I’m really-or-usually- a writer & graphic artist, desktop publisher,
etc., but I’m up for this. I’m wondering if anyone can point me (on
or off list) towards technical about working with
turquoise, because although I’ve obtained some price lists, etc.,
I’m having a hard time figuring out what a good way to start (beyond
beads) is.

I love this idea of amber & turquoise, two stones so varied in body
& mood. I love the idea of them lying in the earth over millenium,
waiting to be reunited. I know that sounds horribly hokey. But I’m
eager to learn, I just need some resources, particularly technical
ones. Many thanks. – Cordially, Holly Design & Sales Andzia’s Amber
Jewelry & Beads tel. 877-586-6599
fax: 570-346-4568


Way back in the dark ages, I once ran a large cutting/inlay shop in
Albuq. I’m a little rusty, but I could get you started, maybe.
Treated/stabilized/plasticized turquoise is “chalk” that is put in a
chamber and pumped full of plastic. It is cheap, it is plastic, and
probably good to learn with (or for price points). It’s only just
barely turquoise at all, though. One reason to use it is because
you can’t drill natural turq. without huge waste from heat and
vibration. The way almost everybody in the SW cuts natural turq. is
to saw if necessary (unless it’s already thin), put down a sheet of
waxed paper, and spread out Devcon plastic steel (or put dots). Then
set the turqoise into it (not too high, not too deep) and let it set.
Clip it apart (tile clippers or similar) and then cut it. Devcon
reinforces it and gives a flat back (it’s the grey stuff on the
bottom you see). Also, standard carborundum wheels and sanders are
actually probably BETTER than diamond, it’s so soft. Rio grande has
a rig for a couple $100 that would get you going…


I’m sure this thread will stimulate some lively discussions on pros
and cons of natural vs. stabilized turquoise. If new to cutting and
polishing turquoise it would probably best to start with stabilized
turquoise. But keep in mind that not all stabilized turquoise is
processed in the same manner. The best stabilization is done when an
epoxy resin is injected into the stone using heat or pressure or
both. Some turquoise is stabilized with waxes like paraffin. I
would avoid these types as color and finish of the stone is likely
not to be permanent. What stabilization does is keep good turquoise
from fracturing and making the matrix of the turquoise about the same
hardness as the rest of the stone which will produce a smoother
finish. Stabilizing will also take chalk soft turquoise and harden it
to the point it can be polished and be relatively durable. Also be
aware that sometimes turquoise is dyed while it is being stabilized.

As for natural turquoise there can be some misleading dealers out
there selling natural stabilized turquoise, or 95% pure turquoise.
These are all sly terms in trying to mislead the buyer into thinking
they are buying natural turquoise. Natural turquoise is turquoise
that has not been chemically altered in anyway. I would not feel
comfortable buying natural turquoise from anyone without being able
to examine the stones personally. You could end up with a bag full of
chalk soft junk. I’m fortunate in having ready access to the Bad
Boys Mining Co. of Cripple Creek. IMHO They have the finest natural
turquoise in the world. Not only is the Cripple Creek turquoise
beautifully colored and figured it is also very hard for turquoise
with hardness of 6.7 to 7.7 on the MOHS scale.

As for cutting and polishing the stone, stabilized turquoise can be
cut into slabs then cabs be cut out of the slabs. Slabbing natural
turquoise can be tricky and one needs to learn how to read the grain
of the stone then cut it very slowly with very little pressure
against the diamond blade. Grinding natural turquoise takes a
lighter touch as well. With stabilized turquoise you can rough out
the cabs on a 180 grit diamond wheel, then 600 grit wheel for final
shaping and smoothing, then polish with ZAM. With Natural Cripple
Creek turquoise I do my rough shaping with a 320 grit wheel, do my
final shaping on a 600 grit wheel then final polish with ZAM.

As for suppliers I highly recommend the Bad Boys of Cripple Creek
mining co. for natural Cripple Creek turquoise. There web site is: but your best bet is to call
Harriet or David to get through.

As far as other sources I’ve had some good luck with buying
stabilized Baja and Kingman turquoise from a seller on ebay named

His US Postal address is:

Charley Williams
P.O. Box 2060
Claypool, AZ 85532

Another seller that I’ve had good luck with is also on ebay but has
a website is Oro Valley Gems at:

Hope this helps…
Rick Copeland – Silversmith
Colorado Springs, Colorado


I have purchased some rough turquoise from and used it for inlay work.
It was very good to work with. The results are on Gallery Page 3 of
my web site, Good luck Jim