Complete Guide to Turquoise

Written by: Afshin Shaddaie, Jewelry and Gemology Expert
January 5, 2022 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog

Turquoise is among the most popular semi-precious stones, intense competition for more expensive alternatives. Its blue hue is so beautiful that it has a color named after it (not vice versa). 

This guide will explain how turquoise occurs in nature and its symbolism. We’ll also share tips on buying the best turquoise and show you some of the most famous turquoise jewelry pieces. 

What Is Turquoise? 

Sterle Turquoise Brooches
A rare Turquoise brooch from our vintage jewelry collection

Turquoise is a gemstone with a beautiful color varying from yellowish-green to bright blue. Rarely, the stone can be white or yellowish. The minerals may have a black pattern that resembles marble, spiderweb, or quail’s egg. It’s a relatively soft stone, ranging from 5 to 6 on the Mohs hardness scale. 

The gemstone occurs due to a chemical reaction between copper, phosphorus, and aluminum. Such circumstances are quite rare in nature, so turquoise is only found in particular places on earth. The region must be dry and barren with acidic groundwaters. Some of the most important turquoise origin countries include Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Iran, and Tibet. 

Meaning Behind Turquoise

Collection of Turquoise Stones

Ancient Egyptians named turquoise mefkat, which translates as “joy.” Indeed, the lively turquoise color inevitably improves the mood of anyone looking at it. Some believe that this stone brings peace, attracts love, and protects the owner from evil spirits. Turquoise is the December birthstone. 

Turquoise has a calming energy that can enhance the feng shui energy in one’s home. People worldwide believe that it helps in healing practices and balances emotions. 

How to Find the Best Turquoise?

Examining a Turquoise Engagement Ring

Like all gemstones, turquoise has certain features that define the stone quality. Generally, experts judge turquoise based on its color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. These are the same four C’s professionals use to define diamond quality. 

Turquoise can have different hues of blue and green. Typically, stones with a green hue have a lower value than those with a blue tint, but it’s also a matter of personal preference. Most importantly, the turquoise color must be even and intense. 

In the case of turquoise, “clarity” refers to the opaqueness level. Turquoise is never clear as glass, but it ranges from semi-translucent to opaque. Opaque stones are more valuable and thus tend to cost more. 

Additionally, turquoise stones may have a black, brown, or golden pattern known as the matrix. It’s a remnant of the rock that surrounded the turquoise mineral in its natural environment. Although the matrix can make the stone even more appealing to some people, the most valuable stones are clear. 

The matrix color indicates the turquoise host stone. So, black matrix means that turquoise occurred in iron pyrite stone. Yellow matrix is a result of rhyolite host stone, and brown matrix indicates one of the 16 iron oxide types. 

Traditionally, turquoise has a cabochon cut – a smooth, rounded dome shape with a good polish. Such a cut beautifully showcases the stone’s even color and texture. Sometimes, you may come across flat turquoise stones, especially jewelry inlays. However, turquoise rarely has facets. 

The stone comes in all sizes and is weighed in carats. Some jewelry pieces feature an array of tiny stones, while the rarest and most expensive pieces feature single large minerals. The largest turquoise stone in the world weighs over 219,000 carats, which equals 97 pounds. Its price exceeds $2,197,000. 

Types of Turquoise 

Turquoise stones differ by type and origin. In this section, we’ll list the most popular and beautiful turquoise types along with their features. Additionally, we’ll mention some fake turquoise varieties you may encounter on the market. 

White Buffalo Turquoise 

Loose White Buffalo Turquoise 

White Buffalo Turquoise, or simply white turquoise, is a natural gemstone from the Nevada or Arizona regions. People often mistake howlite, calcite, and magnesite for white turquoise. However, these minerals are much softer than turquoise and aren’t suitable for jewelry. 

White turquoise raises a lot of controversies. Some argue that the stone isn’t turquoise and call it simply “white buffalo stone.” But the similarities between white and blue turquoise’s chemical structure indicate that the mineral justifiably carries its name. Genuine White Buffalo Turquoise has a slightly blueish or greenish tint that becomes more apparent when stabilizing the stone. 

African Turquoise 

Top Quality Natural African Turquoise Gemstone

Sometimes, you may come across so-called African turquoise. The stone indeed originates in Africa, but it’s a variety of jasper. It’s called turquoise because of the bluish-green color with a black or brown matrix pattern. Often, African turquoise has yellowish spots. 

African turquoise is slightly harder than genuine turquoise and more common, thus cheaper. Jewelers love to use African turquoise as a natural turquoise alternative, though this stone is never as clear and evenly blue as its namesake. 

Purple Turquoise 

Loose Purple Turquoise Cut

Another controversial turquoise type is purple turquoise. Genuine turquoise can’t be purple, as the combination of copper and aluminum always produces a green or blue tint. In extremely rare cases, the hue is so faint that the stone appears white or yellow. 

Purple, however, only occurs when turquoise minerals are chemically treated. For instance, the Mojave purple turquoise is made in the Kingman mine in Arizona. Jewelers dye regular stones purple and fuse them with bronze to add shine to the matrix. Often, stones are mixed with red-dyed resin to reinforce them and enhance purple. 

Some purple turquoise may not be turquoise at all but rather plastic or a different mineral, sugilite. Sugilite is a rare opaque mineral of medium hardness. It has properties similar to turquoise but a different hue and matrix. 

Royston Turquoise 

Oval Cut Royston Turquoise

The most valuable stones have an even color without a matrix and opaque texture. However, imperfection is beautiful in its unique way, too. The Royston mine in Nevada is the home of some of the most notable turquoise. They tend to have a deep green color, sometimes with spots of different hues. Most Royston minerals have a heavy brown or gold matrix. Despite this, many jewelry enthusiasts view the Royston Turquoise as a good investment. 

Red Turquoise 

Oval Cut Facet Red Turquoise

Mother Nature could never produce a red turquoise mineral. However, you may see such on store shelves. In most cases, sellers use stabilized and dyed howlite or magnesite that resembles turquoise. Some mines also dye genuine turquoise in various colors, including red, orange, and pink. 

Carico Lake Turquoise 

Carico Lake Turquoise on Carpet

Carico Lake Turquoise originates in the American Southwest region. Its color palette varies from lively green to sky blue. Some minerals have a high zinc content that results in a lime green hue. These turquoise stones tend to have a delicate brownish-gold spiderweb matrix. 

Dry Creek Turquoise 

Dry Creek Turquoise 

Dry Creek Turquoise is a rare light blue color with a noticeable brown matrix. It’s so light that many people confuse Dry Creek Turquoise with White Buffalo Turquoise. 

Ithaca Peak Turquoise 

Ithaca Peak Turquoise 

Ithaca Peak Turquoise shares many properties with famous American Kingman mine stones. It’s easily recognizable by a deep blue color without any inclusions. That’s a desirable and extremely rare stone. 

Kings Manassa Turquoise 

Kings Manassa Turquoise is beautiful in its flaws. You won’t mistake this stone for any other variety, as most of the mineral is a golden-brown host rock with small turquoise spots. The Kings Manassa mine doesn’t operate anymore, so this type is a rare find on the market. 

Sleeping Beauty Turquoise 

Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Loose Stone Uncut

This turquoise is named for the Sleeping Beauty mountain summit in Washington State. Although it’s softer than most other turquoise types, it’s highly desirable due to its royal blue color. Sleeping Beauty Turquoise doesn’t usually have a matrix and thus is very expensive. 

Chalk Turquoise 

Chalk Turquoise hails from China. Although it’s genuine turquoise, the minerals are porous, white, and in their natural state, unsuitable for jewelry creation. Jewelers stabilize them to increase the hardness and often dye them green, blue, or pink. Chalk turquoise lacks the blue color as it doesn’t contain copper. 

Turquoise Jewelry 

Antique Persian Turquoise Brooch
Beautiful Turquoise Brooch

The most popular use of turquoise is in jewelry. Keep reading to find out how to shop for a high-quality gemstone. We’ll also share some of the most famous turquoise jewelry pieces for your inspiration. 

Ideas for Turquoise Rings 

Holding an Vintage Bulgari VCA Cocktail Ring

Turquoise is a self-sufficient gemstone that isn’t as versatile in terms of jewelry design as diamonds or other clear stones. If you admire turquoise but struggle to develop a ring design, you may consider our ideas. 

Turquoise and Other Gemstones 

13224 Turquoise Ring with Pearls Artistic

Although turquoise is a bright gemstone that already draws attention, it doesn’t have to be the only gemstone on your ring. However, color and texture combination is essential. 

Turquoise doesn’t go well with clear, sparkling stones like emeralds or diamonds. Instead, pair it with smooth, opaque gemstones. Some of the best combinations with turquoise are pearl, coral, obsidian, rhodonite, and jasper. 

Turquoise in Gold Settings 

11155 Bulgari Turquoise Earrings in Box

Turquoise goes well with platinum, silver, and white gold. But yellow gold makes the blue color truly pop and resembles sun rays reflecting on waves. Furthermore, gold is more suitable for engagement rings and other valuable jewelry pieces than silver. 

Vintage Turquoise Ring 

Vintage gemstone rings are one-of-a-kind and often feature intricate designs. Although turquoise is a relatively affordable gemstone, the value of vintage pieces only grows. That’s especially relevant for pieces that feature rare minerals without inclusions, such as this stunning Bulgari ring

Sun and Waves 

If you’re planning to make a custom turquoise ring, draw inspiration from nature. A bright blue turquoise color awakens associations with vacation, the deep sea, and the warm sun. Thus, a sunburst halo or wavy engraving, along with the band, perfectly matches a turquoise ring. 

Can You Use Turquoise for Your Engagement Ring? 

Who said that all engagement rings must feature a diamond? Sure, diamonds are the hardest gemstones and are highly valuable. But turquoise engagement rings can be even more appealing. Let’s look at the advantages and drawbacks of turquoise engagement rings. 

Colorful Rings Are Trendy 

Colorful engagement rings are one of the hottest trends of recent years. They can add a pop of color to your loved one’s life and are so unique. A ring with colorful gemstones will always draw attention, even if it has a simple, minimalistic design. The turquoise color is one of the most beautiful colors in the world, let alone among gemstones. Although this mineral doesn’t sparkle as a diamond does, it’s no less stunning. 

A Personal Choice 

Diamond rings are beautiful, but some people find them too generic. Alternative engagement rings, in turn, can showcase your loved one’s personality. A turquoise ring will be a perfect match for positive, cheerful women who admire the color blue. 

Lower Price 

Turquoise is more common than diamonds. Furthermore, it’s easier to cut and polish due to its softness. This results in a lower price than precious stones such as emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds. An engagement ring doesn’t have to drain all your savings. 


The turquoise’s softness makes it inexpensive, which is a pro. But it also makes it less durable. Turquoise is relatively easy to scratch or crack, though not as easy as pearl or fluorite. Gentle care is vital to preserving a turquoise ring in its initial state for years to come. You should avoid harsh chemicals and take the ring off when performing activities that could potentially damage the stone. 

Resale Value 

Turquoise has a relatively low retail price, which results in its lower resale value. Of course, that shouldn’t be an issue if you aren’t planning to sell such a deeply symbolic piece. However, it’s something worth keeping in mind if you don’t view your engagement ring as an heirloom and wish to replace it after some years. 

Shopping Tips for Buying a Turquoise 

Customer Trying an Engagement Ring at Estate Diamond Jewelry

Turquoise is a popular mineral, but not many know how to choose a suitable stone. That’s why many jewelry stores try to bewilder customers, offering them low-quality minerals or turquoise alternatives. Here are the top 10 tips for buying a worthy turquoise jewelry piece. 

1. Good Stone Can’t Be Cheap 

Turquoise is a relatively inexpensive gemstone. But it shouldn’t be dirt cheap, especially for rare, clear, opaque blue stones with a high weight. The average price of turquoise per carat is about $5. However, depending on the quality, it may be as high as $1,000. Be careful about judging the stone’s quality on the price alone, though. 

2. Know Fake Turquoise 

Learn to distinguish between real and fake turquoise before you head shopping. You already know how red, purple, and African turquoise are other minerals, plastic, or dyed turquoise. Howlite and blue jasper may also resemble turquoise to inexperienced buyers. 

3. Stabilized Stones 

Many turquoise minerals are too soft for jewelry, so industry experts developed methods of increasing the hardness by saturating them with a colorless stabilizing compound. This may not seem like an issue – after all, that’s still genuine turquoise. However, stabilization is only required for low-quality stones. High-quality turquoise doesn’t need it. 

4. Block Turquoise 

Stabilization isn’t the only way to bewilder customers into buying low-quality stones. Sometimes, jewelry manufacturers crush low-quality minerals into dust and mix them with resin and other chemical compounds. The mixture is then formed into blocks, cut, and polished to resemble a natural stone. You can identify “block” turquoise with a slight plastic scent. 

5. Define the Origin 

Ask the jeweler about the stone’s origin before purchasing it. The best quality stones originate in Iran, Egypt, the southwestern part of the U.S., and Mexico. Learning about the visual differences between turquoise from these regions will also help identify a good stone. 

6. Turquoise Quality Grades 

Like all gemstones, turquoise has quality grades. The Turquoise Quality Index (TQI) ranges from 8 to 100, and less than 1% of all stones get a score of 90 or higher. Aim for minerals with at least 65 TQI, which translates into grade A (medium). Stones with a TQI of 75 or higher have an AA (high) quality grade. 

7. Buy From Reputable Stores 

Don’t purchase turquoise jewelry from individual sellers without certifications, especially if they can’t answer questions about a stone’s quality grade or origin. Purchase only from reputable jewelry stores. 

8. Opaque and Clear Is Better 

The opaqueness, color, and clarity of turquoise are mainly a matter of personal preference. However, opaque blue stones without matrices are rarer and have a higher resale value. 

9. Cold and Heavy 

Distinguishing between turquoise and howlite or jasper may be difficult. Thankfully, you can easily spot a plastic piece by its temperature and weight. An authentic stone is always cold and heavier than plastic. 

10. Certification 

The quality grade, origin, and other properties of turquoise stones must be proven by certification. Request it from the seller before purchasing a jewelry piece. You can’t be sure you’re buying the real thing without a certificate. 

Famous Turquoise Jewelry 

Turquoise may not be the most expensive gemstone, but some turquoise jewelry pieces are just as noteworthy as diamond or ruby ones. For instance, Queen Elizabeth ll owns a turquoise brooch from her mother. 

Queen Elizabeth ll isn’t the only royal family member to own turquoise jewelry. Her sister, Princess Margaret, inherited an entire Persian turquoise parure on her 21st birthday. Another famous piece with sky-blue stones, the Teck tiara, currently belongs to the Duchess of Gloucester Birgitte. 

Norwegian Queen Alexandra’s turquoise tiara dates back to 1902. Her third daughter, the Queen of Norway, Maud, inherited it in 1925. Today, the tiara is a key element of Princess Astrid’s gala jewelry. 

Celebrities rarely rock looks with turquoise jewelry on the red carpet, but it’s always a look to remember when they do. Eva Mendes wore a 1974 Van Cleef and Arpels necklace at the 2009 Golden Globe Awards. It features 132 perfectly clear blue drop-shaped stones. 

Talk to a Jewelry Expert 

Afshin and Adira with Vintage Earring in Estate Diamond Jewelry Box

Buying high-quality turquoise jewelry is challenging, so finding a worthy retailer is critical. Estate Diamond Jewelry is a reputed seller of fine vintage jewelry located in New York. Don’t hesitate to contact us with any queries. We can offer a selection of rare vintage rings, including turquoise rings, or create a custom piece of your design.