Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Mojave Turquoise, Composite Turquoise---What Is It?

Genuine Turquoise
Turquoise has been a treasured gemstone across many cultures for thousands of years---Egyptians, Persians, Maya, Aztec, Native North Americans, Chinese---due to its beautiful blue-green color and metaphysical properties.  It is still a very popular gemstone, but is difficult to work with because it is very soft and brittle.  So several treatments are done on natural turquoise to make it wearable.
Natural Turquoise

Turquoise Treatments:
  • Natural and untreated turquoise is VERY rare (about 1% of all turquoise in jewelry)
  • Stabilized turquoise is treated in various ways, and is considered to be genuine turquoise.  Even Sleeping Beauty turquoise is treated.  Methods include heat, apoxy, and dyes.  Nearly ALL of the genuine turquoise sold is stabilized, including turquoise jewelry on shopping channels, in stores, and in jewelry retailers.
  • Reconstituted turquoise is considered to be NOT genuine turquoise.  It's powdered turquoise mixed with chemicals and glues and dyes.  It is unethical to refer to this as "genuine turquoise" as it is mostly other materials.
  • Block turquoise is made entirely out of dyed plastics and chemicals, and contains no turquoise.
  • Dyed Howlite/Magnesite is NOT turquoise, but is a simulated turquoise.
  • Yellow Turquoise is NOT Turquoise, but is African yellow jasper.  African green jasper is also sold as "green turquoise" but there is NO TURQUOISE in this stone---it is jasper, a type of Quartz.
So basically, you want to find "Stablized Turquoise" and not "Reconsituted Turquoise" for jewelry.  There is a new form of "mosaic" turquoise that is a stabilized turquoise, called "Mojave" or "Mohave" or "Copper Turquoise".

Blue Mojave Turquoise
There is a fairly new type of composite turquoise (since 2008) or "mosaic" turquoise that consists of pieces of genuine turquoise that are bonded together, along with other minerals (such as pyrite), using polymers.  Colors are added to the polymer to produce "Purple Turquoise" and "Green Turquoise", and "Red" or "Orange Turquoise".

The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) did a detailed exam of this turquoise in 2010 (you can read the pdf here) and it was found to be genuine turquoise.   Because small pieces of genuine turquoise are bonded into a larger piece, whether dyed or not, the end product is considered to be genuine turquoise.

The purple and green turquoise samples were dyed, and the blue composite turquoise was undyed.  The metallic "matrix" is found to be genuine ground pyrite or copper.  If you look closely, you can see the blue turquoise peeking through the colored polymers in both the green and purple examples below.  I assume they use yellow dyes to make the green, and reddish pink dyes to make the purple. 
Purple Mojave Turquoise

Green Mojave Turquoise

This is a BEAUTIFUL and affordable way to wear turquoise!  (These are genuine turquoise, so they aren't "cheap" but are well-priced.)   Although it's an assembled gemstone, it is made of all natural turquoise, and "blue Mojave turquoise" contains NO dyes.  The other colors are also extremely beautiful and interesting.  These are genuine turquoise gemstones, in a beautiful array of colors----much, MUCH more beautiful than dyed Howlite (which can be found in lots of weird neon greens and yellows, etc.) and made from all GENUINE turquoise pieces.

Turquoise, Spiny Oyster, MOP Composite Gemstones
I've seen some other beautiful assembled stones lately----turquoise and spiny oyster, "copper obsidian", some beautiful gems that look like they use pieces of mother-of-pearl plus black onyx, and more.  I am definitely going to buy some of these!  Here is one seller on Etsy, and there are many more, who have these beautiful new gemstones!  I'm not exactly sure what materials are used some of these assembled stones since they haven't been tested (the GIA's test was only for the Mojave Turquoise stones, and that was 6 years ago!) but there are new techniques in the jewelry industry every day.  If you search for "Mojave turquoise" (or spelled Mohave) or "Copper Turquoise", you will find a LOT of lovely choices!
"Copper Obsidian" Stones--plus Turquoise?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Genuine Obsidian v. Fake Blue, Green, Aqua, Yellow, Red Glass "Obsidian"

Obsidian Is Glass, But Not All Glass Is Obsidian!

Chunk of Blue Glass--NOT Obsidian

Recently, I wrote about Obsidian---which is natural volcanic or basalt rock that is made of natural glass, which forms when lava rapidly cools.  Genuine Obsidian is translucent and very dark---usually black or smoke grey, but can also be banded (Rainbow),  brown (Mohogany Obsidian), black with white inclusions (Snowflake Obsidian), and even tiny hair-like filaments caught in trees (Pele's Hair Obsidian).  There is also "Sheen Obsidian", which is black but has iridescent sheen in blues, greens, and golds, which is due to gas bubbles trapped inside.  Here are some pictures of varieties of genuine Obsidian, other than the common dark black or smoke grey obsidian:

Rainbow Obsidian and Fire Obsidian are colorful due to inclusions of Magnetite nanocrystals.  Sheen Obsidian has blue, green, or golden flashes of color that glows and moves with the light, due to inclusions of torpedo-shaped or needle-shaped gas bubbles.  Snowflake obsidian has white splotches due to cristobalite spherulites.  Mahogany Obsidian is brown or reddish brown due to iron impurities.  Apache Tears are naturally smooth nuggets of dark obsidian:
Apache Tears


There are a LOT of sellers on the internet, on Etsy, on Ebay, on all sorts of websites, who are selling colored man-made glass as Obsidian.  They claim that it's "natural", a "mineral" (which is false--obsidian OR glass are not minerals), "rare" in colors such as aqua and blue, and even give it names such as "Himalayan Blue" and "Siberian Blue" and "Andara Blue" and "Gaia Stone*" and many, many more.  Some "creative" sellers claim that "blue obsidian" forms when lava reaches the water!  WOW.

These transparent blue, green, aqua, red, purple, yellow,etc. stones are nothing more than man-made GLASS.  Some sellers are even selling faceted blue glass "gemstones" as "Obsidian", and none of these are anything other than man-made glass (or some sort of crystal or CZ perhaps).  I have written about this jewelry separately, below.  Many metaphysical shops on Etsy and elsewhere are offering tumbled GLASS as "obsidian" with all sorts of metaphysical properties, healing properties, etc.  Some are even selling "palm" stones or "thumb" stones, which are nothing more than flat glass "gems" that you can buy by the bag at Dollar Tree or Michael's!  I'm all for free enterprise, but buyers need to be careful not to overspend on glass!

This is often more than just "creative marketing" so please BEWARE!

Here are some examples of  glass being sold as "obsidian"----none of these are natural:
Sometimes, even though the title of these for sale says "obsidian", the description will divulge that it's man-made glass.  Does that seem right to you?  To me, it's totally disingenuous to even say "Obsidian" AT ALL if it's just glass.

Here are flat-backed glass "gems" that sell for $1 a bag at Dollar Tree and elsewhere:
Flat-backed Blue Glass "Gems" (R) and Colors (Back)

Here are more examples of  "natural obsidian" being sold online, all of which are glass or cz or crystal:

Here you can see a great variety of glass being sold as "natural obsidian".  Some are faceted spheres, some smooth spheres, LOTS of skulls and "eggs" which I didn't bother to picture, glass pieces in green (some shaped like a crystal!), red glass, and a LOT of jewelry or "gemstones" that are marketed as "obsidian" but definitely are NOT----they are cheap glass or CZ, but are being sold for top dollar.  There was SO MUCH of these fake gemstones all over the internet that I wrote about it separately!

There are SO many sellers on Etsy and Ebay (and elsewhere online) who are selling slag glass as a mysterious "Andara Crystal" with mystical and magical powers.  Slag glass is just a big chunk of leftover glass from manufacturing.  It's found in pretty much any color.  There is NOTHING mystical about glass---it's NOT a mineral and in fact doesn't even possess ANY crystal structure!  So sellers offering "Andara Crystal" with all sorts of names ("Pele's Fire" and "Merlin's Purple" and Divine Fire" and on and on....) are just selling you a chunk of manmade GLASS.
Please---Buyer Beware!

Volcanic ash from the Mount St. Helen's eruption is used to create a man-made glass along with coloring additives.  These glass stones can be found in transparent green, blue, and red, and are often found in jewelry marketed to tourists.  These are NOT natural obsidian, and are just another form of man-made glass.  The trademarked name "Helenite" has since been abandoned, but this glass is also known by other names such as Gaia Stone, Obsidianite, and Mount St. Helens Obsidian.  You can read all about its background and how it's made HERE.  As stated in that article, please note that this material:
  • was not produced during the Mount St. Helens eruption
  • is man-made
  • is not rare because it can be produced in great quantities
  • is easily scratched because of its low hardness
  • chips easily
  • its color is determined by adding colorants to the melt
When I googled images of "Helenite", I was surprised to see a lot of this glass being marketed as "gem rough".  It's really just glass, not a gem!

Here are some really fraudulent examples of jewelry that is made with glass, or CZ, or crystals---but NONE of these are natural Obsidian, despite their price (sometimes outrageous) or claims.  My guess is that since these are just glass,  if a gemologist were to examine these, they would see NO crystal structure (a giveaway for glass) and by saying it's "natural" obsidian, they are attempting to add a value to otherwise inexpensive glass or crystal:

(Ooops--I included the green halo ring twice!)
These are ridiculous!  Some of these blue CZ/glass/crystal rings are found at Kohl's under a "designer's" brand, the second ring is just "Blue Goldstone" which is Venetian glass that has copper crystals inside of it,  some jewelry is on high-end jewelry websites (the ring appears in all the pictures to NOT be "rare blue obsidian"---which would be blue sheen obsidian----but instead looks to be either chalcedony or just art glass, set in sterling with a gold bezel, and sold for almost $900!!  See picture below for a genuine sheen obsidian ring), 3 of the rings in the center are being sold for hundreds of dollars (!) and are just blue CZ or crystal, but marketed as "Himalayan Blue Obsidian" and next to it another "Himalayan Blue Obsidian" even though they are different colors of blue (same seller), and then a "unique" and "rare" "Neon Paraiba Obsidian" ring---very expensive, especially for glass or CZ!  The cobalt blue rings and pendant used to be called "lab sapphire" (which it wasn't) but are now being called "obsidian", maybe because they ARE glass, not sure.  The pendant at the bottom was given two very fancy-sounding names:  Bahia blue Obsidian and Tibetan Aqua Obsidian----and of course they are neither, just glass or cz.

For comparison here is a picture of a GENUINE obsidian (blue sheen or perhaps rainbow sheen) ring on etsy:

GENUINE Sheen Obsidian ring

You will note that it is dark (translucent black) obsidian with a natural "sheen" due to naturally-trapped gas bubbles within the obsidian.  Pretty!!

Here are some pictures of glass, being sold as GLASS, for use in fire pits or outdoor gardens.  These are tempered glass pieces, or sometimes just slag glass.  You will see that this glass is the SAME as the glass being sold as "obsidian", including the aqua glass, the purple glass, and the center "cubes" of iridescent glass:
Inexpensive GLASS, sold by the pound

Here is an example of something REALLY fake.  I saw this when I was searching for "blue obsidian" and just had to share this here.  Both of these are identical in size and shape, same silver setting, same split bail, same prongs, same faceted "flower" cut, everything, but different websites.  On the left is a pendant being sold online as "Siberian Blue Quartz" (there is NO such quartz---so that's a fraud) and on the right is the very same pendant sold on a website (Satya Center) as "Tibetan Blue Obsidian":

So you can see how sellers just make up names for things---quartz, obsidian, etc.!  And they fabricate where it's "found" (the Himalayas? AND Siberia?") when all it is, is actually a man-made blue sapphire simulant.  (Probably glass--the one on the right looks VERY glassy.)  The one on the right sells for almost $300 (!!) and the one on the left is about $140!!  Each is worth FAR FAR less than that. 
Buyer beware!!

Obsidian is a naturally-forming translucent, dark, natural glass rock.  It is formed due to volcanic activity.  It is translucent black, reddish brown ("mahogany"), with banding or white splotches (snowflake), or with iridescent sheen in blue or green or gold due to trapped gasses, or rainbow or fire obsidian (due to trapped Magnesite).   The faceted "gems" that are transparent blues and aquas are NOT Obsidian, but are man-made glass or something.  The tumbled or shards of transparent "obsidian" in all shades of blues, greens, reds, aquas, yellows, and other bright colors are just simply GLASS that you can buy anywhere, in any craft store, at roadside tables, or fireplace shops or home improvement stores.

Colored glass is certainly pretty (art glass!) but jewelry made with transparent "blue obsidian" is most definitely made with some sort of man-made glass and is NOT worth hundreds of dollars.