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How To Tell If Turquoise Is Real Or Fake (Turquoise vs Howlite)

turquoise vs howlite

Believe it or not, but fake turquoise makes up about 90% of the turquoise you come across on a daily basis. That’s crazy!  

So what can you do to make sure the turquoise you buy isn’t fake turquoise?  There actually are a few things you can do to tell if turquoise is real, and that’s exactly what we’re going to go over in this post...So let’s just dive right in.

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What Is Fake Turquoise

If you want to know the difference between fake turquoise and real turquoise, then you should first know what fake turquoise is.

Fake turquoise is actually an absorbent white mineral called howlite. And this super absorbent mineral howlite can be dyed in almost any color imaginable. And when it’s done right, it can be very difficult to know if what you have is real or fake.

How To Tell If Turquoise Is Real

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But fear not, there’s a few things that you can do to help determine if you’re buying dyed howlite or real turquoise.

Those three things you can do are:

  • Price
  • Look or Appearance, and
  • Color

Price

You’ve heard that if something’s too good to be true, then it probably is.  Well, the same holds true with turquoise gemstones and turquoise jewelry. If you’ve come across a turquoise stone for next to nothing, or a turquoise bracelet or necklace that’s a steal of the century, then chances are you’re looking at fake turquoise.

Here’s an example that one reader of Gemrockauctions shared regarding fake turquoise at the Tucson Gem show he attended.

“Many natural stones were offered for sale with net price tags for $80 to $100 and vendors would not discount. Just around the corner I found Asian sellers with treated turquoise stone for $20.00 and at end of the show they had hardly sold any, and had sign pick from $10.00”

Clearly the $20 price for “turquoise” was too good to be true, and good thing not many people bought them.

Overall Look or Appearance

Another thing you can look at in look or appearance to tell if turquoise is fake or real is to use the fingernail trick.

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The Fingernail Test

This method can be used if you have a rough natural stone. Simply use your fingernail and run it along the surface of the turquoise stone. If your fingernail gets caught on where the Turquoise meets the webbing matrix, then chances are in your favor that it is a natural turquoise stone.

The Scratch Test

The scratch test is going to help you determine the hardness of the specimen. Howlite is softer than turquoise, so we can use this to our advantage when determining if the turquoise is fake.

Simply look to see if the stone you have scratches easily.  If it scratches easily, then chances are you have a piece of howlite.  If it’s difficult to scratch the stone, then odds are in your favor that it’s real turquoise.

Color

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The incredible color that turquoise is known for comes from a mix of several different naturally occurring things. The main contributor to the blue color found in turquoise is the copper that the stone contains. When this is combined with water, aluminum and phosphorus what we get is turquoise.  Of course this is the simple version of events, but you get the idea.

But what you should remember is that any different amount of any of these elements will change the color of the turquoise stone.  And that’s why it’s so incredibly difficult to find turquoise in nature that is perfectly uniform with an evenly distributed color.

So if you suspect you might have howlite and not turquoise, you can try the fingernail polish test.

Fingernail Polish Test

So, a bit of warning here with this one. The method I’m going to share with you here may damage the stone if it is in fact dyed howlite.

For this test for fake turquoise, what you need is nail polish remover and a cotton ball or tissue. In an inconspicuous area, such as the back or side of the stone, simply apply some of the nail polish remover (acetone) with the cotton ball or tissue. If the stone is dyed howlite, then you’ll begin to see blue on the cotton ball.  

Conclusion

Hopefully these tips on how to tell if turquoise is fake will help you do just that!  Remember, if it’s too good to be true...it probably is. If it’s un-naturally uniform in shape and color...it’s likely fake. And if it scratches easily or you can rub the blue coloring off, then it’s fake turquoise.

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Additional Tips For Identifying Fake Turquoise (VIDEO)

fake turquoise vs real turquoise