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Jewelry Talk

Is Your Turquoise Genuine?

Started 1383716883.573 in Jewelry Talk | Last reply 1383964051.46 by SANNA
In New Mexico, jewelry containing turquoise is a multi-million dollar industry with felony-level penalties for misrepresenting the product. One of our TV stations (KRQE) did an investigative report on jewelry sold by several Santa Fe shops, the Museum of NM and the Smithsonian. They bought items, mostly inlaid pieces and some round beads, and had them examined by an earth sciences professor at the University of NM. All the examples they showed proved to be plastic, even the jewelry from the Smithsonian Gift Shop (which sent refunds to customers). If they picked up any samples that proved genuine, they didn't mention them. One shop immediately went out of business. In another, the owner admitted she just took the word of the seller and didn't know how to tell the difference. The UNM professor examined the stones under the microscope and tried gouging the backs of the stones with a sharp tool. He could tell they were plastic by the way they scratched. He cut the beads in half and observed that there was only matrix on the surface...dead giveaway. Sooo, you can deduce that there is a good chance you may own a piece of blue plastic and that you'll probably never know the difference because you're not a college professor. Sorry.

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belledejour1383717291.7732566 PostsRegistered 3/25/2013

THe Smithsonian? Do you have a link to an article about this?



"It is not just that animals make the world more scenic or picturesque. The lives of animals are woven into our very being, closer than our own breathing, and our souls will suffer when they are gone." ~The Souls of Animals

kachina6241383717799.0815665 PostsRegistered 10/6/2004New Mexico
You can google the TV station and look under "Investigative Reports". This just aired a few minutes ago so the story is not online yet.

voyager19801383718403.1232563 PostsRegistered 9/14/2013SoCal

Some was plastic, some was other minerals or substances:

SANTA FE (KRQE) - They are fakes and frauds, counterfeits designed to deceive. But, it's not just deception.

It's a crime to misrepresent Native American arts and crafts, in some cases a felony.

A Texas tourist paid $480 for a squash blossom necklace purchased from a now-defunct Santa Fe gift shop. However, tests show the stones, represented as lapis, are actually plastic imitations.

"I would say they are pretty good fakes," said Michael Spilde, a University of New Mexico scientist who examined the purported gemstones under an electron microscope.

And then there's turquoise. It may not sparkle like diamonds or glitter like gold, but this gemstone is the basis for an industry that pumps millions of dollars into the New Mexico economy.

It doesn't look like much at the mine, but once it's cut and polished, turquoise is recognized worldwide for its beauty in Indian arts and crafts. Joe Dan Lowry, literally, wrote the book--actually two books--on turquoise.

"Turquoise is the people's gemstone," Lowery told KRQE News 13. "They're buying the color, they're buying the beauty, they're buying the mystique of what turquoise represents."

Natural turquoise can be pricey. But not all pricey turquoise is the real deal. For example, a rare gem may be worth $20,000 while a cheap imitation is worth less than $10.

The illegal misrepresentation of Indian arts and crafts is a huge underground business in New Mexico.

A cabochon looks like different semiprecious stones. In fact the shaped and highly polished object is a $2 piece of plastic made in China.

"The consumer thinks that this artist or this store is selling them a pretty rarity," Lowry said. "Instead they are getting pure plastic."

Other counterfeits are made out of low-grade turquoise, which resembles chalk. If you pump in plastic resins and epoxy and artificially alter the color and hardness, you get stabilized turquoise that can be cut and polished.

"An imitation looks more and more like the original, and with today's science and technology you can make some incredible stuff that will blow your mind," Lowry added.

Despite the law requiring written disclosure if an item is not authentic, some merchants resort to blatant deception anyway. Take for example a turquoise necklace peddled by Kokochile, a Santa Fe gift shop just off the plaza.

"Is this turquoise?" KRQE News 13, working with a hidden camera, asked a Kokochile employee.

"Stabilized, yes. Turquoise, yes," the employee replied.

KRQE News 13 then came back for a second visit.

"This is stabilized," an employee said.

"Stabilized turquoise?" KRQE News 13 queried.

"Yeah. It's called turquoise," the employee said.

Just down the street at Santa Fe's Long John Silver a pair of earrings caught KRQE News 13's attention.

"Those are Zuni inlay. They're 180 (dollars). You are going to be half off, 90 bucks," the store clerk said as the hidden camera rolled. "They are signed by the artist. They're sterling, and the stones are natural.

"Turquoise of course, lapis, coral, mother of pearl, black onyx, malachite."

Up the block at Wind River Trading Company another pair of earrings was represented as Indian handcrafted with natural stones.

"Opal, spiny oyster shell and turquoise," the employee there said.

At the Museum of New Mexico gift shop in the Palace of the Governors a turquoise necklace was for sale for $27.

"This is actually turquoise that has been compressed, and I think the guy is from San Felipe," the museum employee said. "I don't know what his process is. It's a secret."

Asked what, then, the material was, the employee replied, "It's turquoise."

And then there is the Smithsonian's online gift shop. The national museum claimed a pair of earrings there was adorned with Arizona turquoise.

KRQE News 13 took its purchases to Professor Carl Agee at the University of New Mexico Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences for testing. The Museum of New Mexico necklace was easy.

"This is without doubt not turquoise," Agee said. "It's some other mineral or some other substance. Anything but turquoise. It is not turquoise."

And what about Wind River's $55 turquoise and opal earrings?

"The turquoise-colored material in this sample is not genuine," Agee said. "It's some other material, not turquoise.

"I'm taking a look at the opal now, and this scratches as if it were plastic. This is absolutely an imitation. No question about it."

At Long John Silver they claimed the $81 earrings contained semiprecious stones.

"I think the whole thing is plastic," Agee continued. "It's as if they are all the same material except they are different colors."

A microscopic exam of the Kokochile necklace was inconclusive, so Agee cut one of the beads in half with a diamond saw.

"Oh, look at that. That's interesting," he said. "The matrix is only on the outside."

Turquoise does no act like that in the natural world, he added.

UNM research scientist Michael Spilde performed the final test by putting the bead under a scanning electron microscope.

"I haven't found any turquoise in there," he said. "It looks to be mostly silicate minerals cemented together with epoxy."

The electron microscope also showed the Smithsonian's claim of 'Arizona turquoise' to be bogus.

"It's absolutely not turquoise," Spilde said.

But was there any turquoise the piece? "Absolutely none," he added.

A spokeswoman for the Smithsonian told KRQE News 13 the institution made a mistake. The jewelry has been removed from the online catalog, and all purchasers will get an apology and a refund.

And how did the Palace of the Governors end up selling a fake? Jamie Clements apologized on behalf of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, which operates the gift shop.

"This was an artist that represented the piece to us, which we then labeled as such when we sold it in our shop, and as you pointed out to me, that ended up being incorrect," Clements said. "Our immediate action was to re-evaluate our buying policies to make sure that this won't happen in the future."

Anyone who feels misled will be offered a full refund, he added.

But don't look for refunds at Kokochile. KRQE News 13 returned to the store and confronted an employee about the fake turquoise necklace sold there.

  • KRQE News 13: It is a crime to misrepresent Indian Arts and crafts.
  • Employee: OK
  • KRQE News 13: That's what you did.
  • Employee: OK.
  • KRQE News 13: What are you going to do about that? Who's the owner of the store?
  • Employee: He's not here.
  • KRQE News 13: Where is he?
  • Employee: I don't know.
  • KRQE News 13: When will he be back?
  • Employee: I don't know.

The manager at Wind River trading referred KRQE News 13 to the store owner. On the phone Jean DeAngelis would not comment on the earrings unless she could do her own test. Wind River stands behind the merchandise it sells, she said.

At Long John Silver they didn't just misrepresent jewelry.

"These here are Navajo rugs. They are newer made within the last 10 years," the employee said. "They're made by the Nez family up in the Four Corners. They use natural vegetable dyes and real wool, of course, natural wool. They're $400 apiece."

Authentic Navajo weavings are painstakingly handmade by native weavers using hand-spun wool and natural dyes. The one at Long John Silver however is a fake. In fact, the exact same weaving, which is mass produced in India, is sold online for $66

"In India? Really?" said Kim Ulibarri, who owns Long John Silver with her mother.

Ulibarri admitted she's not an expert.

"When the rugs were purchased, they were purchased from a Native American who represented himself as someone from the Nez family from the Navajo Reservation," Ulibarri said. "So I took his word in good faith that they were authentic Navajo rugs."

Ulibarri said she inherited the business from her father.

"He passed away a year ago," she said. "I've been put in charge of the business, and I'm trying to learn day by day.

"From this point I'll make sure that everything is authenticated and that I don't just take the word of someone."

According to state law, it is the responsibility of merchants who sell Indian arts and crafts to accurately represent their merchandise.

http://www.kasa.com/w82txt/wildcard-20/counterfeits-peddled-as-real-indian-art


And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. Roald Dahl

belledejour1383718678.162566 PostsRegistered 3/25/2013

INteresting---- never know who you can trust.



"It is not just that animals make the world more scenic or picturesque. The lives of animals are woven into our very being, closer than our own breathing, and our souls will suffer when they are gone." ~The Souls of Animals

Azcowgirl1383719524.2236982 PostsRegistered 4/10/2012
Amazing isn't it !!! Got me wondering now, if my pieces are plastic stones !!,): They are so good at replicating it now !!!

Last edited on 11/6/2013

moongirl1383721918.151480 PostsRegistered 10/31/2007

Thank you all for posting... very interesting

moongirl

violann1383746051.3112482 PostsRegistered 12/12/2004
I don't mind wearing fakes as long as some innocent turquoise animal didn't suffer to make my jewelry.




I didn't come here to argue.- Peg Bracken

juliet1383748940.02107 PostsRegistered 10/6/2004

When Colleen works with Jay King he always teases her about showing off a necklace she bought that he had to inform her wasn't real turquoise. So it happens to the best of us.

cooking la­dy1383752437.211769 PostsRegistered 12/7/2011

Kachina - this is really interesting - the "Smithsonian" unbelievable!! After thinking about it - I find it sad - but like Violann said - as long as I love it - so what - I wear and collect to enjoy my jewelry - not worried about selling it - Thanks so much for posting such interesting info though ladies!

VegasBusin­essWoman1383757125.13386 PostsRegistered 5/27/2013

Wow! What an eye-opener! Thanks, ladies, for passing along that information. I don't own a lot of turquoise, but will be more cautious when I buy it in the future.

ennui11383758413.5376531 PostsRegistered 6/22/2013
On 11/5/2013 kachina624 said: Sooo, you can deduce that there is a good chance you may own a piece of blue plastic and that you'll probably never know the difference because you're not a college professor. Sorry.

Whoever wrote that doesn't sound sorry at all. {#emotions_dlg.glare} (I'm assuming kachina did a copy/paste?)

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." ~Robert Brault

BonnieBelle1383777659.28719310 PostsRegistered 4/13/2007

I only own a set of three cheap turquoise stretch bracelets. Don't know and don't care, I've gotten years of use out of them.

mbbennett1383778702.64335 PostsRegistered 9/25/2013No. California - East Bay

I still have all my turquoise/indian jewelry that I wore back in the 70's. It still is fashionable and wear it often. Haven't bought new pieces since....

Beth

lboone1383780115.8331140 PostsRegistered 9/7/2007Winterville, GA

This is a long time issue with turquoise. Even if you buy old, as in antique pieces, you will often find imitation turquoise. In very old items the imitation is often glass, now I think you see more plastic. I read an article in the GIA publication Gems and Gemology a while back where I learned this disturbing fact.

It is unfortunate, but I always assume any turquoise I buy to be fake. Which means I don't buy any. I am not a fan of ethnic jewelry styles anyway, if I bought turquoise it would be something set in gold. The article stated they had found imitation turquoise even in jewelry bought from high end sources.

Lisa

"To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there's no music, no choreography and the dancers hit each other." -Jack Handey

kachina6241383788248.72715665 PostsRegistered 10/6/2004New Mexico
I've found the most common substitute for turquoise is dyed howlite. It actually has a natural matrix that resembles that of turquoise and it's a dirt cheap, soft, chalky material that dyes readily. The funniest thing I found was that in the '60's some Mid-Eastern admirer of Jackie Kennedy gave her a howlite necklace. That company that sells JBK stuff on QVC had a knock off. I felt sure they were mistaken and the original was really turquoise so I had quite a conversation with that nice man who does the Q presentations. The original was indeed howlite so I figured 1. some jeweler convinced the buyer it was a valuable stone or 2. The buyer didn't want to spend much on Jackie. I saw the necklace for sale at the JFK Museum Gift Shop online a few months ago if anyone wants to see it. You can do a search for howlite on eBay and see plenty of it in a variety of colors...it's naturally gray.

kathoderay1383849004.1431409 PostsRegistered 12/28/2012The Land of the North

I think it's terrific the Santa Fe press is cracking down on this nonsense, I wish it would air nationally, because you know it's just not happening in New Mexico!

If the stones are fake, and the design is beautiful I'd most likely purchase it knowing that information up front if the price reflected the fake stones. But I'm going to be one hot redhead if a vendor sold me something at genuine stone prices, if in fact it contains fake stones!
I've run into this problem with Amber also, especially green Amber. But that's another thread.

Good topic Kachina!

The trouble with life is there's no background music.

Skylands1383849333.4736144 PostsRegistered 5/30/2010

Even real Indian silver & turquoise isn't worth much unless it's old. Old as in 100+ years, antique vintage.

Antiques Roadshow said tons of people show up with this jewelry and if it's not 'old' the value isn't much.

I've researched mine, as it isn't 'old' only 50 years. It's not worth the effort to sell:(

Bottom line: if you like it, so be it. Real or not.

Last edited on 11/7/2013

kachina6241383858714.51315665 PostsRegistered 10/6/2004New Mexico
If you'll look at some of the prices on good quality Indian-made jewelry on eBay, you might change your mind. A lot of it contains stones from mines that have been closed for years like Morenci and Bisbee, and just the stones if good quality make it valuable. Very contemporary Indian jewelry of good quality is extremely expensive. Visit the Santa Fe Indian Market to see for yourself but take lots of money. Jewelry made 100 years ago would have been very primitive and not very attractive, possibly not silver.

Deeby1383860760.0471076 PostsRegistered 6/9/2010Southern California

I ordered some Sleeping Beauty turquoise from Paul Deasy. Sleeping Beauty is so flawless it looks like plastic. I sent it back.

I don't care for alot of matrix but too perfect looked fake. To me, anyway.

ennui11383867794.7536531 PostsRegistered 6/22/2013
On 11/5/2013 kachina624 said: investigative report on jewelry sold by several Santa Fe shops, the Museum of NM and the Smithsonian.

So, if we can't trust these sellers, what's a buyer to do? Mine our own?

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." ~Robert Brault

SANNA1383879445.261403 PostsRegistered 4/26/2009

I guess I am lucky. All my turquoise is real. Simple test. Heat a needle and poke the back of the stone. If it melts it is either plastic or heavily impregnated with polymer.

kachina6241383883599.13315665 PostsRegistered 10/6/2004New Mexico
On 11/7/2013 Deeby said:

I ordered some Sleeping Beauty turquoise from Paul Deasy. Sleeping Beauty is so flawless it looks like plastic. I sent it back.

I don't care for alot of matrix but too perfect looked fake. To me, anyway.

I couldn't agree more. I love my turquoise with matrix characteristic of the mine from which it came. To me, that gives the stone interest and character. Usually neophytes start with SB then graduated to more sophisticated choices as they attain an appreciation for the beauty of the stone.

Azcowgirl1383884666.966982 PostsRegistered 4/10/2012
DH bought me a beautiful squash blossom set from an Indian artist friend, I hope the stones are real, I know what he paid for it........Id love it anyway though (:

Azcowgirl1383884823.1836982 PostsRegistered 4/10/2012
On 11/7/2013 SANNA said:

I guess I am lucky. All my turquoise is real. Simple test. Heat a needle and poke the back of the stone. If it melts it is either plastic or heavily impregnated with polymer.

Good idea, Sanna !

ennui11383887273.8776531 PostsRegistered 6/22/2013
On 11/7/2013 Azcowgirl said:
On 11/7/2013 SANNA said:

I guess I am lucky. All my turquoise is real. Simple test. Heat a needle and poke the back of the stone. If it melts it is either plastic or heavily impregnated with polymer.

Good idea, Sanna !

You can't really do the needle test in the store. {#emotions_dlg.rolleyes}

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." ~Robert Brault

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