What is stabilized?
TO MAKE IT SIMPLE STABILIZED MEANS HARDENED.
If you want more information and don't mind reading please see below:
About stabilized turquoise: Please note that this is a slice of the whole turquoise picture.
Turquoise comes in over many different grades, each determined by color and hardness.
The lowest grade of turquoise is called chalk.
This grade of turquoise is what becomes stabilized
This process is often the most misunderstood about turquoise. All turquoise is not
subjected to this process because it is considered “unstable” or less valuable. Rather, chalk turquoise is put
through this process because when it was mined it was too soft to cut or form into cabochons
and beads. In other words the chalk was not usable for any lapidary purpose. So to make this lower grade of turquoise
usable for lapidary purposes it is put through a hardening process.This sometimes involves heat,
pressure and chemicals, but since the process is proprietary it changes from processor to
processor. For the most part the results are the same, a hard rock that is usable for lapidary processes.
When chalk turquoise is put through the stabilizing process it will, at times, deepen the color making a
white or very light blue piece of turquoise a bit deeper in color. This does not mean dyed.
It is just like adding water to a piece of any material. It will appear darker while wet. When
chalk turquoise or any material is stabilized it will give the color the same effect as adding water to it.
The difference is the color stays dark and does not fade when dry.
When a rock is sent to a stabilizer it is in the same form that it was mined in, meaning that the
rock was found, cleaned and sent to be hardened. It is returned in the same form, the only thing
that is different about it is that it has been hardened. The rock is now ready for use and can be
cut into slabs, cabs and beads for everyone to enjoy and use.
You may notice that there are differences in price between what is called a natural stone and a
stabilized stone. The reason for this is that to have a piece of turquoise that does not need any
hardening is less common than to find a piece of turquoise that does. This fact as well as the
grade differences in natural versus the stabilized chalk makes natural stone the more expensive choice.
Many people see that there is far less natural material on the market than there is stabilized
material and assume that all turquoise must be stabilized for use or that turquoise mines only
produce chalk turquoise. This is not true. Most turquoise mines have an abundance of high
quality natural material. The reason this material is not seen on the market as much is that it
often has bids and waiting lists before it is even mined. After it is mined it is purchased by
collectors and jewelry designers that make this stone an integral part of prized collections and
jewelry pieces. This leaves less to go around for the general market and thus leads to the belief
that all turquoise needs stabilizing.
Purchasing stabilized stone has many merits. Stabilized stone offers a cost effective way to
integrate turquoise into any design or project. It also offers color consistency which can be very
important to designers. This characteristic of stabilized turquoise occurs because the hardening
process acts as a type of sealant to any body oils, lotions or soaps that are often present on the
skin. With natural turquoise if you get a medium to low grade turquoise the stone could( but not
always) be more porous and receptive to body oils allowing the stone to change and deepen in
color as it ages. This patina, as it is called, is valued in its own right, but some designers insist
on color consistency making the only options stabilized material or a higher grade of turquoise
that is more expensive than most are willing to pay for.
It all comes down to picking the material that best suits your wants,
needs, and budget.
How can you tell if you have a stabilized piece of turquoise?
This material will have a slight odor when worked (ex: cut, polished, drilled) that will enable you
to tell the difference between natural and stabilized.
Even if you do not wish to work the piece and still want to know, place the piece briefly over a flame it will most likely have a distinct odor if it is stabilized.
Of course these tests are not fool proof, in order to make sure you have a piece of natural material get it tested or buy from a dealer that you trust.