Caring for Turquoise

Unstabilized Turquoise Attribution: Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com


Caring for Turquoise  

Most modern turquoise stones are "stabilized," meaning dyed and plasticized. In America, people expect turquoise to be stable sky blue and pearls to be round. As a result, both of these gemstones are often processed beyond any resemblance to their natural state. Stabilized cabs are less likely to change color and shine more than natural or untreated stones.


Natural turquoise is porous, other than the very finest Persian and some Southwestern specimens, it will turn greenish as it ages due to the interaction of your skin oils. As a result, many older Native American pieces have a greenish tint to the turquoise due to oils from the skin or elsewhere getting on the stones over a long period of time. This is natural. 


Avoid dish soap, dish wash water, soap, lotion, sunscreen, coffee, tea, oil, or oil-based substance. They will change the color of your natural turquoise stone. Turquoise is a porous material and has a great affinity for oils or grease; it absorbs like a sponge. I don't advise wearing lotion with your turquoise jewelry.


Turquoise is relatively light-stable; however, high heat can cause discoloration and even surface damage. It will dissolve slowly in hydrochloric acid, and it can be discolored by other chemicals, cosmetics, and even skin oils or perspiration.

Durability and Stability

Turquoise measures 5 to 6 on the Mohs hardness scale. It is relatively fragile, porous, and susceptible to heat and or chemical damage. Stones average 18-20% water content. Due to this stone's properties, you should reserve turquoise jewelry for occasional wear. Protect it from heat, chemicals, and shocks and use protective settings, especially for ring use.


When storing, all jewelry should be placed in a pouch, the box it came in, or wrapped in a cotton cloth to protect it from scratches. This also protects softer stones and precious metal from being scratched by harder stones. Jewelry boxes that feature individually padded spaces are also a good option for jewelry that is slow to tarnish.


Cleaning

It's safe to clean turquoise jewelry with a clean soft cotton cloth, free of cleaning agents. Dampen the cloth with warm water only, rub very lightly then dry your jewelry with a clean soft cotton dry cloth, gently dabbing any excess water from the turquoise. It is safe to clean sterling and copper using an anti-tarnish polishing cloth as long as you take great care that it does not come in contact with the stone.


For very old vintage pieces with untreated stones, you can use a toothpick carefully remove thick debris and dirt from the metal if you are careful not to touch the stone with them, they may scratch it. Many collectors will want to keep the natural patina; polishing can devalue a piece. If it is a piece of value, I highly advise taking it to a trained jeweler who can clean and repair it for you if needed.


Never use soap, ultrasonic cleaners, chemicals, or steam to clean jewelry set turquoise. Remember, many turquoise gemstones are treated to improve their appearance, so heat and solvents can damage these treated surfaces. Never use anything abrasive; baking soda and cleaners with ammonia on turquoise, regardless if it is stabilized or not, will ruin the finish.


  1. “Tips on Caring for Jewelry” https://www.gia.edu/gia-news-research-tips-caring-jewelry
  2. Unstabilized Turquoise Attribution: Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com