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White Turquoise... is it really turquoise?

White Turquoise!  Now there is a peculiar combination of words.

Take the word turquoise.  It has come to have two meanings, really.  One is the sky-blue stone used in designer jewelry and also used extensively by Native American jewelers.  The other meaning is now "turquoise" as in the color. 

Think of a sunflower and you think of yellow.  Think of a white sunflower ... the creator doesn't make that kind.  Although some plant geneticists might breed one.

Turquoise, a semi-precious stone, has an officially recognized chemical composition that mineralogists use in identifying what any stone is. That composition includes aluminum and copper. It is copper that gives the varying shades of blue and greens.

Technically there are other things the mineralogist looks at to classify a stone. These include hardness, specific gravity (which is the weight relative to size), a color scratch test on a mineralogist special scratch plate and in more extensive tests the color of the flame when burned.

Howlite is frequently dyed blue and passed off as turquoise. In a scratch test, Howlite might fool you as it is also a relatively soft stone (around 4 on the Mohs scale of hardness). Howlite has black veining or matrix similar to Turquoise. I have seen ordinary Howlite blatantly passed off as White Turquoise to the unsuspecting buyer. Howlite is also quite frequently sold in its natural form with misleading names like "white turquoise", "white buffalo turquoise" or "white buffalo stone”.

What is the chemical composition of the various rocks being promoted as White Turquoise?  I really haven't a clue.  What is important to you as a buyer is that for any stone to carry a label as Turquoise it must contain some form of copper and aluminum. The blue and green colors which give Turquoise its distinctive appearance comes from the copper component.   

Turquoise without the coloring is simply not Turquoise. Without the copper component those stones cannot lawfully be certified as Turquoise ... period.

An article, written by the New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, titled “The Non-Metallic Mineral Resources of New Mexico and Their Economic Features” states, “Turquoise is a complex hydrous phosphate of aluminum and copper. The color of good material ranges from sky-blue to apple-green, with a waxy luster that suggests translucency. It generally occurs in compact masses instead of in crystalline form and is frequently veined with impurities. This foreign material sometimes adds to instead of detracting from the desirability of the turquoise for gem purposes, as the rich brown iron stains are often distributed in patterns that are attractively brought out in polishing.” The paper further states, “Vein turquoise is often separated from the granite on one or both sides by quartz and also occurs in direct contact with the rock without quartz filling.”

What we know is that quartz is not part of the turquoise, but is sometimes found with the host rock. We don’t know if the white turquoise on the market is quartz, natural Howlite, or some other material, but found the New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources information useful in our research to help explain the fact that turquoise is never absent of color.

In summary, there is not and there cannot be a stone called White Turquoise.  The words “White Turquoise” is an oxymoron.

Not only is White Turquoise rare, as the proponents of this turquoise will tell you, it is nonexistent! The very definition of Turquoise in all mineralogical books shows official Turquoise as having a copper component to provide the coloring.  White rocks coming from a mine that produces Turquoise are no more Turquoise than the black igneous rocks surrounding the Turquoise veins are called Black Turquoise. Now… if you ever start hearing about Black Turquoise, you’ll already know it is not turquoise.

If you scroll down you will see photos of beads currently labeled as "White Turquoise" on the market today.

Until next time... Rock on!

Lin Valentine
Turquoise Specialist

Copyright © 2014 Lin Valentine and The Turquoise Chick
This article may not be used without the express written permission of the author.

E. H. Wells, President and Director
The Non-Metallic Mineral Resources of New Mexico and Their Economic Features


Examples of "white turquoise" being sold on the market today...

This light blue stone was labeled "White Buffalo Turquoise". I didn't see any mention of the mine or where the turquoise originated. If this is indeed turquoise, there is only a scant amount.

Labeled "White Turquoise" and selling for $300.00 to $450.00 per item. Items include earrings and pendants.  

Advertised as "Howlite (White Turquoise)". The scary part is, not only is this not turquoise, it isn't even Howlite! 

These beads are being sold on the Internet as "White Round Loose Natural Turquoise Beads". OUCH! White AND natural? Buyer beware!

This is Howlite. Not White Turquoise, but very frequently sold as such, especially in it's natural state. Howlite is a very inexpensive stone.


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