How to make turquoise is frowned upon by true collectors, but a fun project for kids and inexpensive bead makers. Here’s how to craft a turquoise look-alike.
Turquoise is instantly recognized by its bright, waxy robin-egg blue shot through by dark veins. It is prized by collectors and jewelry makers but gets pricey. So how come sometimes it’s expensive and other times you can get a whole string of blue turquoise for cheap? What’s the secret to cheap beads? Often they’re not turquoise! Some common and inexpensive minerals can be dyed to look like rare and valuable stones.
Turquoise is an iconic gemstone from the deserts of the Middle East and the American Southwest. It has been crafted into jewelry for thousands of years. How do we know this? Turquoise was discovered in the tomb of King Tut.
Turquoise Hacks & How to Make Turquoise
The turquoise look-alike hack? Dyeing inexpensive white rocks with veining similar blue. Minerals like howlite and magnesite are famous for how easy they are to transform into artificial turquoise. Howlite is usually soft and it has microscopic pores or open spaces to suck in blue dye. Here are six simple steps to make “turquoise” from howlite.
Get one or many specimens of howlite.
Get a flat baking pan, kitchen tongs, a glass bowl or jar, Ty-D-Bol toilet cleaner or another dye such as blue food coloring or blue cloth dye. Experiment to see what dye works best. All these materials can be purchased at a 99- Cent Store for around $4.
Prepare the howlite by placing it on a baking pan. Heat it in a kitchen oven at 200°F for at least 30 minutes. This opens pore spaces, making them larger than normal.
Fill a jar with Ty-D-Bol or another dye. Using oven mitts, remove the baking pan from the oven. Using tongs, drop the hot howlite into the Ty-D-Bol liquid. Make sure the howlite is fully immersed and be careful not to splash the blue dye.
Set the bowl or jar aside for several days or weeks. As the howlite cools, its pore spaces will contract. As they do so, they suck in the dye.
Move to the kitchen sink with the bowl or jar. With tongs, pull out the pieces of howlite and rinse them under running water from the faucet, then place the specimens on a paper towel or cloth rag and allow them to dry. The result should look like turquoise.
Some specimens of howlite are softer and more porous than others. A harder specimen may not turn entirely blue. In fact, it may not suck in any dye at all! If this happens, try again with other howlite specimens. Crafting a cabochon with newly-made artificial turquoise may result in a white rock as it’s ground on a wheel. This is because the blue dye only penetrates the surface of the howlite. For an artificial turquoise cab, it’s best to first make it out of howlite and dunk it in Ty-D-Bol or another blue dye.
This story about how to make turquoise appeared in Rock & Gem magazine. Click here to subscribe. Story by Jim Brace-Thompson.