We asked a few experts to weigh in on how to shop for turquoise you can truly appreciate.
Happiness, luck, and health. Who doesn’t want more of that?
The early Navajo People believed the turquoise stones of their homeland represented those very qualities. As such, they developed silversmith abilities to showcase the fortuitous stones in jewelry creations that have come to symbolize the Southwest for more than 100 years.
Recently, the popularity of turquoise jewelry has surged beyond Western borders. Ernie Montoya of Albuquerque-based Sunwest Silver, which works with 150 to 200 Native artists at any given time, says that diamond dealers who used to just buy silver as scrap are placing turquoise pieces in their cases to sell next to their diamond offerings.
Here are few facts and tips about shopping for turquoise from a few people who know it best.
INVEST WITH CONFIDENCE
Dealers stress that knowing and trusting your turquoise jewelry source is the key to purchasing authentic jewelry with good profit potential. Dealers should be able to tell you where the stone was mined as well as which artist produced the piece. If they cannot tell you those two things, the piece may not be authentic or the value could be incorrect.
APPRECIATE THE VALUE
“Turquoise is something that is held onto and passed down in a family, and increases in value due to mines closing down and the value of silver or an artist’s work becoming sought after,” says Martin Seidel from Golden Fleece Trading Company in Albuquerque, New Mexico. While investing in quality pieces with provenance is smart, remember that determining the value can be challenging. Seidel adds, “Each mine has many grades of turquoise and some mines have many different looking stones, making it very difficult to identify.”
How do you know if what you are buying is authentic? “Imitation turquoise pieces used to be easy to spot,” Seidel says. “Now, the quality of reproduction pieces imported from overseas is harder to tell apart.” There are also more levels of reproductions, Seidel adds, some of which still have silver plate and even fake artist signatures. Experts caution the same adage: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
UNDERSTAND THE PRICE
Unlike diamonds — where cut, clarity, and weight determine value across the board — turquoise is valued by the quality and size of the stone, as well as the amount of matrix, the unique character of the stone, and the mine it came from. For jewelry pricing, there are several considerations, ranging from the silver work and intricacy of the design to the popularity of the artist and rarity of the stones. For example, Angela Montoya, Ernie Montoya’s daughter and the office manager at Sunwest Silver, explains that “the original turquoise blue stones of the Sleeping Beauty mine were always popular, but now that the mine is closed, the pricing is higher.”
Ranging from bright blue to deep teal and lime green, the iconic stone, paired with exceptional silverwork, transcends generational style. While some trends fade, Native turquoise jewelry never goes out of style, making it a wardrobe staple and, therefore, a no-brainer to invest in.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Studio Seven Productions/courtesy Sunwest Silver
Featured in the Fall 2017 issue of C&I's sister publication, Western & English Today.