Turquoise is a beautiful gemstone so it's easy to see why it's sacred to the Native peoples of the Southwest.
But it's also pretty rare. Less than five percent of the turquoise mined today is suitable for use in jewelry.
That makes turquoise jewelry an excellent investment opportunity. We feel it's an even better investment than diamonds.
It also makes it easy for unscrupulous dealers to sell fake turquoise in its place.
Some enhancement methods use plastic or resin to improve the turquoise. But there is one method that doesn't involve changing this stone's chemical makeup.
Read on to learn more about this magical technique - the Zachery Method.
Why Does Turquoise Need to Be Treated?
Turquoise is a naturally soft stone so it fractures easily. It's also porous so it absorbs stains, leading to discoloration. It picks up a lot of sweat and grease when it's worn as jewelry.
People have treated turquoise for centuries using different treatment methods. Waxes and oils used to be the favorite method for improving its appearance.
Stabilized turquoise is the contemporary version of waxing. Specialists soak the stones in resin or liquid plastic to help harden them. It also helps to stop the white 'bloom' as minerals inside the stone leak out. When they're dry, the treated stones are cut, shaped, or polished.
What Is the Zachery Process?
James E. Zachery, a turquoise trader and an electrical engineer, discovered a method to improve medium quality turquoise in the 1980's.
Soaking the stone in a non-toxic chemical solution makes it easier to polish and brings out the vivid colors. No one knows what's in the solution, though treated stones have more potassium in them than before.
It's impossible to detect without breaking up the stone and doing chemical analysis. The technique doesn't use hardening agents or harmful dyes. The method leads to better-looking stones.
Because it doesn't harden the stone, or subject it to pressure, the stones are closer to their natural state. In fact, Zachery-processed turquoise has similar gemological properties to untreated turquoise. To understand more about the process, you can read The Identification of Zachery Treated Turquoise.
In 1987, a man named Sterling, who is a turquoise trader from Arizona, purchased the recipe of the Zachery treatment process from James E. Zachery. We interviewed him about the process. According to Sterling, he never intended to patent the process because it is such a unique treatment process, and no one in the industry was able to figure out how it is done. "I felt no need to patent it because it is impossible to replicate it". Since he purchased the treatment process, hundreds of tons of turquoise were processed by him and his team and sold in the world market as 100% natural. According to its owner, the Zachery Process is the only turquoise process technology out there that is recognized as a natural treatment by the GIA in the US as well as international gem standards.
Is It Ethical to Use the Zachery Process?
In our opinion? Yes, absolutely. In fact, about 10% of the Toqos jewelry were Zachery treated. Especially some of the blue turquoise stones in our earrings, are treated with the Zachery process. As natural blue turquoise will turn green after absorbing oil and sweat from wear.
Does the Value of The Stone Stay the Same?
It's difficult to find good enough quality turquoise to make jewelry. Lots of the old turquoise mines are either closed or severely depleted. We constantly seek out the best material from old miners and traders to make top quality jewelry.
Most turquoise on the market has been treated in some way. But Zachery-processed turquoise is more natural than stabilized turquoise. It's the closest you'll get to the real thing.
Zachery treated turquoise does not depreciate in value. Instead, the color of the turquoise is more long lasting and therefore helps it to stay in its original natural state. Please be sure to ask your turquoise seller if the turquoise is stabilized, or Zachery treated because the later is usually priced the same or higher then natural stones.
Have Any More Questions?
Trying to figure out what type of processing has been performed on your turquoise jewelry can be very confusing. If you have any questions regarding the Zachery method or turquoise jewelry in general, feel free to reach out to us.