Chalk, magnesite and howlite are all natural elements of the earth, chalk turquoise is a form of turquoise just not high quality. These three stones are very inexpensive so are used for jewelry, it looks like turquoise but is not as expensive.
Genuine turquoise is EXPENSIVE! It has gone up ridiculously high in the last few years. I mean expensive folks!
This above strand is of American turquoise is $163.00
One small strand of 7mm heishi turquoise below is $46.00
I absolutely LOVE the above color of turquoise!
Turquoise is mined all over the world, there is Chinese turquoise, Persian (from Iran), Mexico, Brazil, Australia, Egypt, Turkey, Russia, Tibetan, Israel, Siberia, Armenia, Afghanistan, Chile and of course American. Some of the mines in the U.S. are Blue Bird, Castle Dome, Cave Creek, Ithaca, Turquoise Mountain, Morenci Turquoise, Bisbee Turquoise, Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, and Kingman Turquoise. There are too many turquoise mines in the U.S. for me to list, look it up though, you wouldn't believe it! Some of the American turquoise mines are in Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, California and Nevada. Some of the most beautiful turquoise in the world comes from the American mines. If you are really good at it you can tell which mine they turquoise came from.
How does all this apply to the tack maker? It's simply that as a tack maker I am diligent in my effort to educate myself about where my stones are from. I am picky about quality and always hand pick each stone. I want to make sure that what I label as genuine is. Perhaps we can be called on a technicality because technically magnesite, howlite and more especially chalk are all authentic stones, we need to place the actual subcategory for these in our comments and listings. Real & genuine turquoise is special and it costs more to be special and authentic. I find no shame in using the other stones, but then I/we (tack makers) need to be more specific. I think our customers deserve and appreciate this, it is really the trust that we are earning from our customers.
I think it's fine to use chalk, magnesite and howlite if you like the color and shape of the stone, these are all genuine stones that are not man made, if so, then label it as such. There is no shame in that. I do not want to mislead my customer, if it says genuine than it better be genuine. I think also in labeling something 'turquoise' there is an implication that it is 'genuine', that's why clarity is necessary.
Purchasing tack has now become as elite as buying designer clothing, shoes and accessories. Many choose a piece of tack from a certain brand because it is 'that' brand. If that is your choice, more power to you. Be conscious of the fact that like anything that is 'brand' price isn't always reflective of authenticity of stones. If you are curious ask your tack maker which of the stones you are getting. I have always kept my prices reflective of the price of the materials and work that goes into a particular design. It is possible to put way more work into a set that has lesser quality stones because of the intricate design or pattern. Other factors include the sterling silver or other gemstones. So, if you choose a set from a big or popular brand all those things play into it. I am asked all the time if my stones are genuine. Some customers absolutely insist and want genuine stones.
Did you know that it is illegal to sell stones labeled as turquoise when it is actually magnesite, howlite or chalk? There needs to be clarity in the ad or listing. If there isn't integrity of product in one sector there will not be integrity in another sector as it trickles down into the jewelry makers and the tack makers. There has been a kerfuffle for years amongst sellers of stones as to authenticity and marketing of turquoise. I imagine that will always be the case. That is why we need to do our homework.
Here is an absolutely super link to a great article about the types of turquoise and imitation stones. There are pictures of the inside of stones, etc.
I also need to point out that there are some extremely gifted tack makers out there, seriously good work! Each of us has our own style and can you can pretty much tell who is who by the work and design, there are a few copycat artists as well (a whole different blog post in itself, I won't go there right now).
So, I hope I have clarified a few things, educated a few on stone authenticity and raised awareness. When I started making gemstone and turquoise tack 20 years ago there was literally me and one other woman making turquoise and gemstone tack. That was it! Now, as it has become more of a popular product it has exploded. When I first started there was plain leather tack, engraving, stamping and carving of the leather, there was mostly silver on tack. There was no fringe tack, metallic, painted, crystal encrusted or gemstone tack. Now, try to keep up with all of it, you can't!
From now on I vow to be even more diligent in my investigation into the stones I use and where I get them. It is sometimes really hard to tell but I will also be more aware of the vendors I choose, that is key as well. As I said before, I have always been alert but I really vow to be more alert.
Let me know your thoughts, drop me a line. And if you have questions about stones you can ask me, or ask your tack maker.
I have poured my heart and soul into my designs for 20 years. I have formed friendships and memorable people have come into my life via this art that I do. I thank each and everyone of you for your trust and confidence in me. We can't make our tack without you, the loyal customer. You are what keeps us going and the stones are what we use in our art and for expression. I will never take that for granted.
One 16" strand of the above Kingman turquoise (USA) is $135.