One of my Instagram friends Valentina, who is the artist behind Solis.Designs, recently had a shop update with a great selection of beautiful pieces. From large statement rings to dainty layering necklaces, it was such an inspiration to see her creative designs as well as her abundant use of turquoise and other natural stones!
I just love her work — so you can imagine how hard it was deciding which of the pieces in her collection to choose from!
I ended up purchasing this beautiful dainty White Buffalo turquoise necklace!
However, it got me thinking — as beautiful as White Buffalo turquoise is, I don’t know much about the stone.
It turns out that it’s a rare stone! Found and mined by the Otteson family in Tonopah, Nevada, it’s the only location in the world where it’s found! Sometimes called ‘albino turquoise’ or –incorrectly– ‘white turquoise’, this white stone is surrounded by black and brown flint-like chert (an opaque variety of quartz). This creates beautiful patterns, and sometimes in rare pieces, a spider-web matrix. The stone appears in veins and is as hard as turquoise (Mohs hardness scale of 5.5 to 7.5). It cuts and polishes just like turquoise, which is why a lot of people incorrectly call this stone ‘white turquoise’. [**]
For in reality, there is no pure ‘white turquoise’ that exists — white turquoise-type material that surrounds turquoise in the mines and tests as turquoise, is too light and soft to use. Most pieces that are usable will have some form of a blue or green tint to them. [***]
Being in such high demand and very popular, some stones are sold off as ‘white turquoise’ to consumers in the market. Those stones are Howlite and Magnesite. So — how can you tell which is which and what is sold to you is real or fake? I’m here to tell you how in Gem Talk 101!
Howlite is a porous borate mineral that often appears in irregular nodules resembling cauliflower. It is a snow white to milky stone, often with brown, grey or black veins. It is sometimes passed off as white turquoise or White Buffalo. It is also dyed to imitate blue or green turquoise. It is quite soft with a Mohs hardness of 3.5 in contrast to turquoise which usually ranges from 5-7. It also scratches easily — which is something you should look out for when purchasing jewelry with this stone. [**]
Here’s an example … a White Buffalo turquoise pendant vs. a Howlite pendant — can you tell the difference?
If you look closely, you can see that on the left — the veins are a grey/light black and the stone looks soft, opaque and milky, which makes it a Howlite stone. On the right — it’s a harder looking stone with black veins and some flecks of brown mixed in, which makes it a White Buffalo turquoise stone.
Magnesite is a calcite group mineral that contains the chemical formula “magnesium carbonate” (MgCO3). It usually forms in three-dimensional rhombohedral shaped crystals and cleavage fragments when magnesium-rich rocks come into contact with carbon dioxide-rich water.
When mined, Magnesite usually appears as chalky white, but can also be found in gray, brown, yellow, orange, pale pink and colorless varieties too. In terms of luster, it is often dull, with a matte surface in its original state. A little harder than Howlite, it rates 3.5 to 4.5 on the Mohs scale, still below that of most turquoise.
It is often dyed to a light blue color and because of its dark veining, it very closely resembles turquoise. In some cases, Magnesite is passed off as turquoise by unaware or unscrupulous dealers and sellers. [**] So be on the look out for it next time you’re in the market for turquoise!
[All photos and information are linked/credited to the original authors and sources unless otherwise stated].