A mystical gemstone with myriad of ancient medicinal and spiritual properties, Genuine African Turquoise is also celebrated for its diversity, found in shades ranging from emerald turquoise to near sky blue.
As a design element, Genuine African Turquoise can instantly transform a traditional African necklace from something of great beauty, to something which is also valuable and collectible. But, as is becoming the case with many semi-precious types of beads, being able to tell the difference between the genuine article and dyed howlite imitations is becoming increasingly challenging. So, what should you look for?
Explaining 'Genuine' African Turquoise Beads:
Firstly, you should know that African Turquoise Beads are not actually made from 'genuine' turquoise. They're actually made from jasper, a type of chalcedony similar to agate. The main difference between jasper and agate is that the natural patterns within jasper are both irregular, and more opaque. This is due to the presence of quartz crystals, which makes the structural integrity of African jasper far more durable and robust than turquoise.
Outwardly, there is very little difference between turquoise and African jasper, save for the intensity of the blue-green color, and natural inclusions. African jasper typically has far more inclusions, and a greater number of other natural elements within it, such as copper, iron ore, and quartz. 'Real' turquoise can be identified by the thin veins and marbling present on the surface, whereas African jasper typically has large areas of darker color and marbling.
African Jasper Characteristics
Jasper can be found in abundance in Africa, and as such, much of it is exported to places such as China and Europe to be made into beads. Unfortunately, some bead manufacturers are a little unscrupulous, and therefore subject African jasper to numerous dyeing process to enhance its 'blueness' – all to pass them off as genuine turquoise. Genuine African Turquoise Beads are merely cleaned and polished prior to sale, therefore will often be darker than 'real' turquoise.
Perhaps the most obvious thing to look out for when buying African Turquoise Beads is their shape, cut and uniformity. Most Turquoise Beads sourced from Africa will have been hand-cut, shaped and polished by skilled tribal artisans, meaning they'll rarely, if ever, be quite the same size or shape. Take a look at our fabulous examples here to see for yourself.