What is Chalk Turquoise?

Jenn Ratliff

With its rich variation of blue-green hues, turquoise is one of the most recognizable minerals in the world. Geologically speaking, turquoise is composed of phosphate and a mix of iron, copper and other metals. It forms naturally through weathering and oxidation, and is found in arid regions around the world, particularly in copper-rich soils. It is this copper that contributes the blue color, while nearby iron deposits add green in varying quantities. There are significant turquoise deposits in the American Southwest and in the deserts of northeastern Iran.

Turquoise deposits are prevalent in the deserts of northeastern Iran.
Turquoise deposits are prevalent in the deserts of northeastern Iran.

Like other minerals, turquoise varies greatly in quality. Mining has depleted much of the more valuable grades of the mineral located close to the surface. Chalk turquoise is a low-quality variety, found deeper in the soil. As a result, it is much softer and more brittle. On the Mohs hardness scale, chalk turquoise ranges between 2-4, lower than the 6 of higher grades. It lacks the blue shade that defines the mineral. Instead, chalk turquoise is pale blue or white. It may or may not have significant matrixing, the brown or black flecks often associated with Native jewelry of the southwest. "Simulated" turquoise is often touted as being chalk turquoise, when in fact it is just dyed Magnesite or another white stone that absorbs dye easily.

There are substantial turquiose deposits in the American Southwest.
There are substantial turquiose deposits in the American Southwest.

Turquoise has been used in jewelry for more than three thousand years. Asians believed that it was blessed by Buddha, while in Arab cultures the gem was worn to steer away evil. Native Americans also thought turquoise to be lucky, and made much of their jewelry from the mineral to bring good fortune. Chalk turquoise cannot be used to make jewelry because it is too fragile, but there are ways around this weakness.

Jewelers may stabilize the turquoise by grinding it into a powder and allowing it to soak in clear acrylic; once it has hardened, it can then be dyed to enhance the blue color, or dyed another color altogether. While many people would view chalk turquoise as a cheap knockoff to the "real thing," there are advantages to using it as jewelry. For one, it resists chemicals like chlorine; in addition, it will not be affected by the oil in the wearer's skin, which can change the color of natural turquoise over time.

Chalk turquoise is considered to be softer and of lower quality than turquoise.
Chalk turquoise is considered to be softer and of lower quality than turquoise.

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Discussion Comments


My sister lives in Arizona so I have seen a lot of turquoise jewelry on my visits there. Much of this is Indian turquoise that is sold either on the reservations or in boutique shops.

How can the average person know if they are buying chalk turquoise or something that is of a higher quality?

I like to make a lot of my own jewelry and have seen yellow turquoise beads sold on some online websites. My understanding this is called yellow turquoise because it is mined in the same mines as the blue/green mineral, but is a combination of jasper and quartz stones.

The yellow turquoise beads are pretty and work well with certain colors, but nothing beats the exquisite look of turquoise.


I have a beautiful turquoise pendant and ring that I have had since I was a girl. This was given to me by a great aunt who loved to share her treasures.

She never had any children, and so my sister and I were both spoiled by her. She traveled to many places and would always bring us back something special.

I don't wear jewelry very often so this turquoise set usually sits in my jewelry box. When I do wear jewelry I like to color coordinate with my clothes, and I very seldom wear blues or greens.

I always get a lot of compliments on it when I wear it though. There is something striking about the color of turquoise that really makes it stand out.

I have no idea if this is chalk turquoise or the real thing. Knowing my great aunt, she probably would not have purchased the chalk turquoise.


Thank you very much. Your articles have been most helpful. As a student studying crystal healing, I have found your articles very helpful and informative. Please do more. Blessings.Your work is appreciated.


Answered my question very well indeed. Thank you!

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