Does Real Turquoise Break Easily?

Turquoise is a popular gemstone known for its striking blue-green color. It has been used in jewelry and ornamentation for thousands of years by cultures all over the world. But despite its beauty, turquoise has a reputation for being fragile. So does real turquoise break easily?

The short answer is – it depends. Natural turquoise varies quite a bit in hardness and durability. This has to do with the way turquoise forms geologically. Turquoise begins as an aqueous solution containing copper, aluminum and other elements. It seeps into fractured host rock, usually sandstone or volcanic rock, and crystallizes. The matrix, or host rock material, becomes part of the finished gemstone.

Matrix is a key factor affecting turquoise durability. Turquoise with a lot of matrix is considered “chalky” and is softer and more fragile. A turquoise cabochon or bead with minimal matrix is hard, dense, and durable. Hardness ranges from 5 to 6 on the Mohs scale.

While a “chalky” turquoise may scratch more easily, all natural turquoise is sensitive to acids, solvents, and heat. Improper polishing and harsh chemical cleaners can damage the stone. So the best practices for keeping any turquoise looking its best are:

  • Avoid exposing it to acid, perfume, body oils, or household cleaners
  • Remove turquoise jewelry before activities like cleaning, gardening, or swimming
  • Store pieces in a fabric-lined box to prevent scratching
  • Clean with a soft brush and mild soap and water only

There are also treated and imitation turquoises that can withstand more wear. Stabilized turquoise has been hardened with a resin to improve durability. Reconstituted turquoise is made from crushed stones and binding material. And imitation turquoise is usually ceramic or plastic. These man-made options offer the turquoise look with enhanced toughness.

In the end, how delicate real turquoise is depends on the stone itself. Natural turquoise with minimal matrix that is handled with care can last for many years. Its fragility compared to other gems like diamonds is part of its appeal. Turquoise wears uniquely over time, developing a distinctive patina that adds to its natural beauty. With proper care, real turquoise can be enjoyed as a sturdy semi-precious gem.