Stabilization refers to a process that helps make a gemstone more stable.
Most real turquoise offered on the market today is what is known as chalk turquoise. Chalk turquoise refers to turquoise that is too soft to be used for jewelry purposes.
Turquoise that does not require stabilization is usually only found near the surface. Because the supply this hard turquoise is extremity limited it is difficult to obtain and is usually very expensive.
When used in jewelry turquoise that has not been stabilized is susceptible to being damaged by chemicals such as hair spray, body sweat, or lotions. This is part of what causes blue turquoise to turn green over time such as can be seen in Indian pawn jewelry.
Due to the unavailability and expense of turquoise that has not been stabilized most commercially made turquoise jewelry that is offered today is made using stabilized turquoise or a turquoise simulant. This not only reduces the cost but also helps provide a consistent product required for mass production.
Stabilization can be achieved in many ways. This usually involves the impregnation of the stone with a clear epoxy, resin or some other form of liquid plastic or hardener. This can be done by simply letting the stone sit in the solution for an extended period of time or can be accelerated with the addition of heat and/or pressure.
You can usually test a piece of turquoise by heating a needle to red hot and then touching it to a part of the turquoise that will not be seen. Turquoise that has been impregnated with chemicals will usually smell like plastic or chemicals when touched with a hot needle.
Although most stabilization processes involve the impregnation of some kind of chemical there are processes that do not inject any type of foreign substances substances such as the “Elgin Process” which is a proprietary system that likely involves, heat, electricity and pressure.
Stabilization can also include other treatments such as adding dyes to enhance the color or by adding foil or other substances to enhance the matrix such as Mohave Purple Turquoise.
Turquoise can even be reconstituted. This process involves grinding turquoise to a powder, adding dyes to enhance and regulate color and then add a hardener.
Turquoise is also often imitated by using clay, plastic, glass, ceramics and other substances.