Turquoise is a gemstone that has been prized for centuries for its unique beauty and cultural significance. But have you ever heard of oyster turquoise?
This composite gemstone combines turquoise with real shell from the spiny oyster, creating a stunning and colorful pattern that is as unique as it is beautiful.
In this article, we’ll explore the process of how oyster turquoise is made, from the harvesting of spiny oysters to the creation of these one-of-a-kind stones.
So, let’s dive in and discover the fascinating world of oyster turquoise!
How Is Oyster Turquoise Made?
The process of making oyster turquoise begins with the harvesting of spiny oysters. These bivalve mollusks are found in warm waters in the Sea of Cortez on the Baja Peninsula, as well as from North Carolina to Brazil. They are not actually oysters, but are more closely related to scallops.
To collect the spiny oysters, divers must free dive into the water and locate them on rocky reefs at depths between 35 and 300 feet. This can be a difficult and sometimes dangerous task, as the oysters can be situated at any depth and may require a heavy struggle to attain them.
Once the spiny oysters have been collected, their shells are carefully cleaned and prepared for use in creating oyster turquoise. The shells are then combined with turquoise to create the unique and colorful patterns that make up each stone.
The turquoise used in oyster turquoise can come from a variety of sources, but is typically a hydrous phosphate formed through a chemical reaction from minerals that leak into the cracks of rocks and turn into a clump of turquoise. Different minerals make up different colors of turquoise, with copper giving it a blue color and iron content associated with green. If the turquoise contains zinc, it becomes yellowish in color.
The combination of spiny oyster shell and turquoise creates a beautiful and unique pattern that is different for each stone. No two stones will look exactly alike, making each one truly one-of-a-kind.
Harvesting Spiny Oysters
Harvesting spiny oysters can be a laborious and expensive process, especially when it comes to the purple variety. Purple spiny oysters tend to live in deeper waters, making them more difficult to find and harvest. This contributes to their rarity in jewelry and makes them highly sought after.
To harvest spiny oysters, divers must carefully free dive into the water and locate them on rocky reefs. They must then use a tool to detach the oysters from the reef and bring them to the surface. This can be a challenging task, as the oysters can be situated at any depth and may require a heavy struggle to attain them.
Once the spiny oysters have been collected, they are taken to shore where their shells are cleaned and prepared for use in jewelry-making. The quills (spikes) on the shells are ground off and the shells are polished to reveal their beautiful hues and striations.
The shells are then crafted into rings, earrings, necklaces, and other jewelry pieces, usually set in sterling silver. The combination of purple spiny oyster shell and silver creates a stunning contrast that really makes the purple hue pop.
Preparing The Shells
To prepare the spiny oyster shells for use in creating oyster turquoise, they must first be cleaned and polished. The shells are often covered in a thick layer of barnacles and other debris, which must be carefully removed without damaging the delicate shell underneath.
Once the shells have been cleaned, they are cut into small pieces and sorted by color. This allows the jewelry maker to create a variety of different patterns and color combinations when combining the shells with the turquoise.
The shell pieces are then carefully arranged on a piece of backing material, such as resin or epoxy, and allowed to dry. Once the backing material has hardened, the shell pieces are sanded down to create a smooth surface for the turquoise to be added.
Turquoise is then added to the shell backing using a variety of different techniques, such as inlay or overlay. Inlay involves cutting small pieces of turquoise to fit into the spaces between the shell pieces, while overlay involves placing a larger piece of turquoise over the top of the shell backing and carving out a design to reveal the shell underneath.
Once the turquoise has been added, the stone is sanded down and polished to create a smooth and shiny finish. The result is a beautiful and unique piece of oyster turquoise that showcases the natural beauty of both spiny oyster shell and turquoise.
Mixing The Turquoise And Shells
The process of mixing the spiny oyster shell and turquoise to create oyster turquoise is a delicate one. The shells are first cut into small pieces and then combined with the turquoise in a specific pattern. The size and shape of the shell pieces are carefully chosen to complement the color and texture of the turquoise.
The mixture is then heated and compressed to create a solid block of material that can be cut and shaped into various forms, such as beads, pendants, or cabochons. The resulting pieces showcase the unique patterns and colors of the oyster turquoise.
One popular way to showcase oyster turquoise is through jewelry, such as necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. The combination of the shells and turquoise creates a striking and eye-catching piece that can be worn with a variety of outfits.
Forming The Oyster Turquoise
After the spiny oyster shells have been cleaned and prepared, they are cut into thin slices and shaped into the desired size and shape for the oyster turquoise stone. The turquoise is then cut to match the shape of the spiny oyster shell slice and carefully fused together using a special adhesive.
Once the two materials are fused together, the stone is polished to bring out its unique and vibrant color pattern. The polishing process involves using a series of abrasives that gradually smooth out the surface of the stone, giving it a glossy and reflective finish.
The final product is a stunning piece of jewelry that combines the healing properties of both spiny oyster and turquoise. The oyster turquoise is not only beautiful but also provides strength, courage, protection from electromagnetic waves, and helps to keep negativity away from its wearer or user.
Cutting And Polishing The Stones
Once the spiny oyster shells and turquoise have been combined to create the unique pattern of oyster turquoise, the next step is cutting and polishing the stones.
The first step in this process is to choose the rough rock that will be used for cutting. The rock is then prepared to be sliced with a diamond saw, which requires careful handling and precision to ensure that the stone is not damaged during the cutting process.
Once the stone has been cut into slabs, they are backed to provide stability during the grinding and sanding process. This prevents the stone from cracking or breaking as it is shaped into cabochons.
The next step is to grind and sand the turquoise into cabochons. This process requires a delicate touch, as turquoise is a relatively soft stone that can easily be damaged if not handled carefully. The cabochons are then polished to give them a smooth and shiny finish.
The final product is a beautiful piece of oyster turquoise that can be set into a piece of jewelry or used in other decorative applications. The cutting and polishing process requires skill and precision to ensure that each stone is cut and shaped perfectly, bringing out the unique beauty of the oyster turquoise.
Using Oyster Turquoise In Jewelry And Decor
Oyster turquoise has become a popular choice for jewelry and home decor due to its unique and eye-catching appearance. The combination of spiny oyster shell and turquoise creates a beautiful and vibrant color palette that is perfect for adding a pop of color to any outfit or room.
In jewelry, oyster turquoise is often used in necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings. The spiny oyster shell beads are hand-rolled and combined with turquoise tabs to create a single strand heishi bead necklace that is both elegant and unique. The sterling silver used in the jewelry is made with 92.5% pure silver, making it durable and long-lasting.
When it comes to home decor, oyster turquoise can be used in a variety of ways. It can be incorporated into wall art, decorative bowls, vases, and even furniture pieces. Its vibrant colors make it a great choice for adding a pop of color to any room.
It’s important to note that sterling silver may tarnish over time and may also turn your fingers green due to the copper alloy. To avoid green fingers, you can paint the inside of your ring with clear nail polish. Additionally, oyster turquoise should be cleaned with a polishing cloth or gentle jewelry cleaning solution to maintain its beauty and shine.