Turquoise Vs Howlite

7 min read Jul 02, 2024
Turquoise Vs Howlite

Turquoise vs. Howlite: A Guide to Distinguishing These Gemstones

Turquoise and howlite are both beautiful and popular gemstones, often used in jewelry and decorative objects. They share a similar color palette, often appearing in shades of blue and white, which can make them easily confused. However, despite their resemblance, turquoise and howlite are distinct minerals with unique properties and origins. This guide will help you understand the key differences between turquoise and howlite, allowing you to confidently identify and appreciate each stone.

Origin and Formation

Turquoise is a hydrous phosphate of aluminum and copper, formed through the weathering of copper-bearing rocks. It is typically found in arid climates with high concentrations of copper deposits. The stone is often mined in countries like Iran, the United States, and Mexico.

Howlite is a hydrated calcium borosilicate, formed in a completely different geological process. It is a relatively common mineral found in deposits associated with evaporites, commonly in areas with hot, dry climates. Large quantities of howlite are mined in Nova Scotia, Canada, as well as in the United States.

Appearance and Color

Turquoise is known for its characteristic blue-green color, which can range from vibrant sky blue to a deeper, more greenish hue. Its color can vary depending on the amount of copper present, with higher copper content resulting in a deeper blue. The stone can also display veins, matrix, and patterns, adding to its unique character.

Howlite is typically white or off-white, often with distinctive black veining or matrix. However, it is frequently dyed to mimic the appearance of turquoise, creating a variety of shades of blue and green. This dyeing process can create a realistic turquoise imitation, making it crucial to look for natural characteristics to distinguish between the two.

Hardness and Durability

Turquoise is a relatively soft gemstone, ranking 5-6 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. This means it is susceptible to scratches and can be easily damaged by rough handling.

Howlite is even softer, ranking 3.5 on the Mohs scale. It is therefore more prone to scratching and should be handled with care. While turquoise is traditionally used in jewelry, its softness necessitates careful selection of settings and protection from abrasive materials.

Identifying True Turquoise

Distinguishing genuine turquoise from dyed howlite can be challenging, but a few key factors can help:

  • Color: Natural turquoise often displays a unique, slightly greenish-blue tone, while dyed howlite may appear too intensely blue or have an unnatural, uniform color.
  • Matrix: True turquoise frequently contains a matrix, which is the surrounding rock embedded within the stone. This matrix can appear in various forms, such as black or brown veins, and can be a distinguishing feature.
  • Feel: Turquoise has a smooth, waxy feel, while howlite is slightly rougher.

Uses and Significance

Turquoise has been prized for centuries for its beauty and its alleged mystical and healing properties. It is associated with protection, good fortune, and spiritual growth. It is often used in jewelry and decorative objects, particularly in cultures where it holds symbolic significance.

Howlite is primarily used in jewelry and decorative objects as well. Its ability to mimic turquoise makes it a popular and affordable alternative. However, due to its softness, it is not as durable as genuine turquoise.

Care and Maintenance

Both turquoise and howlite are relatively delicate gemstones. They should be handled with care and protected from harsh chemicals and abrasive materials.

  • Cleaning: Both stones can be cleaned with a soft cloth and a mild soap solution. Avoid using harsh detergents or cleaners that could damage the surface.
  • Storage: Store turquoise and howlite separately from other gemstones to avoid scratching.


While turquoise and howlite share a visual resemblance, they are unique gemstones with distinct properties and origins. Understanding the differences between these two stones is crucial for making informed purchasing decisions and appreciating their individual beauty. Whether you seek the rich history and spirituality of turquoise or the affordability and versatility of howlite, each gemstone holds its own charm and appeal.



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