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Odontolite is fossil bone or ivory that has been traditionally thought to have been altered by turquoise or similar phosphate minerals such as the iron phosphate vivianite.Intergrowth with other secondary copper minerals such as chrysocolla is also common.Its streak is a pale bluish white and its fracture is conchoidal, leaving a waxy lustre.Despite its low hardness relative to other gems, turquoise takes a good polish.For example, the copper may come from primary copper sulfides such as chalcopyrite or from the secondary carbonates malachite or azurite; the aluminium may derive from feldspar; and the phosphorus from apatite.Climate factors appear to play an important role as turquoise is typically found in arid regions, filling or encrusting cavities and fractures in typically highly altered volcanic rocks, often with associated limonite and other iron oxides.
In recent times, turquoise has been devalued, like most other opaque gems, by the introduction onto the market of treatments, imitations, and synthetics. Pliny the Elder referred to the mineral as callais and the Aztecs knew it as chalchihuitl.Crystals, even at the microscopic scale, are exceedingly rare.Typically the form is vein or fracture filling, nodular, or botryoidal in habit. Turquoise may also pseudomorphously replace feldspar, apatite, other minerals, or even fossils.A reading of 1.61–1.65 (birefringence 0.040, biaxial positive) has been taken from rare single crystals.
An absorption spectrum may also be obtained with a hand-held spectroscope, revealing a line at 432 nm and a weak band at 460 nm (this is best seen with strong reflected light).
Under longwave ultraviolet light, turquoise may occasionally fluoresce green, yellow or bright blue; it is inert under shortwave ultraviolet and X-rays.