With modern advancements in stone cutting and treatment technology, color enhancements and dyes have arrived at the forefront of the beading and natural stone market. Sometimes, a dye is selected for a stone to enhance the color, or to change it all together. These dyes can be synthetic or natural pigments, and are usually applied to a stone after the tumbling process and before any other finishes may be applied. 

Dyed stones may appeal to designers with bright and bold taste, as the pigments achieved with dye are unrivaled. They can be useful for designers who want to appeal to consumers with smaller budgets, or for starting-out beaders who want to practice techniques without worrying about possibly damaging costly materials. The most commonly dyed stones are stones with pre-existing transparency, like Crystal and some Agates. A rough, natural look is also favorable, with stones like Jasper and White Howlite that provide different rings of material to add depth to additional color. 

Sometimes, a dye is sold to mimic the appearance of more expensive gemstones, and can be so convincing that it flies under the radar of even some of the most knowledgeable consumers in the industry. The problem is not the existence of dyed stones, but rather the dishonesty when a retailer wants to misguide customers. Such is infamously the case with turquoise, which is one of the most heavily copied gems on the market. When dyed stones were a more novel product in the early 20th century, it was easy for scam artists to bank on their consumers lack of knowledge to deceive them. For these reasons, dyed stones gathered an unsavory reputation for being cheap, dishonest alternatives to natural, untreated stones.

As a reaction to this, the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) created the “Enhancement Code” for consumers to refer to when researching materials. “Enhancement” does not just refer to dyeing stones either. This system is used to describe any alterations to a stone that can affect the color, quality, and properties of certain minerals. While some people may argue what makes a stone “synthetic,” the AGTA made sure to reference any alteration in a stone’s chemical of physical makeup.

Fortunately for the process of dying stones, new relevance has spurred up as new techniques have been developed. Heat treatments and finishes have been improved, which has allowed dyed stones a second chance. Today, dyed stones can stand on their own on the market as unique, instead of solely as imitations of other stones. Dyes are also occasionally used to enhance a color to create a more uniform color appearance. Different dyes have also made it possible to make powdery, subdued color stones for designers and customers with more understated taste. 

It is important to note that at Dakota Stones, we do not condone any dishonesty regarding the alteration of stones. All of our dyed stones, and any chemical treatments or enhancements are marked accordingly. The process of treating stones with dye has improved leaps and bounds since its infancy, and buyers can rest assured that dyes will not rub off of the stones with excessive wear, or when introduced to natural oils from human skin. For more information on how to care for your dyed beads or stones, take a look at our Tough Enough? article by Erin.