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TURQUOISE USED IN AMERICAN INDIAN JEWELRY
Turquoise comes in all shades of blue, to blue-green, with a possible shading towards brown-veined greens. It is the natural variations in turquoise that make it appealing. The color of turquoise in American Indian jewelry ranges from brownish green to bright blue.
Found in veins sandwiched in between layers of mother rock, the turquoise can show some of the influence of the mother rock in its matrix or veining. The matrix colors range from blue to golden brown to black and sometimes with golden flecks (sometimes called "fools gold" or iron pirite) which is very desirable.
Sometimes turquoise is cut so that it takes some of the mother rock with it. This is referred to as "Boulder Turquoise" and it is very popular as it shows great contrast between the turquoise and the surrounding rock with which it formed.
Types of Turquoise
Not All Turquoise is Created Equal
If you are looking at two turquoise bracelets one at $30 and the other at $500, what is the difference? Well, there are many uses and misuses of the word turquoise.
Natural Turquoise is a stone that has not been altered in any way. It is the way it was found in nature. Natural Turquoise looks very real and beautiful but, over time, when exposed to light, sweat, perfume, makeup, oils and detergents, it can deteriorate (crumble) and lose its color or change color to a pale green. It can also lose its structural stability and crumble and crack. To deal with these problems, methods have been developed to preserve turquoise. Manufacturers and dealers use the following terms in a non-standard fashion, so if you are ever in doubt when purchasing a turquoise item, you should ask about the origin of the turquoise and its treatment.
usually refers to a natural stone that has been treated with electrical currents
that hardens the stone and enhances the color. Nothing else is done to the stone.
Enhanced turquoise should not change color over time.
Compressed stones have been hardened by extreme pressure.
Fracture-Sealing uses resin or polymer to harden the matrix in the stone. (Matrix is other minerals mixed in the turquoise or portions of the "mother rock" in which the turquoise formed. Matrix appears in the turquoise as uneven areas of brown or black).
Artificial or Imitation Turquoise - There are a number of manufactured turquoise products, some of which look like real stone and others that look like plastic. Some minerals, like howlite, can be dyed to look like turquoise.
Synthetic and Lab Grown Turquoise have the same chemical composition and physical look of natural turquoise.
Block Turquoise is manufactured in blocks and is made to look like turquoise. It may be all plastic polymer or it may have crushed or powdered turquoise or other stone mixed with resin or polymer. Block Turquoise sometimes has swirls or blobs of dark dye added to simulate the look of matrix.
Birdseye Turquoise is a term that describes turquoise made up of many small turquoise nuggets surrounded by a darker blue matrix. It is similar to Spiderweb Turquoise, but spiderweb has a dark matrix. Read more . . .
Boulder Turquoise, also called Ribbon Turquoise, refers to how the stone is cut, not where it comes from. Turquoise forms in veins of various widths within boulders, or "mother rock". Most often these veins are cut out of the surrounding rock to harvest pure turquoise pieces. But when the stone is cut to show the mother rock as the main feature with the original vein or ribbon of turquoise running through it as an accent it is called Boulder Turquoise.
Seafoam, The term Seafoam Turquoise does not refer to a mine or location where certain turquoise is found. Rather it refers to two visual characteristics that turquoise nuggets might have. The turquoise could come from any number of mines. Seafoam refers to both color and shape. It is meant to look like the configuration of bubbling foam at the seaside, so bumpy turquoise in the seafoam color, a pale frothy green. Read more.
Spiderweb Turquoise Spiderweb Turquoise is a term used to describe turquoise that looks like a spiderweb. It is not associated with any one mine, but many mines, some of the most notable being Kingman, Number 8, Lander Blue, Lone Mountain, Candelaria and others. Read more . . .
China Mountain Turquoise [Dragon Skin - Blue Ridge, Cloud Mountain, Emperor's Turquoise], as its name implies, comes from China. Like mines in other parts of the world, including the USA, mines in China produce turquoise of varying quality and in a wide variety of color and matrix variations. Turquoise from China is usually stabilized (treated with clear epoxy) to harden and seal it. This makes the turquoise more durable and minimizes absorbtion of body oils and other substances that might change the color of the stone over time.
Some of the turquoise mines in the USA
Bisbee turquoise was a by-product of copper mining near Bisbee, Arizona. It is known mainly for its brilliant blue color and smoky webbing. Bisbee turquoise was found at all levels of the copper mine from 100 to 2000 feet and the quality and coloration varies widely from layer to layer. Often the stones have a matrix of brown, gray or black, but clear stones of blues and greens have also come from the Bisbee mine. There was never that much turquoise mined in Bisbee to begin with and now the mine is closed. What remains today is in the hands of old miners and long-time collectors. Because of its hardness, quality and scarcity Bisbee turquoise is one of the most valued turquoise in the world today.
Blue Diamond (central Nevada) operated from the late 1950ís to 1980. This stone typically has dark smoky swirls with brilliant blue windows.
Gem (Contention, Battle Mountain)
Blue Ridge (Crescent Valley, northern Nevada) Also called the Orvil Jack Mine after the miner who discovered and developed it. At first Jack mined only for the bright blue turquoise and discarded the green stones. Now the yellow-green turquoise (which results from the high zinc content) is quite rare and consequently very collectible.
Carico Lake turquoise comes from a dry lake bed in Lander County, Nevada. Known mainly for its gold mining operations, Carico Lake is at about 5000 foot elevation, higher than most turquoise mines. The beautiful stones are green because of their high zinc content and are usually described as spring green or Irish green.
Cripple Creek (Teller County, Colorado) Green and blue with brown matrix; by-product of gold mining.
Crow Springs Turquoise Mine (AnnJax, Bluebird) is located near Tonopah, Nevada. It is only about 30 miles from the more famous Royston Mine. Crow Springs is known for stone having light green color with a bright red matrix (rhyolite). Crow Springs turquoise occurs in veins ranging from paper-thin to nearly half an inch thick. Large gems are rare and prized. The best smaller stones have good color and are very hard.
Dry Creek (Battle Mountain, Nevada) Very pale blue color because there is very little copper or iron in the ground where it forms. Stones from the same mine that are white, with no trace of blue or green color, are called White Buffalo Stone because the white buffalo is a very rare and sacred buffalo. Read more...
EASTER BLUE An old Nevada mine owned and operated by Danny and Dean Otteson. It is located in Nye County near the Royston turquoise area. In was opened in 1907 and produces turquoise from surface and underground mines. The turquoise is hard, of fine quality and a rich blue color with beautiful matrix.
Fox Turquoise mine (Lander County, Nevada) discovered in the early 1900ís, was once Nevadaís largest producer of green or blue-green turquoise with a distinctive matrix. Fox turquoise is quite hard and varies from shades of green to aqua blue.The different sites of Fox deposits were developed using the names of Fox, White Horse, Green Tree, and Smith to differentiate among the colors of turquoise produced in the area and to create a larger perceived share of the market.
Kingman Mine, located in Mohave County, Arizona, has been operated by the Colbaugh family since the 1970's. It is known for producing bright blue stones with white and black matrix, considered by many to be the best turquoise in North America. Old authentic natural Kingman turquoise is extremely rare.
In the 1950s S. A. "Chuck" Colbaugh developed a modern method for stabilizing the color and strength of turquoise. It is an expensive process that takes over 3 months to assure that the turquoise does not crack while being treated. Basically, the moisture is removed from the stone and replaced with an optically clear resin, the same type as used in jet fighter windows. The turquoise is then allowed to dry naturally for two to three months. Although other mines have turquoise stabilization facilities, those at the Kingman mine are widely regarded as the best.
Marty Colbaugh (Chuck Colbaugh's grandson) now runs the Kingman mine and continues the stabilizing tradition began by his grandfather. He says if natural turquoise is not treated, it can become oxidized with oils from the skin and change color. The products that Kingman uses for stabilizing turquoise are clear and no dyes are ever used so the natural turquoise color is preserved and no discoloration occurs.
King's Manassa (Conejos County, Colorado) is best known for its brilliant greens and golden and brown non-webbed matrices, but blue and blue-green stone is found there as well. This site, east of the town of Manassa, was originally mined by Ancestral Pueblo peoples. It was rediscovered in 1890 by gold prospector I.P. King, and his descendants still work the claim.
Lander Blue (Lander County, Nevada). Lander Blue turquoise is known for high quality medium to deep blue color with black spiderweb matrix. Some stones appear predominantly black speckled with bright blue. This turqoise deposit was discovered in 1973 by a blackjack dealer who sold the claim to two men who formed Lander Blue Turquoise Corporation. The small deposit it was referred to as a "hat mine", a term used to describe floats of turquoise so small they could be covered with a hat. Less than 150 pounds of high grade spiderweb turquoise has ever been taken from the mine, making it one of the rarest and most valuable turquoise in the world.
Lone Mountain (Esmeralda County,
Nevada). Deep blue stones with fine spider webs.
Turquoise came out of the Morenci Copper Mine in southeastern Arizona, the
largest copper mine in the United States. The most valued stones range from light
blue to bright blue. Some stones have an irregular matrix of quartz and pyrite
(fool's gold), which resembles silver when polished. Other stones have a brown
matrix called "Morenci red matrix". Because of its scarcity and beautiful colors
Morenci Turquoise is highly prized..
New Lander Turquoise Mine is in northern Nevada across a valley from the original Lander Blue mine. It produces turquoise with wild patterns and color characteristics. Some stones called New Landers or Royal Web are predominantly black speckled with bright blue. Other stones called Yellow Web are black mottled with brown.
Nevada Green Turquoise. Many Turquoise mines throughout Nevada produce beautiful shades of green turquoise ranging from lime green to a rich dark green. Some of the more famous mines are the Royston, Blue Gem, Orvil Jack, Carico Lake, Battle Mountain, Pilot Mountain, and the Fox mine. Nevada Green Turquoise has been popular among jewelry collectors for generations, Today it has become scarce due to a slow down in Nevada turquoise mining caused by government restrictions and rising costs of mining.
Number Eight (Carlin, Nevada) Exceptional spiderweb turquoise ranging in color from light blue, to blue and green to deep blue. The matrix is black, brown, reddish or golden with the black and red spiderwebbing being the most prized. with the matrix ranging from golden brown to almost black, but a deep golden webbing is most characteristic. The mine began in 1929 and has produced some of the largest turquoise nuggets ever found.
Orvil Jack (see Blue Ridge)
Pilot Mountain Turquoise Mine in Esmeralda County, Nevada, produces deep blue and green stones with dark brown, reddish or black matrices. One stone can show color graduations from light blue to dark green, which makes this turquoise very collectible. Pilot Mountain turquoise is very hard and takes a high polish.
Royston turquoise mine district (Nye County, Nevada) consists of several mines including Royston, Royal Blue, Oscar Wehrend and Bunker Hill. Discovered in 1902 it is the oldest patented mine in Nevada. Royston turquoise is known for its beautiful deep green to rich light blue colors in the same formation and the stones are often two-tone, displaying both dark and light green and sometimes blue. It has a heavy matrix ranging from dark brown to gold in color. Royston turquoise is considered very collectible.
Sunnyside mine in northeast Nevada has produced some of the finest turquoise to be found anywhere. It is known for its extreme hardness and a distinct spiderweb matrix ranging from golden brown to black. The turquoise color range includes dark to light blue, green and blue-green. Sunnyside turquoise was mined mostly in the 1970ís and has since been closed, so the only specimans available are from old stashes, which makes it more valuable.
Stormy Mountain (Elko County, Nevada) Dark blue with black matrix looking like blotches.
Turquoise Mountain (Mohave County, Arizona) Although located near the Kingman Mine, the Turquoise Mountain Mine has stones different in appearance from other Kingman area turquoise. Also known as Old Man Turquoise its color varies from light to high blue to blue-green and has often been found with a golden or rust colored spider webbing. The mine has produced "birdseye" stones that show areas of light blue circled with dark blue matrix, resembling the eye of a bird .The mine was closed in the 1980s.
White Buffalo Stone (sometimes erroneously called "White Turquoise) is technically not turquoise, but a similar stone that is white with black and brown inclusions. By definition turquoise contains copper (it is a copper aluminium phosphate), which is what gives the characteristic blue color. Presence of iron will shift the color toward green. White Buffalo Stone is mined in Tonopah, Nevada by the Otteson family. Howlite, a softer more porous black and white stone, is commonly passed off as White Buffalo Stone. Read: White Turquoise Demystified to learn all the details.
Turquoise is the birthstone of December and is thought to bring good fortune, strength and helps overcome illness.
The Navajo consider turquoise to bring good fortune and appease the Wind Spirit.
The Zuni believe blue turquoise is male and of the sky and green turquoise is female and of the earth.
Hopi legend tells of the lizard who travels between the above and the below, excretes turquoise. This stone can hold back floods.