At the end of this file are links to Other Identifying Photos of Turquoise from various mines.
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Turquoise is the birthstone of December & anniversary gemstone for the 11th year of marriage. Turquoise, the blue blue-green gemstone worn by Pharaohs and Aztec Kings, is probably one of the oldest gemstones known. Yet, only its prized color, a color so distinctive that its name is used to describe any color that resembles it, results in its being used as a gemstone. Turquoise has been, since about 200 B.C., extensively used by by southwestern U.S Native Americans and by many of the Indian tribes in Mexico. The Native American Jewelry or “Indian style” jewelry with turquoise mounted in or with silver is relatively new. Some believe this style of Jewelry was unknown prior to about 1880, when a white trader persuaded a Navajo craftsman to make turquoise and silver jewelry using coin silver. Prior to this time, the Native Americans had made solid turquoise beads, carvings, and inlaid mosaics.
The Pima Indians consider it to bring good fortune and strength and that it helped overcome illness. The Zuni believe that blue turquoise was male and of the sky and green turquoise was female and of the earth. Pueblo Indians thought that its color was stolen from the sky. In Hopi legend the lizard who travels between the above and the below, excretes turquoise and that the stone can hold back floods. The Apache felt that turquoise on a gun or bow made it shoot straight. The Navajo consider it as good fortune to wear and believe it could appease the Wind Spirit. Recently, turquoise has found wide acceptance among people of all walks of life and from many different ethnic groups. The name trquoise may have come from the word Turquie, French for Turkey, because of the early belief that the mineral came from that country (the turquoise most likely came from Alimersai Mountain in Persia (now Iran) or the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, two of the world’s oldest known turquoise mining areas.) Another possibility could be the name came from the French description of the gemstone, “pierre turquin” meaning dark blue stone.
Turquoise Mines In USA
Nevada has been a major producer of turquoise since the 1930’s, and until the early 1980’s, the State was the largest producer in the United States. It is estimated that over the years, 75 to 100 different mines/prospects produced sizable quantities of turquoise. Production varied from a few thousand dollars worth of material at some of the properties to more than a million dollars at others.
Turquoise from Nevada comes in various shades of blue, blue-green, green-blue, and green. Some of the turquoise may contain iron, if it does, its color is pale green to yellow-green to yellow. The material can be solid colored or spiderwebbed with either brown or black webbing; the spiderwebbing may occur in any of the different colors or shades. Some of the blue material is represented as the finest pure-blue turquoise produced. It can occur in thin veins or seams or as nodules, with single nodules reported as large as 150 pounds. The quality varies from hard solid material that takes a good polish, to soft porous material that can only be use as feed stock for treatment, enhancement, or stabilization processes.
Until the 1920’s, New Mexico was the United States largest producer of turquoise. However, since then Arizona and Nevada has surpassed it in terms of both annual and total production.
Production of turquoise from deposits in the Cerrillos Hills, Santa Fe County; the Burro Mountains and Little Hachita Mountains, Grant County; the Jarilla Hills, Otero County; and the Guadelupe Mountains, Eddy County; can be traced to prehistoric Indians. Several different mines operate or have operated at each of the New Mexico locations mentioned, producing seam and nugget turquoise. Many of the more famous and higher-quality deposits are economically depleted. Turquoise from these deposits was as good as that from any deposit in the world and were the first to displace true Persian turquoise in the U.S. market. Color varied from light to dark green, greenish-blue, bluish-green, paler blue shades, and fine sky-blue. Much of the material was spiderwebbed with thin veinlets of limonite.
In Arizona turquoise ranks first in terms of value of production and is also the best known of its gem materials. As stated earlier, nearly all important deposits of turquoise are located near copper occurrences or in copper deposits in arid desert regions of the world. Thus, the world famous turquoise deposits associated with certain of the large Arizona copper deposits are to be expected. Turquoise is or has been mined from a number of these copper mines as a byproduct, usually by outside contractors.
The financial and operating terms of the collecting contracts vary from mine to mine. Some of the operations are little more than the efforts of individual commercial collectors. Some are essentially full-scale mining operations that are simultaneous with, but separate from, the regular mining operations; and still others operate on an on-call basis as turquoise is uncovered by the regular copper mining operation. Regardless of the size or the sophistication of the initial mining or recovery operation, the actual turquoise is recovered by careful extraction using hand methods.
Mines In China
Yungai mountain is in the middle of China,northwest in Hubei province.The colour of turquoise is mainly green and blue.And it’s famous for its compact texture and high rigidity.Most turquoise can be burnished without any treatments.This mine has been exploited since Tang Dynasty(A.D.618-907), turquoise came down to Europe by the “Silk Road” and the mine has been state owned till now. Its production was rigorously limited to protect the mineral resource.Turquoise of Yungai is the best in China, and prices are high. Almost all turquoise merchants know of the Yungai turquoise.
Zhuxi mine is located to the south of the Yungai mine about 20 km.The worlds largest piece of turquoise rough was producted from Zhuxi mine, which weighs 82 kg. That piece of turquoise is preserved in The People’s Congress Hall
as a national treasure. The bulk of turquoise produced in Zhuxi mine is large, and the color is mainly green and light blue, and the overall quality is lower than that from the Yungai mine. The Zhuxi mine is privately owned, and the is exploited more. Most of the Chinese turquoise on American market are from Zhuxi.
The Formula For Turquoise
Chemically, a hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum. Turquoise is usually found in the “alteration zones,” of arid or desert regions. These zones are areas where the native, original rocks have been altered through the intrusion of other rocks from some volcanic or other thermal influence. The hydrothermal alteration is created by magma solutions from deep in the earth being forced to the surface through fractures or pores which eventually change the original rocks.
Several steps and processes are necessary to create turquoise. First there must be a source of copper. This occurs in a rather limited number of areas in the world. There must be a source of phosphorus Co -located with the copper. Usually from the mineral, Apatite. Which is not always in rocks associated with copper.
There must also be feldspar for the aluminum. Along with deep hydrothermal alteration. Which breaks down the feldspars and frees the aluminum needed for the turquoise. The phosphorus usually comes from phosphoric acid leached from the Apatite, during the hydrothermal alteration.
The copper is usually introduced into the “host” rocks by the rising hot magma. The copper readily oxidizes near the surface when it is in the hot magma solution. It reacts freely with the aluminum and phosphoric acid to form turquoise.
At this time other minerals enter into the turquoise structure and create color variations. The chemical formula of turquoise is: (CuAl6 (PO4)8 4H2O) this structure will very greatly with the introduction of Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Silicon, and Zinc. These additional elements when incorporated in the molecular structure of turquoise influence its color and hardness. The color of turquoise can vary from a deep blue to a deep green, with every variation of color in-between.
Generally, the more copper in the molecular structure the bluer the turquoise. The introduction of iron causes the greener cast to the stone. Turquoise creation is affected by many other factors too. For example; the best, hardest turquoise is found within 100 feet of the earth’s surface
This is not to say that turquoise has not been found in areas without igneous or volcanic activity. Turquoise has been found in the Sinai and in Australia. In these two areas it is found in sandstone and shale.
Its One other key geological activity is called silicification. It too is an act of hydrothermal and intrusive alteration. Here silica, which is a common associate of turquoise, is introduced into the turquoise deposit. This addition and periods of intense heat are responsible for the hardness of the turquoise and frequently the matrix as well.
Turquoise is opaque and has a Mohs scale hardness that varies greatly. The deeply mined chalk like turquoise may only have a mohs hardness slightly over 2. Where as a gem specimen mined closer to the surface may be up to 6. The hardness varies due to several factors. Environment and matrix are key. In silica verities quartz particles are present and the stone will be hard enough for use as a gem stone. Silicification will strengthen some of the matrix as well.
If silicification has not occurred, the turquoise will likely be chalky, porous, and soft. It will not be usable in jewelry without undergoing treatmen, usually stabilization. Stabilization may also be used because moisture will cause turquoise to turn toward green. This can occur in the ground or in jewelry by absorbing moisture and oils. This is not unlike blue azurite changing to green malachite as its creation environment increases its water content.
Turquoise must consist of copper, aluminum and phosphorus. Other elements can replace various percentages of these and change the molecular structure. For example, two very rare minerals, chalcosiderite (where iron replaces the aluminum) and faustite (where zinc replaces the aluminum) do exist in turquoise environments. Usually there will only be a partial replacement of the aluminum with iron and zinc, thus leaving the turquoise altered only in color.
Pricing, at best this is a difficult task for even those of us who have been around the business for many years. There are many varieties of natural and treated turquoise on the market today. Not to mention a myriad of fake and created turquoise. To make matters even worse, there are many different varieties from different mines, which appeal differently to many peoples. Then there are the closed mines, which give way to the collector type stones.
Our best advice for those interested in natural and collector stones is to know your jeweler, know your source. Use jewelers and sources who have been around a long time and intend to stay awhile longer. It will be a better bargain in the long run.
One thing that an individual can be aware of is stabilization. A hot pin will give off the smell of the resin and leave a deep mark in stones that are just plastic. Many other false stones such as dyed Howelite or the new stove top synthetics can be very deceiving.
Please take note that just plain stabilized turquoise is a natural turquoise, usually in nugget form, that is too porous or soft to hold a luster. It is submerged into a stabilizing compound, most likely an epoxy resin. The natural capillary action of the porous stone draws this stabilizing compound throughout the stone. It is then dried, cut, drilled, cabbed, etc. and prepared for jewelry. The turquoise has not been altered. The pores of the stone have been filled with a clear resin that makes the stone usable.
If this type of turquoise was not on the market, many jewelry artisans would not be employed. It allows wide diversity. For example, necklaces of tiny turquoise beads now can be made and tiny inlay is possible. Colors will not change because the pores are sealed. It is not practical to use a high-grade natural stone for heishe, for example, too much turquoise is wasted in the grinding and the resulting bead will be fragile and will eventually change color.
Once again there are draw backs on pricing these types of turquoise. Some stabilized turquoise is “color shot” or “color stabilized”. Color stabilized, is misleading because it infers that it is the natural color which is “stabilized.” This of course is not true, color has been added. This is not necessarily bad, as jewelry making is art, this color enhancement can improve the appearance of the piece. It goes without saying, the value is less than if the turquoise was naturally the color desired.
Also synthetic turquoise, frequently chemically perfect, has appeared on the market in some quantity. This is literally stovetop turquoise. It has a very natural matrix created by placing stones in the “batter” or sprinkling in pyrite, etc. When the mix is cut then cabbed these foreign additives, which are real, add to the illusion that the entire stone is natural.
As mentioned above this may not be all bad. A lot of jewelry is just fun stuff. We use it to adorn and accessorize ourselves. These days there are large quantities of turquoise jewelry on the market in the $25-$100 range. Most of which is imported and priced well below what it should be, for just the metal work.
Turquoise is considered a precious stone. At one time in history superior specimens were valued by weight, more than gold. Today it ranges from a few cents per carat to over $50.00 per carat for a superb gem stone. It is widely regarded as our nation’s “national stone.”
In conclusion, there is a lot of natural turquoise still on the market today. Just be aware that most of it is from currently operating mines. Such as some of the Chinese and Domestic. These are still relatively inexpensive. Somewhere between $2 and $5 per CT. Perhaps a good investment for the future.
Color enhancement has existed for thousands of years. In ancient times a common way to enhance turquoise was to submerge the stone in animal or vegetable oil and let it dry. It would then have a luster that did not previously exist. This would not last for a very long and the certain advent of oil stains appearing, when worn, prompted the seller to leave the area shortly after the sale.
Turquoise became a major trade and barter item for the early Persians. Persian turquoise was found in ancient graves in Turkistan, and in the first to third century AD, in graves throughout the Caucausus. Persian stones were coveted in Afghanistan, and as far north as Siberia.
The finest color, sometimes referred to as Persian, is an even robin’s egg blue. The ancients preferred blue because a gem-grade blue stone would not change color (King Tut’s treasures include a substantial amount of this type of blue turquoise and it appears unchanged today.
The less hard blues would eventually shade towards green. At this point in history green was not as good. Time has proven this wrong. Some green hued turquoise such as Skyhorse, China Mountain (both are names given to turquoise from China), Cerillos, Blue Gem, Fox, to name a few are ranked in the top three grades.
Turquoise may be fashioned to include portions of the rock in which it was found. This rock is referred to as matrix. The matrix often forms a pattern called “spiderweb,” which many people prefer. Rather than clear blue stones without matrix.
Although not specifically mentioned in the Bible, scholars believe that the robe worn by the high priest Aaron was adorned with turquoise. Aristotle, Pliny and others refer to stones that must have been turquoise. After the fourth or fifth century AD, many writings appeared discussing the stone. Explorers such as Marco Polo took time to write about it.
Turquoise jewelry, has always been popular in the Orient. Tibet also had it’s own source of turquoise usually a green cast, very hard stone. It has a significant amount of spider webbing. Turquoise was a highly revered item to the Tibetans who ranked them in six grades, the most expensive valued well above gold. Every Tibetan wore or carried a piece of turquoise throughout life. Turquoise was used for currency in many areas of Tibet.
The history of turquoise in China dates to the thirteenth century AD Although mining did exist, most stone came from trade with the Persians, Turks, Tibetans, and the Mongols. Much Chinese turquoise was used for carving and in other art and decorative ways. It never became a precious stone for the Chinese as was Jade for example. Turquoise was unknown until the 18th Century in Japan.
Turquoise was not of great import in early and medieval Europe. However, as Asian conquests and incursions into Europe occurred, seventeenth century Englishmen traveling there brought the style back with them. It was not until Victorian time when it became fashionable for European women to wear the stone. Victorian and Art Nouveau jewelry featured a good deal of turquoise.
Ancient doctors exploited the stone’s medicinal potentials. These varied from land to land and age to age. It was thought to prevent injury through accident and to prevent blindness by placing perfect stones over the eyes. The stone was ground into a salve or powder and then was rubbed on or ingested to cure stomach disorders, internal bleeding, ailments of the hip. It was even use for bites and stings, from snakes and scorpions.
Turquoise also found its way into the mystic arts. Its color could forecast good or bad, predict the weather and influence dreams. It was good for nearly every ailment including insanity. As a good luck talisman it found usage in nearly every culture. The Egyptians also mounted turquoise in silver to treat eyes suffering from cataract. Since the fourteenth century, harnesses of dogs, horses and other animals have been decorated with turquoise to protect the animal and master from falling injuries.
Turquoise has been believed to confer foresight as well as protecting the wearer from danger. In various countries, it is believed to fade when illness or danger is near. Another belief is that a fading stone indicates a lover’s faithlessness or a friend’s disaffection. In many cultures, the stone is regarded as a harbinger of good fortune, success and health.
Aztecs and Egyptians considered it a symbol of prosperity. In India, one was to wear a turquoise on the little finger and look at the stone after seeing the new moon to gain great wealth. The turquoise from Iran is characteristically an intense medium blue color and takes a fine polish. American and Mexican turquoises range from light blue to greenish-blue to bluish-green. Egyptian turquoise contains more green, showing greenish-blue to yellowish-green.
Turquoise was likely found and used by early man. Certainly the prehistoric peoples of the Western hemisphere knew of turquoise. Pieces have been found in burial and archeological sites throughout the two continents. It seems clear that turquoise was always considered a stone of life and good fortune and it even had healing properties. The stone was used in religion, art, trade, treaty negotiations as well as for jewelry. It was considered by some tribes to be associated with life itself.
Sources of the information on this page come from my personal experience and the following text
“Turquoise Unearthed” By Joe Dan Lowry
“Turquoise” By Oscar T. Branson
Some text was used verbatum from Minerals-N-More website (http://www.minerals-n-more.com)
The following Photographs were taken by me of a collection from the 1960s 1970s in the possession of Crazy Horse Indian Jewelry, Jackson Hole, WY
Photo 0 – Nevada – Israel
Photo 1- Colorado – Kingman – Battle Mtn
Photo 2 – Bisbee – Utah – Iran
Photo 3 -Bisbee – New Mexico – Idaho
Photo 4 – Mexico
Photo 5 – Mexico – Superior AZ
Photo 6 – Mexico -Baja CA – Old Chandler – Leadville Colo
Photo 7 – Baja – Bingham UT – Mexico – Cripple Creek Co.
Photo 8 – Nevada
Photo 9 – Persian – Cripple Creek – Austin Nv
Photo 10 – Sleeping Beauty – Persia – Morenci – Cripple Creek
Photo 11 – Wickenberg & Baja Sleeping Beauty – Miami & Morenci AZ
Photo 12 – Villa Grove Co. – Aztec Tq Mtn AZ – Cortez NV
Photo 13 – Bisbee AZ – Candelera NV – Eureka NV
Photo 14 – Bisbee AZ – Castle Dome AZ – Fox NV
Photo 15 – Bisbee (lavander mine) – X15 Claim NV – Castle Dome Miami AZ
Photo 16 – Battle Mtn Spiderweb – Bisbee (lavander pit) – Durango & Jalisco Mexico
Photo 17 – Battle Mtn Nv – Bisbee Lavander pit
Photo 18 – Beoware, Pilot Mtn, Lone Mtn, Turq Mtn, NV
Photo 19 – White Horse NV – Kingman, Lost Mtn, Globe AZ