Story written by and credited to Carly Wickell
Have you ever seen Orvil Jack turquoise? It's not something
that you'll forget, especially the vivid green stones that have
become its trademark color. Jewelry collectors who are fortunate
enough to have pieces made from Orvil Jack turquoise usually
won't part with them. I've been in love with this turquoise
for awhile now, and tried to learn about the man it is named
for, and his mine, but with little success. Luckily, Carol Weidman,
a jewelry artisan who uses the turquoise in her designs, caught
my error when I called it "Orville" Jack on a photo
caption. She put me in touch with Grace Wintle, Mr. Jack's daughter,
who patiently answered my questions about her father and their
Back to 1956... Orvil Jack and his wife, Bessie, moved their
family to Nevada in 1956. Orvil chose a mining site and they
staked a few claims in Lander County, naming their mine Blue
Ridge. Grace shares this early childhood memory of summertime
mining, "Mining was such an adventure... after my father
would make a pass with the dozer, I would run over the newly
exposed dirt and look for pieces of turquoise. I was probably
more trouble than help, but what fun I had!" It's more
difficult for smaller mining operations to continue today, due
to the expenses associated with strict environmental regulations,
mining laws and bonding requirements. Grace feels they are very
fortunate to be able to continue to work their family's mine.
How It's Accomplished... Turquoise miners begin the mining
process by using a large bulldozer to remove the top dirt, called
overburden. The miner watches very closely for the first sign
of turquoise, and once a vein or pocket is located, switches
to smaller equipment that provides more precise dirt removal.
After the turquoise vein is exposed, air hammers are used to
drill around the sides of it, bringing the vein more into the
open. Finally, the miners use hand picks and shovels to carefully
extract the turquoise - and as Grace says, the rest is "good
old fashioned hard work." The miner takes the turquoise
to another spot to clean, refine, and sort it. During the cleaning
process, a saw can be used to cut the turquoise away from its
Orvil's Favorites... Vivid green turquoise comes to mind
when we hear the term Orvil Jack, but Grace says her father's
favorite turquoise was always the beautiful blue spider-web
variety, like the stone used in a bolo tie owned by her father.
In fact, she says that "Growing up, I remember we rarely
came across a green piece, and when we did, we were told to
throw it down ... it just wasn't good enough to keep."
He had a change of heart about green turquoise later in life.
In about 1983, in one of the last places he dug for turquoise,
Orvil discovered beautiful green stones. Something about them
must have impressed him, because he continued to mine the area.
He sold only a small amount of this "new" color, keeping
the majority of the turquoise himself. Sadly, Orvil Jack passed
away in 1986. A few years later, the family heard from Bob Hall
and Lee Louden, talented bead-makers who were looking for the
"fantastic green turquoise" from the Blue Ridge Mine.
They bought the high grade, rough stones that were available,
then returned the following year to help the family mine. Grace
credits both men for much of the mine's success in the early
It's All Natural... The Blue Ridge Mine produces blue turquoise,
too, and occasionally the Wintle's find rare, lemon yellow stones.
Grace says that Orvil Jack was a staunch believer in selling
only natural, untreated stone. He would never have considered
treating any of his turquoise, and they maintain that belief,
guaranteeing artisans a totally natural product. Grace, her
husband Jay, and their sons work the mine and sell rough turquoise
to a group of jewelry artists, people they know personally and
whose work they respect. They have a close relationship with
their clientele, and try to accommodate their needs before accepting
orders from others. Orvil Jack is a name that will be known
forever to everyone who appreciates turquoise. The man and the
mine have made an impact on the turquoise world, playing a huge
role in the increased appreciation of green variations. What
a wonderful legacy.
Jack Turquoise Jewelry