Turquoise, the robin's egg blue gemstone worn by Pharaohs and Aztec
Kings, is probably one of the oldest gemstones known. Yet, only its
prized blue 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 both 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. Recently, turquoise has found wide acceptance
among people of all walks of life and from many different ethnic groups.
The name turquoise 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.
Chemically, a hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum, turquoise is
formed by the percolation of meteoric or groundwater through aluminous
rock in the presence of copper. For this reason, it is often associated
with copper deposits as a secondary mineral, most often in copper deposits
in arid, semiarid, or desert environments.
For thousands of years the finest intense blue turquoise in the world
was found in Persia, and the term "Persian Turquoise" became
synonymous with the finest quality. This changed during the late 1800's
and early 1900's when modern miners discovered or rediscovered significant
deposits of high-quality turquoise in the western and southwestern United
States. Material from many of these deposits was just as fine as the
finest "Persian." Today, the term "Persian Turquoise"
is more often a definition of quality than a statement of origin, and
the majority of the world's finest-quality turquoise comes from the
United States, the largest producer of turquoise.
The increased acceptance of turquoise resulted in higher prices, some
of the most desirable materials going for as much as $2,200 per kg.
The increased demand could not be met through production of acceptable
mine run materials. Therefore, an industry emerged--the business of
turquoise stabilization, reconstitution, and the manufacture of synthetic
and simulated turquoise. In most instances, the stabilization and reconstitution
of turquoise involve the use of earthy or highly porous types of turquoise
which are pressure-impregnated with hot acrylic resins. The resins improve
the color, hardness, and durability of the material to a point that
inexpensive porous, poorly colored, or nearly colorless materials become
suitable for use in jewelry. As long as the materials are represented
as treated, stabilized, or reconstituted, the marketplace can accept
or reject the materials based on decisions that are purely business
Arizona.--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
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
California.--The production of turquoise from deposits in California
can be traced back to pre-Colombian Native Americans. Prehistoric mining
tools have been found in some of the old workings of the turquoise mines
in San Bernardino County.
Over the years, the State's deposits have produced a substantial amount
of turquoise. Deposits are located in San Bernardino, Imperial, and
Inyo Counties. The material occurs as nodules and as vein filling. Most
of the nodules are small in size, about the size of the end of your
thumb, and the vein material is about 4 millimeters thick. In the better
grade materials, the color varies from a pale to a dark blue, poorer
grade materials are greenish-blue and green in color. Some of the material
has yellow-brown limonite spiderwebbing.
In the past, a number of turquoise mines operated in the State, several
or more mines in each of the counties. Today, only a single mine, the
Apache Canyon Mine, is commercially producing turquoise. Material from
the mine is a fine blue color, hard, and takes a good polish.
Colorado.--Turquoise is produced from several locations in Colorado.
Currently the only commercial production is near Manassa, Conejos County.
Other production was from Leadville, Lake County; near Colorado Springs,
El Paso County; and near Villa Grove, Saguache County.
New Mexico.--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
Currently, with the exception of byproduct material from copper mines,
production of turquoise from deposits in New Mexico, for all practical
purposes, has stopped. Turquoise still can be found in New Mexico, but
production in any significant quantity is a question of economics and
the determination of the individuals involved.
Nevada.--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. To date, total
production of rough turquoise is estimated to be in the range of $40
to $50 million.
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
Associated with some of the turquoise deposits are two other gem materials
that can resemble certain colors and shades of turquoise, but are separate
mineral species. The first is variscite, and the other is faustite.
Both have been mistaken for and marketed as turquoise. Attractive gem
stones can be cut from both variscite and faustite and therefore, would
be note worthy as gem materials on their own.
We are always looking for great Turquoise and rare turquoise examples
from all over the world. Please contact us if you know were to come
across any, right now we are looking for Turquoise from California,
Montana, Utah, and Virginia. We also collect rare gemstones. E-mail: