The small Ajax mine, located in south central Nevada in the Royston area, is one of the relatively new turquoise mines. The mine yields stones from light blue with darker blue veins to a predominate dark green with light blue areas. This latter coloration is considered quite unusual for turquoise.
The Bisbee mine, near Bisbee, Arizona, is one of the more famous of the American mines because Bisbee turquoise was one of the first put onto the market. The turquoise mine is part of the Bisbee copper mine, the main operation of the site. Bisbee turquoise has developed a reputation as a hard, finely webbed, strikingly brilliant blue stone of a high quality. The unusual matrix forms wisps or veils throughout the stone, often called “Smoky Bisbee.” The highest grade of Bisbee is found at less then 100 feet, however, at Lavender Pit, good Bisbee was discovered at 2,000 feet. Bisbee is one of the most expensive turquoises because of its rarity, high density and extremely good character. Recently, Phelps Dodge Mining Company declared Bisbee depleted and buried the mine under 50 feet of dirt.
The Blue Diamond mine, located in central Nevada, opened in the late 1950’s and was mined up to 1980. This mine is considered a “hat mine” of which there are very few. A hat mine is a small deposit of turquoise that, “you can cover with your hat.” The stones that this mine produces, which are usually large pieces in plate form, look a great deal like Stormy Mountain turquoise because of the black smokey matrix. This stone features dark smoky swirls with brilliant blue windows. The characteristic black chert is ever-present. This mine is now closed and buried under thousands of tons of rock.
The Blue Gem mine near Battle Mountain, Nevada produced a great variety of turquoise, from intense blues to deep green combinations with a hard, irregularly distributed matrix. While there are other mines in Nevada of the same name, the Battle Mountain Blue Gem mine, which began production in 1934 and is now closed, yielded the most valuable Blue Gem turquoise because of its rich color and its hardness. It is very collectible.
Boulder turquoise is found near the Royston Mine in Southwestern Nevada. The stones are cut and polished to feature the host rock or “mother lode” with naturally formed veins of turquoise. Each stone is unique and occurs in shades of grey, gold, brown, and tan with rivers of blue or green turquoise running through it. This mine is referred to as a “grass roots” mine as the best stone is found within the top ten feet of soil. Boulder turquoise is mined by hand by a few individuals and is considered a natural symbol of mother earth.
The Candelaria turquoise mine is one of the small, depleted mines in Nevada that produced a good quality turquoise of high blue color with an intermittent black or brown non-webbed matrix. It has a luminous radiant quality, and is highly collectible. Candelaria also produces some stones with green tones.
Carico Lake turquoise is named after the location of its mine on a dried up lake bed in a high, cool area of Lander County, Nevada. Its clear, iridescent, spring green color is due to its zinc content and is highly unique and collectible. Carico Lake turquoise is also found in a dark blue-green color with a black, spider web matrix. The Carico Lake mine is primarily a gold producing mine. However, from time to time, the mining company leases the turquoise producing part of the mine to individual miners who are permitted to work that part. The limited amount of Carico Lake turquoise and the limited amount of time allowed to mine it combine to make Carico Lake turquoise a valuable addition to one’s collection.
The Castle Dome turquoise mine is located about 30 miles from the Sleeping Beauty mine, near Globe, Arizona. The Castle Dome mine has not been in operation since the early 1970s. The turquoise deposit had been considered depleted. Castle Dome was operated as an open pit mine. The site has since been reclaimed, meaning it has been filled in and replanted with native plants and grasses. The owner of Castle Dome turquoise purchased the stockpile of rough stone from his uncle. Most stones retrieved from the mine were small, found in very thin “corn flake” formations. There were a lot of fingernail-sized nuggets found in the mine as well. In the 1960’s copper miners of the Castle Dome mine would gather unusual blue stones and put them in their lunch buckets. They would then go to a convenience store in Globe, Arizona. Here, an ex-forest ranger would buy these stones and pay them cash. It is from this old stockpile that Castle Dome turquoise can be purchased. Castle Dome is known for its incredible bright blue color. Castle Dome is distinguished from Sleeping Beauty by its more vibrant blue and the presence of more matrix (webbing.) The matrix in Castle Dome turquoise is light brown to gold in color. This stone is unique because of the honey brown crust that is present before it is cut. Most of the remaining Castle Dome turquoise has been stabilized and cut into beads. The natural stone is extremely rare and hard. Castle Dome beads are a beautiful statement whether worn as a single strand or multiple strands.
The Cerrillos mines of Turquoise Hill, New Mexico have a history with both ancient Native peoples of the Southwest and more recent American mining companies. The most famous of these is the Tiffany mine, located 18 miles south of Santa Fe. It is one of the most important and oldest pre-historic turquoise sources. For a 1000 years or more this turquoise was highly prized for its healing and spiritual powers. Using only stone axes, mauls, and antler picks, Pueblo miners dug pits, tunnels, and shafts into this precious deposit. They carried their tools and leather rock buckets on their backs as they climbed in and out of the mines on notched logs used as ladders. Turquoise obtained from this hard work was traded among early peoples from Mexico to the Midwest and from the east to west coasts. In New Mexico, many pieces of Cerrillos turquoise have been unearthed in the prehistoric ruins of Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon.
The highest grades are very hard with beautiful depth of color. Because of its history, beauty, and scarcity today, it is highly collectible. In 1892, George F. Kunz, top gemologist for Tiffany’s of New York, pronounced the beautiful sky blue turquoise from Turquoise Hill to be gem grade, thus creating an immediate demand. The American Turquoise Company (Tiffany’s of New York and Associates) was formed and the mine was acquired. The turquoise became known as “Tiffany” during the 1890’s as most of it was cut and sold by the Tiffany Company.
There is evidence of turquoise use in China dating at least as far back as 1700 BC as evidenced by a bronze plaque with turquoise overlay displayed at the Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. Although some turquoise was mined in China in ancient times, more commonly it was acquired in trade with Persians and Turks. Mostly the Chinese used turquoise for carvings and other art. Jade has been the preferred stone for jewelry in Chinese culture.
The Tibetans, on the other hand, have preferred turquoise to any other gemstone and virtually every Tibetan possesses some turquoise. Believed to bring good luck, it is worn set in rings and bracelets, as beads in necklaces, and as adornment directly on hats and other clothing. Domestic animals such as horses wear necklaces of felt with turquoise sewn on.
Today, Chinese mines Northwest of Shanghai and in the Hubei Province produce turquoise in colors and quality reminiscent of the now closed mines of Nevada. This turquoise ranges in color from sky blue to spring green and is used by Native Americans to produce stunning pieces of jewelry. Chinese turquoise has usually been stabilized, meaning a clear epoxy has been applied to the surface to harden the stone before setting. A benefit of this process is that stabilized stone is less likely to absorb lotions and body oils that may change the color of the stone over time. Turquoise from China is widely used in the creation of Native American jewelry due to the scarcity of American turquoise. Only a handful of turquoise mines in the American southwest are commercially operating.
Miners looking for gold in the Cripple Creek area of Colorado also found turquoise deposits. The area yields some greenish turquoise, and some light to dark blue turquoise with brown matrix. There are two separate mines that are currently active in the area. Although different families have operated them, both mines market their turquoise under the Cripple Creek name and supply a variety of colors and matrices primarily to the Indian jewelry business.
Crow Springs, also known as Bluebird turquoise, is found near Tonopah, Nevada and the Royston turquoise mine. The Smith family had been mining turquoise in Nevada since the 1870’s. In 1909, William Petry discovered a deposit one mile southwest of the Crow Springs claim. In 1939, Ann Cooper Hewitt, heiress to the Cooper Hewitt fortune, made from inventing the mercury-vapor lamp and the first fluorescent lighting, filed claim to the mine and built a home there, which she called AnnJax. She did little work on the property and then abandoned it. For 12 years, this rare turquoise was not available. A few years ago, Dennis and Lucy Cordova took it over and began mining it again.
Crow Springs is known for its characteristic light green color contrasted with a bright red rhyolite matrix. Crow Springs turquoise occurs in seams cutting the host rock at all angles. Seams, or veins, range from paper-thin to nearly half an inch thick. The mine consists of several open pits. The mine includes a tunnel that digs 175 feet into the mountain; inside of which, Dennis Cordova discovered a bountiful deposit of commercial grade gold and silver. The current owners of Crow Springs, Dennis and Lucy Cordova are also co-owners of the Pilot Mountain mine. They have been mining for 3 years and cutting the precious stone for over 35 years.
The Damele (also known as Damali) mine is located in east central Nevada near the Carico Lake mine. Damele turquoise is distinctive because of the zinc content that turns the stone yellow-green and increases its hardness. The matrix of Damele is webbed with a dark brown to black matrix. Damele is a collectible turquoise due to the rare color and limited supply.
The Dry Creek turquoise mine is located on the Shoshone Indian Reservation near Battle Mountain, Nevada. Discovered in 1993, they were not sure what it was. Because of its hardness, it was decided to send it to have it assayed and it was in fact, as thought, turquoise. It was not until 1996 that it was used in jewelry. Turquoise gets its color from the heavy metals in the ground where it forms. Dry Creek turquoise forms where there are no heavy metals present, which is a very rare occurrence. The lack of any specific color consistency makes this stone distinctive and unique from other turquoises. To date, no other vein of this turquoise has been discovered anywhere else and when this current vein runs out, that will be the last of it. Because this turquoise is as rare as the sacred buffalo, the Indians call it “Sacred Buffalo” Turquoise.
The Easter Blue mine, discovered in 1907, is near Tonopah, Nevada, in the Royston district. The mine has yielded very little turquoise, but the first turquoise found there was Easter or robin’s egg blue, hence the name of the mine. The later yield of the mine has included very attractive large mottled spider web matrix with light blue centers in the webbing, as well as deep blue-green with light to dark brown matrix.
The mine discovered in 1996, by a gold miner while prospecting, is named the Lost Mine of Enchantment. It is located in a mining district near the town of Ruidoso in the Sacramento Mountains of southeastern New Mexico. It is the first new mine discovered in New Mexico since the days of Coronado in the 1500’s. Enchantment turquoise is a very high quality turquoise that often shows a deep green color with tan or golden brown matrix, but can also range to a deep, rich blue. The green is influenced by the iron content in the stone, the blue by the copper content.
The Fox Turquoise mine, located near Lander County and discovered in the early 1900’s, was once Nevada’s largest producer of turquoise with some half million pounds. At that time, Mr. Dowell Ward, the mine operator, amassed one of the largest collections of turquoise rock. The mine has been closed for quite some time. In prehistoric times, indigenous peoples mined turquoise and found large nuggets. 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 turquoise market. Collectively, the area produced a huge quantity of good-quality green or blue-green stone with a distinctive matrix.
In the rugged foothills of southern New Mexico in the lower Hatchet Mountain range, you will find the now obsolete High Lonesome Turquoise Mine. High Lonesome, the name painted on a watering tank, is quite appropriate to the land surrounding it – very high and mostly lonesome. For over 30 years, in six week stretches, from sun up to sun down, owner Ray and his crew looked for the beautiful, very hard, green to powder blue turquoise.
The best known of the contemporary mines originally discovered by a Native American. The lode was discovered in 1970 by a Shoshone sheepherder who stumbled upon a vein of turquoise on a hillside while tending his sheep. Eddy Mauzy and his family subsequently mined and marketed turquoise from this site to top Southwest Indian artisans, and jewelry featuring unique Turquoise Mountain turquoise was first featured prominently in Arizona Highways magazine in the late 1970’s.
The Kingman mine in northwestern Arizona is one of the largest turquoise mines in the American Southwest. Kingman blue has become a color standard in the industry. The mine became famous for its rounded bright blue nuggets with black matrix. Few turquoise mines produced nuggets, especially of this high grade. Natural Kingman is highly collectible. Some of the finest specimens of Kingman were mined in the 1960’s. This was an intense blue with a black and silver matrix. This superb grade was found in an area called Ithaca Peak, which yielded the highest grade and hardest Kingman turquoise. The Ithaca vein has long been exhausted.
The Kingman mine re-opened in September 2004 after being closed since the 1970’s. The new owners of the copper mine have contracted to dump anything with turquoise veining or nuggets into trucks for Marty Colbaugh Processing. About 95% of Kingman is stabilized which makes it very affordable. Of that stabilized stone, 50% is then shipped to China for cutting; the other half is sold in the rough to American artists and those in the turquoise trade. The remaining 5% of the Kingman turquoise stays in its natural state. The Kingman mine currently yields about 1600 pounds of rough stone per month with 2000 pounds being the highest yield yet. Therefore, there is a supply of both natural Kingman and stabilized Kingman available for Native American jewelry.
The Lone Mountain turquoise mine is located in Esmeralda County, Nevada. This turquoise is noted for its ability to hold its color and not fade. Usually found in nodules, Lone Mountain turquoise ranges in color from clear blue to spider-web. This mine has also been known as Blue Jay Mine. Because Lone Mountain turquoise holds its beautiful blue color well, it is a valuable addition to one’s jewelry collection.
Manassa turquoise is mined in south central Colorado. The name comes from I.P. King, the gold miner who rediscovered this vein of turquoise and whose descendants still mine the site. It is known for its blue-green to green color with a golden or brown, non-webbed matrix. The golden matrix comes from the host rock, rhyolite. The Manassa mine is still in production and owned by the King family.
Morenci Turquoise is mined in southeastern Arizona. It is high to light blue in color. Morenci has an unusual matrix of irregular black pyrite that, when polished, often looks like silver. Morenci turquoise is well known because it was one of the first American turquoises to come on the market. It is very difficult to obtain now because the mine is depleted. It is a collectible turquoise.
The No. 8 turquoise mine in Carlin, Nevada was first mined in 1929 until its depletion. In its prime, No. 8 produced some of the largest nuggets of turquoise found. A spider web matrix of colors ranging from golden brown to black set off the unique bright powder blue background of the stone. No. 8 turquoise is a very valuable acquisition. Of the ten claims in a 20-acre area, the Number 8 claimed by the Blue Star Company in Lander County is considered the finest example of the gold-webbed turquoise. The mine was depleted in 1961. Approximately 5,000 pounds were mined between 1929-1933. In 1950 a nodule weighing 150 pounds was found and is on display in Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Orvil Jack discovered and developed the mine in northern Nevada that bears his name. The area where the mine is located is called the Blue Ridge in Crescent Valley. The rare yellow-green color of the turquoise comes from the zinc content. Mr. Jack is now deceased, but his daughter continues to manage the mine. Only a small amount is now being produced, and the turquoise is considered very collectible due to its rare color and scarcity.
The Paiute turquoise mine shares a mountain with the Godber and Burnham mines in central Nevada. While claims at the Paiute site date back to 1974, the Paiute mine has been actively productive since 1992. It produces limited quantities of high-grade spider web turquoise. It has a wide graduation of blue tone, from light to dark, with web matrix in colors of black, orange, brown and red. It is a hard turquoise and is very collectible.
The Pilot Mountain mine is located in western Nevada, east of the small town of Mina. As with most turquoise mines, this mine opened as a copper claim. Pilot Mountain turquoise was first mined around 1930 as a tunnel mine. It became an open pit mine when heavy equipment was available around 1970. The current owners of the claim have been mining the turquoise since 1989. While Pilot Mountain is considered an active mine, it is a very small operation. The miners go to the mine twice per year, bringing out only about 150 to 200 lbs. of rough stone each time.
Pilot Mountain turquoise forms in thin seams, with some nugget formations. According to the current owner, the turquoise that has formed in thin seams is high grade with better, deeper blue-green colors. Most Pilot Mountain turquoise is called “grass roots,” meaning the best deposits are found within ten feet of the surface. Pilot Mountain turquoise is highly admired for its deep blue-green color variations. This stone also has very interesting matrix patterns, which range from red to brown to black, most notably a rich tobacco brown. Some of the matrix in high grade Pilot Mountain is beautiful spider web. Pilot Mountain turquoise is a hard stone that takes a good polish. Because of this hardness, this stone does not change colors with prolonged exposure to skin oils, etc. All of these characteristics make Pilot Mountain turquoise very collectible.
Over the years this mine has produced a large quantity of graded turquoise, but the best Red Mountain turquoise rivals some of the higher quality material produced by the best mines in the Southwest. Red Mountain is a good source for intricate, spider-web matrix stones with rust colored veins, many of which are used in the finest gold and silver Indian jewelry. The mine is also a popular source for small, high-grade nuggets that can be drilled, polished, and strung to make wonderful necklaces.
Royston is a turquoise mine located within the Royston District in the southwestern part of Nevada. The Royston District consists of several mines including Royston, Royal Blue, Oscar Wehrend and Bunker Hill. The mines in this district were discovered as early as 1902; in fact, Royston is the oldest patented mine in Nevada. While Royston is considered an active mine, it is a very small operation. The miners go to the mine only twice per year. Royston was originally a tunnel mine, but is now an open pit mine. Royston is a good producer of high quality stones. According to one of the current miners, Royston turquoise is known as “grass roots” which means the best deposits are found within ten feet of the surface. Royston turquoise is known for its beautiful deep green to rich light blue colors. These unique color ranges are what make this stone so special. Royston stones are often two-tone, displaying both dark and light green and sometimes blue. Royston has a heavy matrix ranging from dark brown to gold in color. This matrix makes for beautiful combinations with the color variations of the stone. Royston turquoise is considered very collectible as well as a historically important investment.
The Sleeping Beauty mine is seven miles outside of Globe, Arizona. It is noted for its solid, light blue color with no matrix. The host rock is usually granite. Sleeping Beauty turquoise is the favorite of the Zuni silversmiths for use in petit point, needlepoint and inlay jewelry. This mine is one of the largest in North America.
Monty Nichols, owner and miner of the Sleeping Beauty mine, says that the mine is producing about 1600 pounds a month. Of that, only 4% is natural. Most of the turquoise from the mine, 80-90%, is altered in some way. Most of that percentage is enhanced, which is more expensive than stabilization, and sold to large distributors in this country and Europe.
The Stennich turquoise mine in north central Nevada is quite old, having been mined for years by Gus Stennich. When Mr. Stennich passed on in 1943, his will, written on a bread wrapper, was found in his tent. He gave both the Stennich and Carico Lake mines to the Edgar family, who own them today.
The Stennich mine yields five or six colors of turquoise, from blue green to lemon-line green. Soon the green colors will no longer be available because the part of the mine in which this turquoise is located is being “eaten up,” by the gold mining operation, which takes precedence over turquoise mining.
Stennich turquoise is very hard, so it takes a good polish. It has a subtle gold brown matrix due to the iron content. The shades in green come from the 8% zinc content, which contributes to the good hardness of the stone. Because the lime-green shades are rare in turquoise and that shade in Stennich will soon be unavailable, which makes it an especially collectible turquoise.
This mine, along with the Blue Diamond mine, is distinctive for producing hard, dark blue turquoise that includes a blotchy, black chert matrix that resembles storm clouds, hence the name Stormy Mountain. The mine is not presently active.
In the 1960’s, there were two peaks a few miles apart located near the Kingman mountain, which yielded fine turquoise: Ithaca Peak (see Kingman) and Turquoise Mountain Peak. Then in the 1980’s the Turquoise Mountain mine closed. Turquoise Mountain is light to high blue with both webbed and non-webbed matrix. “Birdseye” describes stones from this mine that show areas of light blue circled with darker blue matrix, resembling the eye of a bird. Even though this peak is part of the Kingman Mountain, it is considered a “classic” mine in its own right because the turquoise is so different in appearance. This stone exhibits a beautiful range of color from pale blue to lime green in one piece that makes it a sought-after turquoise.
Turquoise from the Tyrone mine was associated with the copper mine operations southwest of Silver City, New Mexico. The mine is currently owned by Phelps Dodge. However, turquoise has not been retrieved from the mine since the early 1980’s when Phelps Dodge changed its method of processing copper ore to crushing and using an acid wash. That method destroys any turquoise in the copper ore. The Tyrone turquoise in today’s jewelry is from private “stashes” of collectors. It is medium brilliant blue in its high grade form. Tyrone turquoise is part of the mineral band that starts east of Silver City and curves around through Arizona and the Morenci turquoise mine area into Mexico. Today it is valued for both its beauty and rarity.
Information gathered from the book “Turquoise Unearthed” by Joe Dan Lowry