I have to admit when first asked to write about the turquoise information I’ve learned over the years. I was a little apprehensive at first. After all, this is my first blogette and I wasn’t sure what to write about. But at the same time, I was really very excited.
Turquoise Information is a huge topic, with so much to discuss, it’s hard to know where to start. While there are several very good books which cover parts of the subject. I’ve never found one book which covers it all.
So I’m going to dive in with some highlights that I find interesting. Then list some of my favorite books at the end.
Turquoise Information About the Stone Itself
Some of the best high-grade Turquoise has come from the mines of Lone Mountain, Number 8, Lander Blue, and Bisbee. Highly sought after, the spiderweb gems of these mines will often have a Mohs hardness of 5 to 6.’ While also representing some of the most expensive Turquoise in the world.
Another type of Turquoise often found in jewelry is “Stabilized”. Stabilizing is a hardening treatment which was first developed in Arizona during the 1950’s to make softer Turquoise useable in jewelry.
The process would put the stone under extreme pressure and inject epoxy or plastic into the porous rock. Strengthening the gem to allow shaping and polishing without the stone crumbling. While other treatment might include dying, waxing and oiling.
Waxing and Oiling are actually some of the oldest Turquoise treatments. Most stones are very porous and can be easily damaged by detergents or everyday use. Due to this, the waxing and oiling treatments were used to enhance the color as well as add a layer of protection with these early treatments. While other Turquoise might be dyed with yellow or green to give the stone a richer color.
Still another type of Turquoise is “Reconstituted”. Which may be small bits of the stone or even chalk Turquoise which is ground into a powder. Then mixed with epoxy to be used as an inlay or for other artistic uses.
Or you may hear the term “Block” which has no actual Turquoise in it at all.
Bits of Turquoise Information about the Mines
Unlike many of the gems used in jewelry, Turquoise does not form deep in the earth. But instead relies upon the weathering effects of mother nature to form. With deposits no farther down in the earth’s crust than 100 feet. Yet it may be seen in open pits with copper or picked up at the end of the winter as the snow melts.
Many Turquoise mines have been worked by Native Americans for centuries. Often worked out or forgotten through the ages. One such mine is the King’s Manassa mine.
Originally worked by the Pueblo peoples. The mine was rediscovered in 1890 by the gold prospector I.P. King and is still owned by King’s descendants.
Through the years the King’s mine has produced a wide verity of colors and quality but is best known for its golden brown matrix and spider webbing.
While a more recent discovery happened in 1970. When a Shoshone sheepherder spotted the vein as he tended his herd along a hillside. Although there hasn’t been any production in the past 20 years, Indian Mountian is still one of the best-known contemporary mines of Navado. Producing both blue and green stone with a black matrix which saw extreme popularity from Native American silversmiths.
Yet by far, the richest vein of Turquoise was found in New Mexico. In 1893 the “Elizabeth Pocket” was uncovered presenting a rich vein of high-grade Tyrone Turquoise 40 feet wide by 40 to 50 feet tall reaching into the earth 100 feet long. The Turquoise from this vein is still considered to be the best quality ever found and was guaranteed not to change color in 19th-century advertisements.
Turquoise Information About Some of my Favorite Artist
Navajo Helen Long is a wonderful example. Known best for her amazing Turquoise and Coral Sterling Kachinas. Helen also designs particularly beautiful feminine necklaces. With some of her works on display in the Peabody Museum, of Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.
Another amazing artist was Hopi Charles Loloma. Now deceased, Loloma designs marched to a different drummer, to say the least. As traditional Native American artist often criticized his work as “It’s nice but it’s not Indian”. On three different occasions, Loloma’s works were rejected from the Gallup Intertribal Art Show.
Charles liked to draw his inspiration from several cultures. Where he used unconventional materials in his art such as lapis, ivory, gold, pearls, diamonds and even wood. Reserving the use of Turquoise as an accent rather than the primary gem.
Zuni Dan Simplicio is still another of my favorites. Also deceased, Simplicio was very innovative as he attempted to create a style of silver-work Native American jewelry which would make it hard for commercial manufactures to imitate Zuni Jewelry. Becoming the first to use rough uncut Branch Coral in his designs, while also introducing extensive leaf-work into Zuni jewelry.
One interesting tidbit about Navajo Tommy Singer is how he got his start into the Navajo Jewelry trade. Tommy was very poor and could not afford to buy Turquoise to make his jewelry. But he had a strong desire to learn the trade. In the beginning, Tommy would sweep the floors of other artist’s workshops to gather small chips to create his first pieces.
Later Tommy became known for his ornate necklaces, bracelets, and earrings which featured highlights of gold touches.
Books with Turquoise Information
As I said before there are many good books about Turquoise, but no one book covers the whole subject. Below is a short list of the books that have helped me the most when researching this huge topic.
- Turquoise: Mines, Minerals & Wearable Art, Mark P Block, Schiffer, 2007.
- Turquoise: The Gem of the Centuries, Oscar T. Branson, Treasure Chest Publications, 1975.
- Turquoise Unearthed, Joe Dan Lowry, Joe P Lowry, Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2002.
- Southwestern Silver: Silversmiths, Designer, Guilds, and Traders, TBR International, Inc, 2012.