Turquoise and Rare Stone Information
What is Turquoise?
Turquoise is a hydrous copper aluminum sulfate found in every color of blue, greenish blue or deep green. It has been mined from at least 6000 BC by early Egyptians. The use of turquoise as a beautiful ornamental decoration can be traced to Native Americans as well as Persians.
Turquoise from North American Mines
Carico Lake Turquoise is named after the location of the Nevada mine in a dried up lake bed. Known for it's varied shades of brillaint green which is due to the zinc content. It is considered highly unique & collectible. Carico Lake turquoise is limited in availability because the mine is primarily a gold producing mine which only produces turquoise occasionally.
The Damale Turquoise mine is located thirty miles from Austin, Nevada. Damale Turquoise is distinctive because of the zinc content that turns the stone yellow-green and increases its hardness. The matrix of Damale is webbed with a dark brown to black matrix. It’s availability is limited because the mine is small. Due to its rare color, Damale is a collectible turquoise.
Dry Creek Turquoise gets its color from the heavy metals in the ground where it forms. The Dry Creek Turquoise mine is located outside of Austin, Nevada in Lander County and is on the opposite side of the mountain from the Godber (Brunham) Dry Creek turquoise mine. The Godber (Brunham) Dry Creek turquoise mine is towards Eureka and the Dry Creek turquoise mine is towards Battle Mountain, Nevada. Both mines have produced the light pastel (milky) blue turquoise material. Blue turquoise forms when there is copper present and green turquoise forms where iron is present, the turquoise from the Dry Creek mine has no heavy metals present, thus the pastel color. This is a very rare occurrence. These mines produce a creamy pastel-blue and blue-white turquoise, very hard, gemmy and available only in very small quantities. The matrix in Dry Creek Turquoise is typically light golden or brown-gray to gray-black. This is definitely collectors turquoise!
The Fox Turquoise mine in Nevada was first owned by the Indians and was purchased early on by white men for mining. It is one of the oldest and largest turquoise mines in this particular area. Today Fox Turquoise is produced in many shades of beautiful blue, wonderful greens and aqua's that may have white marks, deep black matrix, or just stone. The product varies from fine vein material to chunky, nuggets with wonderful natural water webbing.
The Kingman Turquoise is found in a copper mine northwest Arizona (known as the Kingman Mine). Kingman turquoise range in colors which run from light blue to very dark blue and also various tints of green. The matrix is from light brown to black and frequently flecked with pyrite.
The Lone Mountain Turquoise mine is located in Nevada and is only active occasionally, this mine has also been known as Blue Jay Mine. Lone Mountain Turquoise ranges in color from clear blue to spider-web. Lone Mountain Turquoise is considered very collectible, holds its beautiful blue color well and doesn't fade.
Morenci Turquoise is well known and considered to be very collectible. It is high to light blue in color and is very difficult to obtain now because the Arizona mine is depleted. Morenci has an unusual matrix of irregular black pyrite that, when polished, often looks like silver.
New Lander Turquoise is mined in Northern Nevada near the Lander Blue Mine, but differs from Lander Blue turquoise in that it has a green to yellow-green color, often with a beautiful dark spiderweb matrix. New Lander Is known for it’s wild patterns and color characteristics. This turquoise is so very unique that it is hard to find the same type twice. It consists of turquoise mixed with calcasiderite, varasite, and faustite. All of these combine to form one very fun and unique stone.
The Number 8 Turquoise mine in Northern Nevada has produced some of the finest turquoise in beautiful green and blues shades and was a well known turquoise mine in the 40's. The product from this mine was some of the most sought after in the Nevada area and it is known for it's spider-web black or golden matrix. The mine was depleted in 1961 and is no longer producing today.
The Pilot Mountain Turquoise mine in northern Nevada is still producing and is worked by one family. Pilot Mountain Turquoise is sought after for its deep blue-green colors and often will show a mixing of blue and greens in the same stone.
The Pixie Mine is in northern Nevada and has not been active for some time. This Pixie Turquoise is spectacular shades of light and dark greens, it is vein material and is hard to get. These specimens will make wonderful collectors pieces!
Royston Turquoise is known for its beautiful colors ranging from deep green to rich, light blues set off by a heavy brown matrix. The mine is in Nevada and is still producing a limited amount of turquoise that is considered to be very collectible.
Sleeping Beauty mine located in Arizona, is the largest in North America and is till operating. Sleeping Beauty Turquoise is noted for its bright blue color with moderate black to no matrixing and is the favorite turquoise for use in inlay work of the Zuni Indians.
Turquoise Mountain Turquoise comes from a mine in northwestern Arizona that was closed in the 1980s. It has light to high blue, with both webbed and non-webbed matrix. This turquoise has also been sold under the name of "Old Man" Turquoise and the same mine also produced "Birds Eye" Turquoise.
Tyrone Turquoise comes from the Tyrone copper mine in New Mexico. No turquoise has been mined from this mine since the early 1980’s when the mine owners changed the method of copper ore processing to crushing and acid wash. This method, obviously, destroys any turquoise in the copper ore. Any Tyrone turquoise found in new jewelry or beads is from private stashes. It is a medium blue in its high grade form. Today, it is valued both for its beauty and rarity.
Gemstones from American Mines
Tiffany Stone - comes only from the Brush Wellman beryllium mine in the Western deserts of Utah. The mine is not public for collecting and very little of this material is available. It is a soft to hard Opalized stone composed of predominantly Opalized fluorite (blues, purples and whites), often with many other minerals such as Agate, Dolomite, Rhodonite, Manganese oxide, Beryllium and others. It often has a "crackled" appearance and is considered one of the most scarce, beautiful and unusual stones in the world.
Utah Picasso Marble is a common building stone, it is a classic sculptors stone. Some marbles are famous such as Italian white and Belgian black marble. The colors vary and may be found in pinks, yellows, and browns. Marble is a soft rock and yet dense in structure. It was once limestone in the Precambrian era. The sedimentary limestone masses were sometimes contacted by hot magnas and the pressure altered the limestone. Other minerals from the magna then infiltrated the limestone causing feathery lines and beautiful designs such as Picasso Marble found in Beaver County, Utah. The scenic effect and color contrast in black and gold has made this marble a popular cutting rock for the lapidarest.
Utah Septarian Nodules – Septarians were formed millions of years ago when the Gulf of Mexico reached what is now Southern Utah. Decomposing sea life, killed by volcanic eruptions, had a chemical attraction for the sediment around them, forming mud balls. As the ocean receded, the balls were left to dry and crack. Because of their bentonite content they also shrank at the same time trapping the cracks inside. As decomposed calcite from the shells was carried down into the cracks in the mud balls, calcite crystals formed. A thin wall of calcite was transformed into aragonite separating the bentonite heavy clay exteriors from the calcite centers. Because of this, the nodules are called Septarians.
Utah Wonderstone – Rhyolite is volcanic. This particular variety was once a very fine volcanic ash. Through pressure and time this ash became rock hard as the colorful chemicals such as iron in the earth seeped through and swirled into a glorious design producing a smooth texture for a soft, desireable cutting material. This wonderstone is only found in the fishlake mountains of Utah near Salina, Utah, Sevier county.
Wild Horse is the name given to this stone, whose geological name is magnesite which is a mixture magnesite/hematite. This stone that was discovered in the mid-90's near the Globe copper mine in the Gila wilderness area of southern Arizona and only comes from there. Only a few years after the mine was opened, they closed it again, so any material on the market today has been stashed away in some prospectors garage. Some have called it Wild Horse Turquoise but it is NOT turquoise! Since so far, there only seems to be one source for Wild Horse and also because of it's beauty . . . it has retains a high value and is a remarkably popular.
Other Rare & Hard-to-find Gemstones
Gaspeite – We are pleased to offer, hard to come by Gaspeite beads! A light, almost apple green color is quite unique and some varieties are almost a neon green. It may contain tan to brownish patches of matrix which gives it a distinctive character. This stone is named for the location of the original discovery in Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec, Canada where material was found that was NOT suitable for the jewelry industry. We only have one source for this treasured stone and he tells us that the last discovery of "cuttable" material (meaning hard enough and of good quality for use in jewelry & beads) was in 1990 in Weegemoogha, Australia. This discovery was a 40 ton block of Gaspeite, with only 27 tons of cuttable material, so YES the availability of this stone will eventually run out to the jewelry industry. It is considered both RARE and collectable. Gaspeite has a hardness of 5.
Larimar, the Gemstone of the Caribbean, is only mined in one location in the Dominican Republic and is therefore highly sought after and collectable! Know & loved for its shades of extraordinary blue color often resembling the clear blue oceans in tropical areas. The name "Larimar" comes from a combination of Larissa and Mar and was given to the stone by a Dominican who named the stone after his daughter Larissa and Mar, the Spanish word for sea.
Muscovite Quartzite – Art Smith, Mineralogist-Geologist wrote: I did a microscopic examination of the bead material that you call Muscovite. It is a natural stone, probably a metamorphic rock called quartzite. It is composed of well-fused grains of clear to slightly cloudy quartz with interspearsed flakes of pale tan, slightly iron stained, mica that is probably muscovite. The iron staining seems to be most concentrated on the edge of the muscovite flakes and so emphasizes them when the stone is polished. This is an excellent hard and durable stone that will make good beads, cabochons or other lapidary items.
Spiny Oyster and Lions Paw Shell Spiny Oyster shell comes from the Sea of Cortez in Mexico and has always been a favorite of the Native American Indian jewelry artists and can be found in various shades of orange, red and purple. We recently discovered a source for Lions Paw shell beads which is very similar to Spiny Oyster, except that the interior of the shell has less white and these shells can be orange on one side with purple on the inside thus making are really gorgeous two-color bead! The Lions Paw is found from the Carolina's to the Gulf of Mexico and down the Atlantic side of South America. There are limited suppliers for the Spiny Oyster beads and cabochons and we always try to hand pick these strands to eliminate as much white on the beads as possible. The Lions Paw beads are just coming onto the market and are fairly hard to find . . . they sell out fast!
Sugilite is a somewhat obscure mineral named for the Japanese geologist who discovered the first specimens in 1944, Ken-ichi Sugi. It is becoming very popular in the jewelry trade and is expensive. Sugilite colors range from a pale grayish lavender to a deep dark purple with the bright purple stones having little matrixing or blotches being the most valued. Sugilite is also known under the trade names of "Royal Lavulite" and "Royal Azel"
Other Turquoise Information
Quality and Grades of Turquoise:
Turquoise is a hydrated aluminum copper phosphate that often contains iron. Turquoise has been popular since prehistoric times and has been used in jewelry dated from 5000 BC. It is mined in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, China, Peru, Chili, Mexico, Persia (Iran) and other areas. There are many different qualities and materials marketed as turquoise.
- High Grade Natural Turquoise: found in all shades from sky blue to apple green. It is the hardest grade and takes the best polish. The contrast between the color of turquoise and the color of matrix (or “mother” rock) enhances the beauty of each stone. Many mines produce distinctive stones whose origin can be identified by an experienced person.
- Enhanced turquoise: The Zachery or Foutz process impregnates turquoise with vaporized quartz. This makes the stone harder, darkens the color and takes a good polish. This process is hard to detect by normal methods because quartz occurs naturaly with some turquoise. (See GIA’s Spring 1999 issue of Gems & Gemology.)
- Stabilized Turquoise: American & China manufacturers have perfected a process using pressure and heat to fill the microscopic gaps in the stone with plastic resin. When cured the product is a treated stone hard enough to cut and polish. Most beads, nuggets and some heishi that have been drilled are made from real turquoise that has been stabilized.
- Wax Treated: Much of the turquoise from China is wax impregnated. The paraffin treatment deepens and stabilizes the color but only affects the surface.
- Reconstituted: This term describes pulverized turquoise scrap from stone cutting mixed with blue dye and plastic binder. Most products marketed under this name should really be labeled as simulated “block.” Compressed Nugget is a similar product made from larger pieces. · Block: A mixture of plastic resin and dyes that is produced in loaf sized blocks. We used to call this reconstituted because we were told it was made from ground up turquoise scraps. In reality there is no actual rock of any sort in block turquoise; it is entirely man-made and should be labeled “simulated.” Block is produced in many colors, simulating many different stones and shells. Except for occasional batches of Lapis Block that contain ground up iron pyrite, these are entirely simulated. Block is used heavily for inlay and heishi.
- Dyed Stones: There are several naturally occurring stones that look similar to turquoise when they are dyed blue. These include Howlite, a white rock with black or gray markings, and Magnite or Magnesite, a chalky white mineral that forms in rough nodules looking faintly like the vegetable cauliflower. Other simulations include glass, plastic, faience ceramic and polymer clay.
- Turquoise is the anniversary gemstone for the 5th year of marriage.
- Turquoise is the US State Gemstone of Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.
- Turquoise has been thought to warn the wearer of danger or illness by changing color.
- In the 13th century, Turquoise was thought to protect the wearer from falling especially from horses.
- Legend has it that the Indians believed that if turquoise was affixed to a bow, the arrows shot from it would always hit their mark. It was also believed to bring happiness and good fortune to all.
- Turquoise started being used before 4000 BC.