Sunday, May 20, 2007

Turquoise before it’s jewelry, by Waites

I recently discovered a discussion group on Yahoo that features turquoise – before it finds its way into Native American or any other jewelry. The group, American Turquoise Mines, continually interests me as the members discuss various “varieties” of turquoise, based on the mine it is believed to originate from.

So far as I can tell, these are almost exclusively miners of turquoise, resellers of raw turquoise or lapidaries who cut, slice and polish it for use in jewelry made by others.

I may be wrong, but there appears to be a decided dislike for Chinese, as opposed to American, turquoise. Maybe I am just reading that into comments in a group that focuses on American turquoise. At the very least, they get upset about Chinese turquoise that is misidentified by sellers as “American.” Rightly so.

They also evaluate the turquoise being offered on eBay and the sellers of that material. Helpful, if not completely authoritative. Take it with a grain.

Anyway, there are numerous turquoise varieties - in green and white in addition to blue - from the following mines: Apache, Bisbee, Number 8, Blue Gem, Blue Ice, Blue Jay, Blue June, Blue Star, California Gem, Candelaria, Caeico Lake, Cerrillos, Cripple Creek, Damele, Dameli, Duvall Kingman, Fox Mine, Hatchita Float, Indian Mountain, Indian Blue, Last Chance, Lander Blue, Lander Blue Web, Lil Chalchihuital, Lizard Jim, Mastrada, Morenci, Nevada Blue, Green #8, Edgar #8, Orogrande Float, Orvil Jack, Oscar Wehrent, Pilot Mountain, Pixie,, Royston, Searchlight, Shadow Mountain, Sleeping Beauty, Smith, Stennich, Timberline, Tyrone, Valley View, Verde, Turquoise Mountain, White Buffalo.

Did you have any idea that there were that many turquoise mines – in the U.S., no less?

One recent subject of extensive discussion was (Sacred) White Buffalo turquoise. Some commenters believe it is not turquoise at all, but some similar material. Others believe it is genuine turquoise by chemical and physical analysis that’s whiteness is simply very pale blue.

Quoting from one member of the group -

“When discovered in the Dry Creek Mine on the Shoshone Indian Reservation near Battle Mountain, Nevada in 1993, they were not sure what it was. Because of its hardness, it was decided to send it to have it assayed and their suspicions proved correct; it was in fact Turquoise. It was not until 1996 however that it was finally made into Jewelry.

“Turquoise gets its color from the heavy metals in the ground where it forms. Blue turquoise forms when there is copper present, which is the case with most Arizona turquoises. Green turquoise forms where iron is present, the case with most Nevada turquoises. Sacred Buffalo Turquoise forms where there was no heavy metal present, which turns out to be a rare occurrence. The lack of any specific color consistency makes this stone distinctive and unique from other turquoises.

“Because this turquoise is so rare, the Indians have named it “Sacred Buffalo” turquoise.”

Native American Indian jewelry relies heavily on turquoise for gem material. Since the raw turquoise used costs more or less depending on the quality and rarity of stone, it also influences the cost of he jewelry in which it appears. Of course there are other factors as well, including the skill and reputation of the jewelry maker.

Nevertheless, the more you know about turquoise, the sharper you will be as a Native American jewelry buyer.

You'll find a number of outstanding turquoise pieces at our Native-JewelryLink web site. Where we know the source mine, we quote it. We intend to be even more diligent in determining the variety. Often, the artist doesn't know.

By the way, turquoise plays a major role in Zuni fetish carvings in addition, especially in carvings by the Gasper family, Jeff Tsalabutie and Alonzo Esalio. See examples at these links.