In 1973, after a couple of years in the trading business, we were faced with a shortage of jewelry, a problem of supply, not demand. Our Native American jeweler friends could not produce because of a lack of good turquoise. Since many of our artist friends at that time were from Santo Domingo Pueblo, we initially approached the L.W. Hardy Company in Kingman, Arizona which was able to supply us with a reliable amount of stabilized turquoise. This was low grade material, called chalk because of its soft, absorbent nature. The Hardy company impregnated it with a petroleum based chemical and through a pressurizing process, created a turquoise material which was acceptable for beads and heishi necklaces, but was a lousy substitute for natural turquoise. It definitely could not be used in the fine gold and silver jewelry being created by the best Navajo and Zuni craftsmen.
With the exception of the Bisbee turquoise, a small percentage of Kingman turquoise, some high grade Morenci and the clear usually stabilized or otherwise enhanced turquoise found at the Sleeping Beauty mine in Globe Arizona, most high grade natural turquoise mined in the United States originates in Nevada. To find active mines in Nevada was like looking for a needle in a haystack – a haystack located a long way from our New Mexico base.
Unlike the Arizona mines, Nevada turquoise mines are usually mined by prospectors in small family-owned businesses. The Arizona turquoise is, by and large, a by-product of large copper mining ventures and, hence, relatively easy to acquire. The copper mines sell a concession to a turquoise company who picks it up. These companies, then, have no need for costly excavators, dozers, drill rigs for blasting, dump trucks, screening plants or other equipment. Reclamation expenses are also borne by the large copper mining companies. Because this turquoise is a by-product of a huge copper mine, most of it is now depleted. The copper mines are largely offshore in places like Chile. An exception to this is the Blue Gem mine which was located in Nevada and is extinct today as all of the turquoise was mined out with the copper .
Faced with the daunting task of finding small turquoise mines in Nevada, we purchased a small plane and spent months in places such as Crescent Valley, Austin, Battle Mountain, Tonopah, Fallon, etc. usually many miles from these small towns on dusty claims scattered throughout the beautiful but lunar landscapes. We worked closely with second and third generation mining families. Most of the viable turquoise claims have been closely held since the 1880s.
The largest producing areas in Nevada have been in Lander and Esmeralda counties and Crescent Valley. Within these areas are found Carico Lake, Pilot Mountain, Lander Blue, Number 8, Crow Springs, Lone Mountain, Blue Gem, Montezuma, Royal Blue, Stormy Mountain, Valley Blue, Dry Creek, Royston, and many others, all classic turquoise mines. Lander Blue at this point is played out. Blue Gem and Number 8 were mined out in large copper and gold mines. Lone Mountain produces small quantities, usually sifted from the dumps. Only Fox, Crow Springs, Pilot Mountain, Montezuma, Royston and Royal Blue currently produce small amounts sporadically, mined by small family-owned operations.
Turquoise is a mineral compound of phosphate, copper and aluminum, or copper and ferric iron. When mixed with aluminum, the turquoise is a bright sky blue. When mixed with iron, deep blues and some green-blues are seen. When mixed with Copper various shades of green can be seen as well as beautiful golden brown matrix. Unfortunately, only five to ten percent of turquoise mined can be considered high or gem grade. The medium grades are attractive as well and comprise the bulk of stones that are cut and set in jewelry. The lower seventy percent is sometimes suitable for treating or enhancing and is what is found in most southwestern style curio jewelry. It is often said that there is no more natural turquoise. It is true that the deposits are small and difficult to mine. But most often this is a statement made by those who have not spent the years it takes to establish relationships with the miners.
Collectible Native American jewelry is almost always made with natural turquoise. All of the turquoise found in the jewelry represented by Turquoise Direct, with the exception of Santo Domingo Pueblo heishi jewelry, is high grade, natural turquoise. Almost all of this turquoise has been hand picked, custom cut and set. It comes to you directly from our friends and partners, the miners in Nevada, and our Native American friends, who are some of the finest artists in the southwest. Each piece, if requested, will be accompanied with a Certificate of Authenticity which guarantees that you are getting some of the finest natural American turquoise as well as provides artist name, their tribal affiliation as well as the retail value of the item.