Turquoise Mining in the US
Photo by Heather Johnson Photography
Turquoise has been a popular stone for jewelry since the days of Ancient Egypt, and has also been used in Native American jewelry for centuries. There are turquoise mines in different areas of the world, but the most notable are the US and China. I mainly purchase my stones from mines located in the United States that practice fair trade and sustainability. When you buy a piece of jewelry from me, you can rest easy knowing the beautiful stones are coming from an ethical source.
What is Turquoise, Anyway?
We all know turquoise for the beautiful greens and blues and matrices creating designs across the stone. So, how is it formed? Turquoise is formed by water trickling through host rock, leaving behind deposits of copper, zinc, and aluminum.
Turquoise is an opaque mineral that can come in various shades of blues and greens. The color depends on the minerals in the ground where it forms, with blue turquoise containing more copper and green containing more iron.
Turquoise is considered a rare gemstone, and real turquoise jewelry is popular all over the globe. With such a high demand and increasing prices, imitations have been released onto the market. The popularity and depletion of mines makes it important to me that I know who I’m purchasing from and ensures I’m getting genuine turquoise.
What is Turquoise Mining?
For hundreds of years, turquoise has been mined across the North American Southwest. The first US turquoise was mined around 200 B.C. by Native Americans using primitive tools. Turquoise was first found in New Mexico and Colorado, with some of the earliest mines in Cerrillos, NM. The Navajo people have been crafting silver and turquoise jewelry since the late 1800s when Spanish silversmiths brought their craft to America.
American turquoise is considered some of the finest in the world. As Native Americans continued to produce beautiful jewelry with the gemstones, a market for it was born. Demand grew rapidly, and mines popped up all over the Southwest. The majority of the original mines have closed, however mining is still done in the Southwestern states, such as Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.
Most turquoise mines in the US are located in Arizona and Nevada. When deposits of turquoise were originally discovered, the mines were typically copper mines, and mining for turquoise was not the main goal. Turquoise is commonly found in copper mining because it is a hydrous phosphate of copper and aluminum.
Turquoise From US Mines
When purchasing stones, sometimes I’m able to buy them directly from the miners themselves. This process is beneficial to me, the miners, and customers like you. When purchasing directly from the mines, I can ensure a sustainable product coming right from the source.
Developing a relationship with the people operating turquoise mines also helps me get unique stones for custom pieces. I create silver and turquoise jewelry with recycled silver as well, and I craft every piece with intention and respect for our Earth. Here are some of my favorite turquoise mines in the US.
Located near Tonopah, Nevada, the Royston Mine has been operating since the early 1900s. The turquoise found here comes in an array of blues and greens and the stones typically have a webbed matrix.
Sleeping Beauty Mine
Sleeping Beauty Turquoise is very popular for making real turquoise jewelry. The stones are light blue and don’t have much of a matrix. This mine is not currently operating, but is a name known worldwide.
The turquoise found in this mine has a distinct black matrix, which makes for beautiful designs on the gemstones. Many synthetic jewelry makers imitate this type of stone in their pieces.
Real turquoise jewelry is something special that should be treasured. I only buy ethically sourced gemstones that you can feel good about purchasing. When you wear a piece of jewelry from me, you are supporting local turquoise miners that are providing gemstones in a sustainable way. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact me.
Shop turquoise jewelry here.