Turquoise varies in quality from Gem quality to low grade “chalk”.
- GEM quality turquoise is HARD.
- LOW grade turquoise is SOFT.
- Turquoise is a hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum and is formed by the percolation of meteoric or groundwater through aluminous rock in the presence of copper. For this reason, it is often associated with copper deposits as a secondary mineral. Turquoise is most often found in arid, semiarid or desert places.
Turquoise attains it’s 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 turquoise.
- Green turquoise forms when there is iron present, which is the case with most Nevada turquoise. Matrix is the host rock.
Tucson Turquoise offers many varieties of turquoise jewelry, with an emphasis on American Southwest turquoise. The following is a list of turquoise varieties from the American Southwest, mainly mined in Nevada and Arizona. PLEASE NOTE:
Many examples of turquoise exhibit certain characteristics of prominent turquoise mines but….
- “Experts” can disagree on the particular mine from which a given sample of turquoise originated.
- Provenance is important. Unless you are the miner of the turquoise, know the miner who obtained the turquoise, or can verify the “chain of custody,” it can often be very difficult to verify the mine from which your turquoise came from.
- As turquoise is a natural material coming from the earth, some Chinese turquoise closely resembles American turquoise!
- A single mine can produce turquoise which varies greatly in color, matrix, and hardness!
Click on any picture below for an expanded view!
- Royston is a district in Nevada consisting of three mines: Bunker Hill, Oscar Wehrend and the largest producer, Royal Blue. Royston turquoise is known for its beautiful colors ranging from deep forest green to rich, light blues set off by a heavy, brown matrix. The Royston district is still producing some turquoise of high quality but in limited supply.
- Stormy Mountain turquoise mine is located in Elko County, northeastern Nevada. Along with Blue Diamond mine, Stormy Mountain is known for producing hard, dark blue turquoise that includes a blotchy, black chart matrix. This mine is presently not active, so it has particular appeal.
- Pilot Mountain is located in Esmeralda County, Nevada. Pilot Mountain turquoise ranges in color from blue to green with a dark brown, black or reddish matrix. This stone is admired for its deep blue-green colors.
- Pauite Turquoise mine is in the same mountain as the Godber / Burnham and Drycreek Turquoise mine in central Nevada. The claims at the Pauite mine site date back to 1974, but the mine has been active since 1992. The Pauite mine produces limited quantities of high-grade spiderweb Turquoise. It comes in a wide ranges of blue from light to dark, with matrix in colors of black, orange, brown, and red.
- Turquoise Mountain and “Bird’s eye” turquoise come from the same mine in Northwestern Arizona near the Kingman mine, Mineral Park Mining District. The mine was closed in the 1980’s. Turquoise Mountain turquoise is light to high blue with both webbed and non-webbed matrix. “Bird’s eye” describes stones from this mine that show areas of light blue circled with dark blue matrix resembling the eye of a bird.
- Cerrillos turquoise mine, located between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico, is one of the most famous prehistoric mining districts in the American Southwest. Cerrillos is the only turquoise that formed at the base of a volcano; thus, a variety of colors developed from the minerals in the various volcanic host rocks. Seventy-five colors have been identified, from tan to khaki-green to rich, blue-green to bright, light colors. There are more than two hundred dig sites located there and the largest and most famous are the Blue Bell, Castilian and Tiffany mines.
- Red Mountain is located in Lander County, Nevada. This mine has produced a large quantity of graded turquoise and the best Red Mountain turquoise rivals some of the high quality turquoise produced by the best mines in the Southwest. Red Mountain turquoise has an intricate often red spider web matrix.
- King’s Manassa turquoise is from a mine is located in Manassa, Conejos County, Colorado. Manassa turquoise is best known for its rich, brilliant greens and golden matrix. Blue and blue-green turquoise has been found in these deposits as well.
- Kingman mine is located in Mohave County in western Arizona. The copper mining in the Mineral Park Mining District around Kingman has produced a larger supply of turquoise throughout the years. The matrix of most Kingman is naturally white but is usually dyed to black with shoe polish.
- Cripple Creek turquoise mine is located in Teller County, Colorado and was discovered when miners looking for gold in the area also found turquoise deposits. Two separate mines are currently active in the area both under the Cripple Creek name.
- Blue Gem turquoise was mined approximately 6 miles south of Battle Mountain, Nevada, within a large copper-mining operation. Blue Gem mine produced almost every shade of green and blue from intense blues to deep green combinations with a hard, irregularly distributed matrix. Of the multiple Nevada mines that are named Blue Gem, the Battle Mountain Blue Gem mine, which began production in 1934, yielded the most valuable Blue Gem turquoise due to its rich color and hardness. This mine is now CLOSED and is highly sought after by collectors.
- Fox is one of Nevada’s most productive turquoise mines. The area produces a huge amount of good quality green or blue-green stone with a distinctive matrix.
- Number 8 mine is in Calin, Nevada, and was at one time a gold and copper mining operation on the west side of the Tuscarora Mountain Range. Number 8 turquoise is famous for its black, golden-red and brown spider web matrix set off with the unique bright powder blue turquoise background. The mine is now depleted and Number 8 turquoise is valuable.
- Sleeping Beauty mine, located near Globe, Arizona, produced a solid, light blue color with no matrix and is used in many styles of American Indian jewelry. A favorite of Zuni silversmiths, Sleeping Beauty is often used in needlepoint, petite point and inlay jewelry because of its consistency in color and is easy to cut. This mine was one of the largest in North America and is now CLOSED. Sometimes black is added to sleeping beauty to add definition demonstrated in the below example.
- Lone Mountain aka Blue Jay Mine turquoise mine, located in Esmeralda County, Nevada, once produced a great variety of turquoise. Usually found in nodules and is noted for some of the finest examples of spider web turquoise as well as clear, deep-blue stones. Among “classic” American turquoise, only Lander Blue is more valuable.
- Morenci turquoise is mined in southeastern Arizona, Greenlee County. It is high to light blue in color with an unusual matrix of irregular iron pyrite or “fool’s gold” that when polished, often looks like silver. The name is derived from the large open pit Morenci copper mine where a great deal of turquoise from. The mine is now depleted, which makes it collectible. (Example from my personal collection)
- Lander Blue turquoise is from a mine in Lander County, Nevada and was first claimed in 1973. It produced some of the most beautiful spider-webbed turquoise ever discovered. It is considered the rarest and the most valuable turquoise. Less than 110 pounds of this beautiful spider-web turquoise was ever mined.
- Bisbee turquoise is from the Lavender Pit copper mine that is now CLOSED. Bisbee turquoise is famous for its deep blue color and smoky black matrix. It is a highly collectible variety of turquoise.
- Stone Mountain is a small mine in Northern Nevada. The mine produces a fine hard gem grade turquoise with colors ranging from a variety of greens to a medium blue. It can be slightly translucent with markings of limonite.
- Carico Lake turquoise is named after the location of its mine on a dried up lake bed in a high, cool area of Lander County, Nevada. It has been marketed under names such as Aurora and Stone Cabin. Its clear, iridescent, spring-green color is due to its zinc content and is highly unique and collectible. Carico Lake turquoise is also found in a dark blue-green color with a black, spider web matrix. Mines in this district also produce faustite, an apple-green mineral similar to turquoise but identified as a separate mineral in 1953. (Example from my personal collection).
- Damele (Variscite – see definitions page) aka Damali mine is located in east-central Nevada near the Carico Lake mine. Damele turquoise is quite distinctive because the zinc content turns the stone yellow-green and increases its hardness. The matrix of Damele is webbed with a brown to black matrix. (Examples from my personal collection).
Below is natural Damele as it comes from the ground
- Dry Creek turquoise mine is located on the Shoshone Indian Reservation near Battle Mountain, Nevada. The lack of any specific color consistency makes this stone distinctive and unique from other turquoises. Because this turquoise is as rare as the sacred buffalo, the Indians call it “Sacred Buffalo” Turquoise.
- Easter Blue mine is located northwest of Tonopah, Nevada a few miles from the Royston district. Turquoise from this claim has also been called Blue Mountain and Blue Gem. It was discovered in 1907 and the first material found was a fine blue color, usually occurring in thin veins, later the mine produced a blue green turquoise with a light to dark brown matrix.
- Godber-Burnham mine is located east of Austin, Nevada and was discovered in 1932. First claimed under the name “Last Chance”, it was later sold to Frank Burnham and then in 1934 to Walter Godber. The turquoise ranges from medium to dark blue usually with a beautiful spider webbing. It has also been know for a very dark or black mottling forming blotches and veins running through the stone.
- Nevada Blue became famous in the 1970’s with its beautiful turquoise and its wide spread use by most all of the well-known Native American jewelers, including Charles Loloma and Lee Yazzie. Discovered by Jim Watts in 1901 and first known as the Watts mine then the Pinto, Nevada Blue ranges in color from sky blue to a rich dark blue with a reddish brown or sometimes black spider-webbing.
- Blue Moon turquoise mine was active until the late 1970’s in Esmeralda County, Nevada. . Typically, light-sky blue with a dark brown to black matrix.
- Orvil Jack discovered and developed the mine in northern Nevada that bears his name. The area where the mine is located is called the Blue Ridge in Crescent Valley. The rare yellow-green color of the turquoise comes from the zinc content. Only a small amount is now being produced.
- Ajax mine is located in south-central Nevada in the Royston area. A relatively new mine that yields stones from light blue with darker blue veins to a predominate dark green with light blue veins. The dark green with light blue veins is considered quite unusual for turquoise.
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