Turquoise is one of the world’s most rare and colorful gemstones. For generations, many people in the gemstone world associations have continued to diminish turquoise’s monetary value and gemstone status by negatively comparing turquoise’s rare inconsistencies of colors, intrusions of other minerals, and its medium hardness to other gemstones such as a diamond. Turquoise is a rare and distinctive gemstone because of these so-called inconsistencies. The specific geological area and available mineralogy are what determine the unique size, density, hardness, color and intrusions of a turquoise. As each of these diversities in color, intrusions, and source are identified and cataloged by picture, the rarest of these categories have become the most collectible turquoise.
The concept of grading turquoise slowly developed with each culture and civilization that mined and used it in their art and beliefs. Regional and cultural traditions developed into larger trade routes for the gemstone. Trade, culture, fashion trends, supply and opinions have continued to influence various turquoise markets around the world. The interaction and opinions shared between suppliers and buyers of turquoise has made the study of this gem entertaining and sometimes a little frustrating as miners, salespeople, artists and collectors buy, sell and market what they consider the best turquoise.
Unlike other gemstones, turquoise does not have a single grading system. The most well-known tradition used to grade turquoise is the Persian Method, which defines the best grade as a stone with perfect clarity and the deepest blue color. The American Method, defines the best grade of turquoise as one from one of the most famous and rare mine sources, with the deepest blue color and spider web matrix. As the trade of turquoise has developed into a global market, these two methods along with other regional traditions of grading turquoise have competed for acceptance on the world stage. By combining the Persian and American methods, a turquoise collector can define and grade the rarity of most turquoise.
A written certification should be requested with all turquoise purchases. As turquoise has become more rare and expensive it is important to get certification of a turquoise stone’s specific rarity and value. Turquoise has four main categories of rarity, including the condition, mine source, color, matrix and/or clarity. A cabochon’s size, cutting style, weight, hardness and “picture rock” formations can also be used to determine a turquoise’s rarity and value.
The moment that we become fascinated with turquoise and we begin our incredible journey to learn more about the blue, green, white and even the red or purple phenomena; we realize turquoise is a BIG subject. A persons original contact with turquoise is generally their appreciation of it after it is set in jewelry or art. Or maybe they know a turquoise miner or have become interested in the mineralogy, archaeology or mystical qualities of the gem. After an initial introduction: How do we learn more about this colorful gem? People sources, such as miners, cutters, salespeople, jewelers, collectors, scientists and others are a great resource to learn different aspects. Museums, books, magazine articles and the internet are also good outlets to learn. Yet, there is so much information and opinion.
Me personally, I am fascinated by how much information about one gemstone can be so diverse.
It always seems easier for me to just let everyone say and believe what they want. I have many people come up to me and say “This is Lander Blue” or “This is Bisbee” or “I know that this is natural”. I always just agree with them. They do not ask for my opinion or want a conversation. These same people then go and tell everyone that “Joe Dan, said this is Lander Blue, Bisbee and/or natural”
Uh…No I didn’t.
So, how do we learn? My answer is from everybody and everything. Keep the good and lose the bad. Keep learning. Here are some sources of good information but I point out the bad information within.
Turquoise, Gem of the Centuries, by, Oscar Branson, 1976 (page 43 and page 51)
When this book was published, it was the first time that the American turquoise market was visually showcasing the individual American mines. As the American turquoise market was developing: Persian blue turquoise with clarity was the world’s standard to turquoise. Now, the Americans had there own book that pictured some of the variety of colors and matrix from each American mine.
The problem for the author, Oscar Branson and those who believed our American turquoise was as good if not better than any other turquoises in the world: was that the most famous turquoise mine site in America was the Cerrillos mining area near Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Cerrillos mining area was famous but did not produce the quality of turquoise that was comparable to the standard of Persian turquoise. Unfortunately, America’s most famous mining area did not have turquoise that could compare to the best Persian turquoise.
Therefore, Mr. Branson used Persian and Tyrone turquoise stones in the picture that represented the Cerrillos turquoise. The Tyrone samples pictured on page 51 represent only low grade Tyrone turquoise. This picture has continued to misinform people throughout the world that the famous Cerrillos area produced turquoise just as good as the Persian turquoise for clarity and deep blue color with nice matrix.
Collectors, salespeople and others still incorrectly use these two pictures to identify turquoise sources and grades for Cerrillos and Tyrone.
Turquoise Mosaics from Mexico, by Colin McEwan…2006 (page 29)
The trustees to the British Museum promoted this book as new and scientific. It is new but it is not correct information about source, trade or science. The map on page 29 does not include any turquoise mine sites or samples that should have been studied from Mexico. This book completely ignores all the Mexican mine sites as possible sources in their incomplete study and conclusions. To ignore these numerous turquoise sites as possible sources of turquoise for their 9 artifacts is not a scientific study or proper research.
Turquoise Unearthed, by Joe Dan Lowry…2002 (page 43)
Publishers have great control over what they publish. When we wrote this book, the publisher had a great passion for turquoise and wanted to include these personal items and information. We told him that this was a copper and enamel reaction that made the color turquoise but did not become the mineral turquoise. When the book was published, we “noticed” he liked his idea better than ours. Oh well, what do you do?
Turquois, by Joseph Pogue 1915 (page 135)
The time and effort that Mr. Pogue put into this book is amazing. No internet and no computer typing or modern travel amenities. Amazing. This book’s diverse study of all things turquoise, is a great example why authors have to interview multiple people for the knowledge and information that is included in a single book. We all should realize that not everyone that an author or magazine writer interviews is totally honest or might even exaggerate the information that they share. Miners, cutters, salespeople and even archaeologists jobs or financial needs should be considered when interpreting information in books and research paper.
Researching turquoise information in books and articles involves discovering the sources of who and where the information was collected for the books and articles. Case in point, Mr. Pogue had to research information and/or interview someone so he could write about the production quantities and values of the Cerrillos mines. Mr. Pogue states that the gathered production quantities using the U.S. Geological Surveys that were compiled by people such as Mr. Kunz. Even though it is in the U.S. Geological Survey, the information was still collected by people. Why would they misrepresent the information. East Coast investors would spend money on new discoveries and endeavors in gold, silver, turquoise and other opportunities. Where and who did these investors use to get knowledge about new discoveries?
Mr. Kunz and the Cerrillos area miner Mr. McNulty were very colorful people who, I believe exaggerated their numbers. In my research, their numbers do not ad up. One of my many questions. If there were two million dollars of turquoise mined in a span of ten years (1890 to 1900): there is no evidence of it if you have ever traveled in the Cerrillos area, understand mining or read the book Tiffany Blue, by Patricia McGraw 2006. Research proves this kind evaluation and production of turquoise is not true. Two million dollars in the years of 1890-1900 is equivalent to over fifty-eight million dollars in 2017. Where is the physical evidence and personal wealth created with this kind of money.
Yet, there are still archaeologists, authors, writers and others who still quote this section of Mr, Pogue’s book as fact.
Turquoise, The World Story of a Fascinating Gemstone, by Joe Dan Lowry…2010 (page 81)
Readers are always willing to let authors and writers know about the mistakes or misinformation in a book or article. This is good and allows corrections to be made. Many books have spelling, grammar or caption information that can be wrong or missed in editing. A mistake can cause a headache for a reader who is trusting the written information for a research paper or purchase.
I wrote the wrong date (1450 when it should have been 1540) (my editor missed the correction) A reader of the book sent a note and we corrected the date in the new edition. (8 years later).
Albuquerque Tribune newspaper article about the Enchantment turquoise mine in New Mexico.
The writer interviewed me and printed that I said this mine would produce two tons of turquoise per year. My statement was that the state geologist said there was probably a total of two tons of turquoise in the area. Regardless of who made the mistake, wrong information was in print.
Cultures and Traditions
Cultures and traditions have been around for a very long time. I wonder how many traditions and stories about turquoise are true. Not that it matters. If someone believes something, who is going to correct them? Does it really matter if someone believes that turquoise will protect them from the evil eye or that Jupiter is solid turquoise? There are so many thoughtful and stupid beliefs about all turquoise subjects that are tied to traditions. I guess people believe a story that has been around for awhile…must be fact. The traditions of families and cultures are some of the best stories out there. Some are even true. I should know with the two names that produced me; Zachary and Lowry. Boy do we have some “traditions”!
I have had many interviews about turquoise that have been translated into many languages. It takes a great talent and ability to translate. But not all information can be translated clearly and sometimes the translator is not capable of the task. I only speak English but I have heard from others who speak multiple languages that not all translations about turquoise are good.
Laws are written to protect the public. Unfortunately, laws are written by people who interview people so that other people can write a law. Uh. Here we go again. People make mistakes and even laws can be written but not fully explained or understood. One of those laws is New Mexico’s law about what constitutes the condition of a gemstone. Another issue would be how industry leaders such as GIA or other educational based entities define a gemstone’s condition.
Ask a Miner, Cutter, Salesperson, Artist or collector…
What is the best turquoise in the world?
What is an imitation?
What turquoise is set in my piece of jewelry?
You may never get the same answer.
Whichever answer you like best might become the knowledge about that turquoise forever.
As you can see, there is a lot about turquoise that is used for visual identification or repeated information that is not true. As mistakes and misinformation is corrected, we all can learn more about the gemstone that we find fascinating. If you know about mistakes in photography, captions, information or opinion, please share. I collect this information.