Turquoise Group Minerals
This can be a broad and difficult subject when we add all the science and all the opinions. I have attempted to group the information in a way that we all can learn a little more about several of the minerals being sold as turquoise and that would sometimes test as a turquoise. The pictures that I have used are just a few samples.
Mineral-“a naturally occurring inorganic solid, with a definite chemical composition, and an ordered atomic arrangement.” Oxford Languages
Is turquoise a mineral? Yes
Gemstone-“a precious or semiprecious stone, especially one cut, polished and used in a piece of jewelry.” Oxford Languages
Is turquoise a gemstone? Yes
Chemistry Periodic Table of the Elements-“a table of the chemical elements arranged in order of atomic number, usually in rows, so that elements with similar atomic structure appear in vertical columns.” Oxford Languages
Chemical Formula-“a set of chemical symbols showing the elements present in a compound and their relative proportions, and in some cases the structure of the compound.” Oxford languages
What is turquoise’s standard chemical formula?
What is a chemical formula variation for turquoise with intrusive iron (Fe)?
Cu(Fe3+, Al)6(PO4)4(OH)8 ∙4H2O
Crystalline Structure-“is any structure of ions, molecules, or atoms that are held together in an ordered, three-dimensional arrangement.” Study.com
Turquoise has a triclinic crystalline structure.
Turquoise is a secondary formation that is deposited into existing spaces of open pockets or crevices within a hillside. The various recipes necessary to create turquoise is a complex composition of copper, aluminum, phosphates, water and oftentimes other available intrusive substances. The acidic water indiscriminately collects all available substances as it flows downward; it dissipates and evaporates depositing the new chemistry into existing seams, cracks, and open spaces within the hillside.
“Any student of mineralogy is well acquainted with what are called “series” of minerals, chemically related substances within which atoms of two different metals can easily substitute for each other in the structure. Such series members are very similar in properties, and often occur close to each other in a deposit as solutions tend to vary somewhat within certain boundaries of that deposit. Such series of related minerals are possible because certain metal ions have similar sizes and other characteristics, so they can interchange.” Bob Jones
“When three mineral species are closely related, they are then shown in textbooks as the three corners of a triangle. The lines connecting those corners represent a gradually changing chemistry as one metal ion substitutes for another in regular percentage amounts. The result is a “family” or “series” of species and varieties.” Bob Jones
The original chemical equation for turquoise defines a pure blue formation with no inclusions or intrusive substances. If we keep this “perfect” sample test in the forefront of this blog post, it will help bring clarity to other turquoise formation varieties, chemistry and comparative mineralogy.
Ferrian is the technical term that refers to most green-colored turquoise. Iron (Fe) is a strong and abundant chromophore that generally becomes dominant when it is brought into contact with a turquoise solution deposit. The Iron (Fe) can replace the Aluminum (Al) within the chemical formula.
This progression of Iron (Fe) will show in analytical tests as chalcosiderite. The solid solution series occurs when more than one element occupies the same space in the structure and substitutes another.
Turquoise Group Minerals
The Turquoise Group has several minerals in its series. Each of these minerals can be similar to one another in chemical formula, but they are not the same mineral, one element can replace another, making a different chemistry.
At each end of the Turquoise Group Minerals spectrum you have specific gems such as Turquoise, Faustite and Chalcosiderite. Turquoise, Faustite and Chalcosiderite in their purest chemical formulas are also visually distinctive and can be specifically identified using good eyesight. I identify formations and cabochons using the visual test for most of these minerals. Turquoise within the lightest blues and greens to the darkest. Faustite cabochons in all the apple green colors. Chalcosiderites in greens, off whites, yellows and some milky white blues. Faustites and chalcosiderites have their own rarity and beauty and are continuing to gain their own grading system and favor among more and more buyers.
Since the water indiscriminately collects and deposits a formation’s mineralogy; a variety of chemical formulas can exist within a single formation. When there is a varied collection of mineralogy it can become complicated to specifically identify the formation into a single mineral class. This is one reason there is so many opinions when identifying Turquoise Group Minerals. These sedimentary formed minerals can have similar chemistry and some visual attributes as turquoise. Especially when these minerals are between chemistry spectrum. In these types of formations, even the world of science has a difficult time specifically analyzing which of the two or three minerals a formation could be identified. One of the most interesting and sometimes rare minerals is when a visual identification can specifically identify two minerals in the same formation.
Analytical Testing and Identification
Minerals with similar structure and somewhat different chemistry can be difficult to identify as one specific mineral without spending some money. The correct scientific tests and the correct interpretation of the tests can add to the expense. The equipment and procedures can be high-tech and specific; identifying every chemistry that exists within one formation. Many times it is possible to identify at least 2 or 3 minerals in one formation when reading the final test results.
1. Only a specific pin-pointed area is tested from a formation. A different area of the formation could be tested with a different result.
2. Different mineral interpretations can be made depending on the qualifications of the person who is analyzing the test results.
3. Sometimes “people” have been known to send in one formation for testing and then using that evaluation paper for a totally different formation.
Why do so many people identify other minerals as turquoise?
We should always ask a salesperson, TV personality, or miner what their experience or opinions are. They probably have a good reason for how they identify the gems they offer for sale.
The following are some of my theories on why most people group so many different minerals as turquoise.
1. Turquoise is the most famous gem in the category of semi-precious gemstones and the Turquoise Mineral Group. Many people do not take the time to explain or learn about the different minerals.
2. Turquoise has so many colors, variety of hardness, and host rock matrix that turquoise itself includes a wide range of properties, therefore many people just identify a few more colors and minerals as turquoise.
3. Turquoise in the American Southwest is absorbed into the amazing Native American history, mystique, and arts. So much so, that if any stone is set in silver Native American jewelry, it is expected that it must be a turquoise.
The tourist often asks: Is this red turquoise?… when looking at coral.
4. Through the last fifty years, turquoise has become rarer and more expensive. Many other minerals have helped fill the demand as comparatively affordable and colorful gems for the market.
5. Most artists are going to use the best available materials to build and use in their art and a lot of the quality turquoise sources have been depleted.
6. Most people are visual buyers. They buy what they like and many of the other minerals are not only beautiful, but they are also rare.
There are many other minerals that can be visually similar to turquoise. These include some of the Turquoise Group Minerals, copper ores, variscites, dolomites,
chrysocollas, azurites, jades and even some larimars along with other minerals. The picture below is just a few colors of variscites.
Buy what you like and if you would like to know if your salesperson has any extra information about the mineral or gemstone that you are purchasing; ask them. There is some really good and interesting information out there about so many unique and beautiful minerals and gemstones. Such as….
1. Faustite was named as a mineral in 1953
2. Variscite not only has a different chemical formula than turquoise, it also has a different crystalline structure. (Al(PO4)∙2H2O)-Orthorhombic
3. A diamond and turquoise are each Triclinic in their crystalline structures.
Joe Dan Lowry ©June 8, 2020
A Color Can Be Bottled But Never Contained
By Joe Dan Lowry Copyright 3/16/2020
In many of my lectures and writings: I have alluded to the Eastern United States, white European influence as the beginning of the Native American’s appreciation of bright blue turquoise. It was the existing European jewelry market in the Eastern United States and their demand for bright blue turquoise that created the original inspiration behind what became the identifying turquoise color that is set in many of today’s Southwest jewelry designs.
The emerging mining for blue Southwest American turquoise was initially developed to fill the Eastern United States demand for “Persian Blue” turquoise. The Southwest’s turquoise mining “boom” of the 1890s was to fill this specific demand for the Tiffany jewelry company’s use of bright blue turquoise in their European styles of jewelry. The end result of this search for bright blue turquoise failed to produce enough blue ore and the American turquoise mining market crashed at the beginning of the twentieth century.
This search for a domestic source for the bright blue turquoise in the Southwest mining areas had very little to do with the developing Indian jewelry trade. But the failure to produce enough bright blue turquoise to supply the Eastern turquoise jewelry market spawned and influenced an even greater story: The development and appreciation for the Native American artist and their advancing southwest jewelry industry. The romance and marketing of the west and the southwest Native American jewelry and art was becoming the future outlet for all American turquoise colors.
The ancient artifacts that I have seen in museums and pictured in books are generally adorned with green, green/blue or blue/green turquoises. Only a small percentage of Native American jewelry made up through the 1940s was set with bright blue turquoise. This would testify that the ancients and early twentieth century Native American silversmiths would have used whatever turquoise colors that were available. In the first fifty years of the developing southwest silver jewelry and turquoise industry, turquoise was generally used without consideration of the color or grade of the stone. Most jewelry was set with green, green/blue, blue/green and low grade.
In less than eighty years; all of these European American and Native American cultures, turquoises, and influences became synonymous and accepted as one amalgamated southwest story. Bright blue turquoise colors are now the accepted “traditional” color for the southwest Native American cultures to set in jewelry and adorning their elaborate modern dance outfits. The green, green/blue and blue/green colors originally appreciated and mystically valued by the ancients have become largely ignored by modern Native cultures for the bright blue colors. Many people even choose to wear jewelry set with or made out of pretty bright blue plastics. What the “now” famous bright blue color represents has become more visually important and “valuable” than the actual colors used by the ancients. Masses of tourists continue to romantically look for the bright blue colors turquoise.
Turquoise Trade In The Western Hemisphere
The Trade of Turquoise in the Western Hemisphere
For over twenty five years I have discussed and written about my theory that turquoise trade in the
Western Hemisphere is regional. I have spoken at symposiums, written papers and books that have included different aspects of why turquoise trade is regional. Thankfully, over the last ten years I have found a little more reception to my studies from the academia world. Some archaeologists have even used parts of my theory to help develop their own studies. I still believe that the true history of trade in the Western Hemisphere needs to be restudied and rewritten in more aspects than just turquoise.
I have always appreciated all the different people who have helped me through the years. The study of
turquoise takes everyone! It is amazing how many people or institutions owned a mine site, an artifact, a story, specific information or even ideas about the past. Sometimes it is difficult to not offend someone or an institution when you use their information or their artifacts in conclusions that disagree with their conclusions in their own studies, their books or their turquoise related businesses. Anyone who knows me knows that I think turquoise is bigger than any one person’s knowledge and bigger than science. I have made my fair share of mistakes in my studies but continue to learn. Please enjoy this blog. This blog is so long that I included some pictures to keep you entertained.
The study of human behavior in social, cultural and linguistic situations is sometimes the most important
tool when studying past cultures, written documents and books about turquoise. In life, we as humans can arrive at different conclusions using the same information. We can ignore information that does not fit our agenda, beliefs, values or ideas. Many times we are predetermined to think about turquoise in certain ways. Where and who we get our turquoise information is important but not always correct or complete. Our initial influences are powerful factors in how we think. Some of us look at turquoise scientifically; others look at turquoise culturally, while others just like the color turquoise as an accent in jewelry. There are so many ways that we can all enjoy turquoise.
The following information shows how past information in interviews, books, artifacts and scientific information can all be used to create a bigger study about turquoise and turquoise trade in the Western Hemisphere. I will also show how exaggerated stories or misinformation is continually quoted by the scientists.
How is the Information Gathered?
To understand the information available for the research of turquoise we must understand that information and the collection of information involves people. We are all a little passionate and colorful when we share what we know or heard about turquoise. The following discussion is to show how I came to question some of the documents, books and past information about turquoise. I have been asking if the following general statements are true and researching what influence these statements, books and assumptions have had on today’s accepted history of turquoise trade in the Western Hemisphere.
Why was the Cerrillos mining area established as the only logical location for all turquoise artifacts discovered in the western hemisphere?
∙The Spanish conquerors located Santa Fe as a capitol.
∙Friar Marcos de Niza wrote about great turquoise ornamentation and value.
∙The Santa Fe Trail ends in Santa Fe.
∙The Hyde Expedition documented the Cerrillos area.
∙George Kunz understood and wrote about the value of the Cerrillos turquoise.
∙The United States became the center of university classes, influence and perspective from the white European perspective all over this hemisphere.
∙Joseph Pogue wrote his fabulous book Turquois, in 1915.
No other turquoise mine is written about with as much veracity and continual romance as the Cerrillos mining areas. As the world continues to discover more turquoise sources and artifacts around the western hemisphere; certain archaeologists and researchers continue to quote the cookie cut past written information with themselves having limited or no source turquoise knowledge? This adds to the confusion about turquoise.
Directions traveled, destinations written about, romance, final locations and people all influenced how the Cerrillos area turquoise mines became synonymous with turquoise trade in the Western Hemisphere. How would we determine if the information and conclusions are correct that we hear and read? How influential was the printing press, culture and tourism in the information that is accepted.
I have a Few More
Why did the Mesoamerican cultures travel thousands of miles to get turquoise at what is now Cerrillos?∙Traveling from Mexico City, Mexico to Santa Fe, New Mexico is 2,343km (1455.873 miles) using a direct modern road route.
∙Where did the Mesoamerican cultures get their jade, spiny oyster and mother of pearl. Spiny Oyster comes from the Gulf of California.
∙Did the Mesoamerican cultures already have the interest and ability to mine jade and other rocks?
∙How primitive were the people that crossed the Bering Land Bridge? Do humans forget information? If the Land Bridge is the source of migration 15,000 years ago. Why is there no Bronze Age until Nazca culture in the South? Why did the people in the Northern part of the Western Hemisphere not develop as other cultures around the world? Did their brains freeze from the cold crossing? Why did the cultures in what is now North America not develop metallurgy?
∙ Why is the Europeans value system of blue turquoise now accepted in Native America? Most ancient southwestern artifacts are green, green blue or blue green.
∙What is the original definition of the word chalchihuitl? Did the Nahuatl language differentiate between jade and turquoise/green or blue?
What if the Spanish or the easterners had come from a different direction? (North, West or South) (Anasazi Park, Utah; Stone Hammer mines, California; Paquime, Mexico; Swarts Ruin, New Mexico; Snaketown, Arizona,and many other locations.
∙Do we comprehend what we read? The Hyde expedition refers to a one-hundred year old pine trees and lichen covered rocks on the top of and/or in the bottom of the dumps of the Mount Chalchihuitl area. (1857 A.D. -100 years =1757 A.D.) Lichen grow 1 to 2 mm per year. Evidence of stone tools can be right next to metal tools when a stone wall collapses.
∙Do we believe in science? Turquoise is a water-based mineral. It does not do well with heat. Building a fire along a wall of turquoise and then throwing water on the heated wall does not encourage any of the turquoise to be usable when you are finished using this old wives’ tale.
∙Who were Friar Marcos de Niza, George Kunz, and James McNulty as personalities and what was their interest in turquoise?
∙How many papers have been presented about turquoise identification (fingerprinting) and trade that have proven to be false? Thankfully, this continual misinformation has thankfully helped build tourism in New Mexico.
What we do Know?
- There is enough technology, modern knowledge and transportation to study turquoise.
- The study of turquoise will take everyone working together.
- There have been many mistakes made in developing information about turquoise. Every time I make a presentation or write, I learn, add information and correct other information.
- The following discussion points will show some issues in turquoise writings, books and research that has influenced a few “conclusions” through the years.
- Friar Marcos de Niza, George Kunz and James McNulty gave out a lot of information that I believe was not scientific or correct.
- The Cerrillos area is most people’s starting point in the Western Hemisphere to write about turquoise.
Even The British Museum!
British Museum, 2006
Published a book by Colin McEwan and others concerning a new scientific study of their museum’s nine Mesoamerican artifacts.
Not one Mexican mine site was studied or mentioned. In the modern era (2006) How can any study be scientific; if the science they are using is wrong and multiple known mine sources in Mexico are not part of a study about Mexican sourced artifacts?
In Pogue’s book published in 1915: Within the Introduction it states, “No large deposits of turquoise have been found in Mexico or Central America that would supply the quantity needed for the many items that have been found, or which must still lie buried.”
There is plenty of turquoise mine sources in what is now the countries of Mexico and Chile.
Most people who write books or have information about turquoise only know a sliver of information. A miner knows their mine. A cutter knows the trade of lapidary and the sources they have cut. A retail store owner knows their merchandise. Everyone can read a book, but who did the author interview to get the information and pictures? How does the author or the future researchers know the information is correct?
Turquois, Joseph Pogue (1915) Tiffany Blue, Patricia MaGraw (2006) The Great American Turquoise Rush, Philip Chambless and Mike Ryan (2016)
George Kunz and James McNulty each continually stated that they get $200,000.00 per year of turquoise out of the Cerrillos area.
Two million dollars worth of turquoise was produced out of the Cerrillos area in one decade (1890-1900). It is stated over and over in books and has influenced how researchers use the Cerrillos area historically and currently. Turquoise trade, uses, productions, qualities and prices are all referenced using this type of information in books. But is all of the information true? What occurred at the same time that the turquoise production and value increased in 1891? Human nature is the clue for the answer. Sometimes people might have ulterior motives. Gasp.
Turquois, Pogue (1915) page, 135 “From this point of view the output of the Cerrillos deposits alone from 1890 to 1900, the period of greatest productiveness, is estimated at $2,000,000.00;” This time, this specific quote is from George Kunz.
Where is the evidence? Riches? Houses? Secured barriers to the mines?
In 1900 $2,000,000.00 is equivalent to $61,240,000.00 in 2020.
In 1900 the price of gold was $20.67 an ounce.
Kunz is saying that 1 carat of turquoise is essentially worth half of an ounce of gold.
There is 5 carats in 1 gram/There are 28.35 grams in 1 ounce
If 1 carat of turquoise cost $10.00, how much is that per ounce?
I ounce of turquoise would equal 141.75 carats
141.75 carats of turquoise sold at $10.00 per carat equals $1,417.75
With inflation in 2018 that is $43,179.65. 1 ounce of gold was 20.67.
Where are the riches, houses, and secured barriers for gold mines and those connected to the gold industry? Where is the evidence for this type of production and value in the turquoise industry? Zero
The Great American Turquoise Rush 1890-1910, Philip Chambless and Mike Ryan (2016) page 43
“During the 1880s, all mining activity in the Cerrillos District was directed toward finding gold and silver. If turquoise was found, it was ignored because the price for the mineral was so low it did pay to bring it to market.”
What changed in 1891? Page 42
“In 1880, New York stock promoters hired a Yale University geology professor named Benjamin Silliman to prepare reports on Mount Chalchihuitl and other New Mexico mining properties. He was considered a mining authority and charged top dollar for his services. In exchange, he had a tendency to exaggerate the facts in the interest of his employers. Silliman’s articles were used to advance the fame and stimulate stock sales in the East.”
Who was pushing the agenda that Cerrillos had great turquoise and a lot of it?
Friar Marcos de Niza, George Kunz, Benjamin Silliman, and James McNulty are who the writers, newspapers journalists and investors were listening too. Many of the Santa Fe archaeologists are still listening to them.
Tiffany Blue, (2006) page 139
Sometimes when we exaggerate we can get ourselves in trouble. Especially if a lawyer asks us about our exaggerations in a court of law.
Lawyer Clancy- “at the time Sena and Purdy were down there, at the time you spoke of–didn’t you tell Mr. Purdy that you were getting two hundred thousand dollars out of the mine?”
McNulty-”I did, and I have told others besides, anybody who will ask me—How much did you get out of here, I says, I will not put it under two hundred thousand dollars.”
Lawyer Clancy-”Don’t you think now that since the time you there to work that you have taken out and shipped away about five hundred thousand dollars’ worth of stones?”
McNulty-”That I do not say. I do not know anything about it. I am under oath now.”
Is there any turquoise evidence that what they said or the Cerrillos Agenda Apologists are saying today?
I think some of what is said is true but the overall story of trade and production and value is not. A miner friend of mine uses two words to describe the Cerrillos area’s written history and production, “boondoggle and incredible”.
Tiffany Blue, page 32
The information that can correct a lot of the Cerrillos exaggerations is right there in existing books.
May 25, 1899-”I cannot find any better specimens than last shipment to stop work. The box contained plenty of good color. But there was not a single piece that we could make any use of.” Tiffany’s was not making “Indian” jewelry. Tiffany only needed stones the size of 1 or 2 carats.
Page 15-”By 1895, Doty pressured McNulty for more stone and better results.”
Page 68-”McNulty regularly received letters telling him the turquoise he sent wasn’t worth much.”
Page 75-”They average a cigar box of turquoise per week”
Page 15-”Each box contained about five pounds of stone.”
Page 52-”a cigar box being worth, as we were told, as much as” $10,000.00”
Page 100, August 13, 1901-”we are in no better condition than we were three years ago.
According to my research, the Cerrillos area mines were more about investor’s money than the production of turquoise. Maybe I am looking at the wrong information and need some help to see more information.
Turquoise, Gem of the Centuries, Oscar Branson, (1976)