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.
Live video discussion 11/29/19: https://www.facebook.com/turquoisemuseum/videos/561598574675501
Turquoise is a massive subject that I believe is broader and more detailed than any one person’s knowledge. Yet, for various reasons, many people through the history of turquoise in the last fifty years claim to be a turquoise expert. I do not believe there is or has ever been a turquoise expert. However, there are hundreds of great people who are in the turquoise industry that have specific knowledge about history, mines, science, art and other valuable information.
A good analogy for me or anyone to remember is that most of our knowledge is specific to the puddle, pond, lake or ocean that we grew up in or that we do business in. Most of us are comfortable in our area of expertise. The turquoise world is much larger than our specific or general knowledge.
I believe that learning about turquoise takes many prisms of knowledge and involves all of us. By the time I think I know a lot about turquoise; there are new mines, new imitations and new people with new stories and information. Turquoise is and will always be bigger than any one person and that is part of turquoise’s allure. Meet someone, have a conversation about turquoise and learn something new every day. Hopefully after you read this blog, you will have a new respect and appreciation for the many aspects that each persons unique knowledge brings to the turquoise world.
Here is a brief analysis of categories of specific knowledge to learn to become the first turquoise expert in the history of mankind. We do not need all this knowledge to be in the turquoise business, but we would need all this knowledge to claim to be an expert. Consider the time, access and money that will need to be spent for someone to claim they are the expert. Most of us are a part of the knowledge of turquoise. Think globally as each of these categories are defined.
All indigenous cultures starting with the Egyptians. Were any of us there? There are some great researchers that study these subjects. Modern and current history of mines, productions, prices, color and matrix. I may know the current owner but do I know the past 7 owners. History is from beginning to current.
What is turquoise and how does it form. Not just at one turquoise mine but every mine location around the world. Participate in or complete scientific studies of all turquoise samples from each mine site in the world. Each color and each host rock must be sourced and tested. The Egyptian mine sites are at least 5,000 years old and host rock and colors can change at different areas and depths of any mining area. There are some great geologists and mineralogists who have studied turquoise.
Do you own a mine or two. Do you have enough money and time to visit every turquoise mine in the world. How would you gain access to sites owned by copper and gold companies? What miners will give you access? Do you speak the language? When you get access, do you purchase all the samples you will need for photography, testing and cutting? There have been and are some great miners out there who can tell you all about what makes their mine special.
Turquoise cutters around the world learn to “read” each turquoise source they shape and polish. One cutter could spend a lifetime cutting turquoise from one or two mines. Cutters are also the ones who know the “secrets” of cutting, such as oiling, filling holes, dyeing the matrix and doublets. Did you know that a large percentage of the Lander Blue turquoise stones were filled and the matrix was dyed black? A turquoise expert would learn every nuance of every turquoise.
An imitation is made to “imitate” an original. There are many kinds of imitations of turquoise inthe world. An imitation can be made of a specific mine, such as Sleeping Beauty. An imitation can also be as simple as selling a turquoise mined from Mexico as if it is from the Sleeping Beauty mine in Arizona. Turquoise from China has be sold as an imitation of the Lander Blue and Lone Mountain mines from Nevada and the Kingman and Morenci mines in Arizona. An imitation is so much more than a cheap piece of plastic. To be an expert in turquoise, you would need to know all the past, current and future imitations.
Writers and Authors
How much personal knowledge about turquoise does the writer or author have when they write about the subject turquoise. Most writers and authors interview various people in the turquoise industry to write an article or author a book. How do the writers and authors know that their information is correct. In one of my future blogs, I will share the wrong information in books, magazines, research and opinions. Of course, I will start with my own books and articles. It is actually fascinating how misinformation gets passed along.
Incredible cultures, art and uses of turquoise for over 5,000 years. How much of the above turquoise subjects does an artist learn or is turquoise generally an end use gem?
Old Knowledge/New Knowledge—Older Person/ Younger Person
We need everyone! I am pretty sure that the older person in turquoise is not up to date on everything new. New people, new mines, new imitations. Eventually, we get older, a little less “eye quality” and memory can also become issues. And how much time does the young person have to go to mines that are closed or cut turquoise that is no longer available or meet the old guys who have passed on.
Galleries, Salespeople, Collectors
Just because someone has been in business forever does not mean they know everything about turquoise. There are some great galleries, salespeople and collectors that have some great information about the items that they sell or collect.
If you are a turquoise expert, please do not be offended by this blog. Inform and help me and others. It amazes me how many people love turquoise in all its beauty. The mystical qualities of turquoise is a world wide phenom. Just the color of turquoise or its multiple uses could take a lifetime to learn. My suggestion has always been: Enjoy turquoise for the best reason….yours.
There is only one thing more colorful than turquoise itself
And that is
The color of the character who mines, sells and collects it
I am always asked to rank the top turquoise mines in the world. This is a thankless endeavor but important for the discussions and conclusions about turquoise’s rarity and values. The following is my ranking of the top 25 turquoise mines that I rank according to grade, supply, demand and overall rarity.
There are several other ways to decide a turquoise value, including a unique one-of-a-kind turquoise, size, its uses and everyone’s opinions. Everyone has opinions and that special piece from that special mine. What is for sale on the market might not be as good as what someone has in their collection.
Top 25 Turquoise Mines
These rankings are according to grades, supply, demand, marketing, opinion and comparison.
A. Compare the best turquoise from one mine next to the best turquoise from another mine.
B. Compare the history and provenance of each turquoise mine.
C. Compare the production of a mine to the influence it has on the overall turquoise market.
D. When looking at an individual stone from that turquoise mine: Is it a classic look or is it compared to a more famous mine that has that similar color and matrix?
E. Are there buyers who will immediately pay a cash price for that specific stone and how much cash for a specific stone?
1. Number Eight: Nevada, USA
2. Bisbee: Arizona, USA
3. Lander Blue: Nevada, USA
4. Lone Mountain: Nevada, USA
5. Persian: Nishapur, Iran
6. Yungaisi area: Hubei Province, China
7. Red Mountain: Nevada, USA
8. Morenci: Arizona, USA
9. Candelaria: Nevada, USA
10. Indian Mountain: Nevada, USA
11. Egyptian: Sinai, Egypt
12. Godber/Burnham: Nevada, USA
13. Blue Gem: Nevada, USA
14. Sleeping Beauty: Arizona, USA
15. Kingman, Arizona: USA
16. Zhushan area: Hubei Province, China
17. Maashan area: Anhui Province, China
18. Royston: Nevada, USA
19. Pilot Mountain: Nevada, USA
20. Tyrone: New Mexico, USA
21. Manassa: Colorado, USA
22. Stormy Mountain: Nevada, USA
23. Blue Diamond: Nevada, USA
24. Fox: Nevada, USA
25. Nevada Blue: Nevada USA
Others of note: Borredo, Turquoise Mountain, and Carico Lake
Please share your opinions and reasons.
Thank you for taking the time to share your passion about turquoise,
I am always glad to answer questions and post objective disagreements. Turquoise is a massive subject. I will be posting one blog per week for the next 8 weeks. I will answer questions and respond to other peoples conversations of agreement and disagreement with a webcast the following week to the previous week’s blog.
Next Week’s Blog: Who is a turquoise expert?
Experience, opinions and disagreements about turquoise are part of the history and beauty that tie each generation together.
I hope that we all continue to learn more about turquoise together,