Southwest Turquoise Mines

The most beautiful Turquoise Stones come from Turquoise Mines in the American Southwest. Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado mines have been used for centuries by Native American artists in making jewelry.

Each American turquoise mine is marketed by a name, such as Pilot Mountain Turquoise, #8 Mine Turquoise or Sunnyside Turquoise. Each of these mines has a rarity of the amount of ore it produced and the availability of the different grades of turquoise that could be recovered. Certain mines have become famous for their colors and matrix such as Sunnyside for its stunning matrix and Sleeping Beauty for its consistent blues that can be easily matched and set in styles of jewelry such as Zuni inlay and petit point. The Number 8 mine is famous for its golden and black web but has not produced turquoise since 1961. A well known mine can command a higher price for its turquoise than a lesser known mine. Turquoise generally forms in arid climates, similar to the conditions that prevail in the southwest of the United states. The States that are most famous for this gem are Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. Turquoise is New Mexico’s gemstone as well as the recognized birthstone of December. It has been known by this name since the French Europeans purchased the “turkey stone” from Turkish traders, never realizing that the turquoise was mined in Persia and later traded to the Turks. It is said to be a good luck stone that represents wealth, health and happiness. Turquoise is still used in many Native American Peoples traditional ceremonies. Even today a medicine man’s powers are said to be limited if he doesn’t possess turquoise. Most southwest turquoise mines were originally worked by Native peoples and were “rediscovered” by explorers. Turquoise generally forms near the surface to a depth of 200 ft. The mineral’s proximity to the surface made it easy to extract by using rock and bone tools available to the Native miners.

I have written an article about some of the Turquoise Mines. I hope you enjoy it!
Donna Bunnell
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Southwest Turquoise Mines


Zuni Indian Jewelry

The Zuni Indians learned to silversmith from the Navajo in the early 1870’s. The Zuni Indians, because they had permanent homes unlike the nomadic Navajo Indians, were able to use many tools that the Navajo could not easily carry with them. Using the lapidary wheels they began cutting stones and using the silver to hold their stones in patterns. Today, Zuni silversmiths are known for their lapidary skills. Channel inlay (using precisely cut stones set on silver to form figures and designs), cluster and needlepoint (setting small, similarly cut stones in geometric patterns) are traditional Zuni jewelry styles. Their beautiful jewelry is known worldwide by these traditional Native American Styles. The Zuni Pueblo is located in New Mexico, Land of Enchantment.

Zuni Indian Jewelry

Zuni Indian Turquoise Bracelet

Candelaria Turquoise Jewelry

Candelaria Turquoise comes from the large Candelaria Silver and Gold mine in Nevada in an area not to far from Tonopah. It is currently closed with no mining activity and as such Candelaria turquoise is rare and considered a collectable. The turquoise in this area was usually found in thin veins and is known for its beautiful almost electric blue stones, sometimes with a light matrix. Over the last few years Candelaria turquoise has been seen again in today’s turquoise market from older collections with beautiful dark blue stones with a beautiful matrix pattern and has now been cut and is appearing in fine jewelry. This mine produces some of the most unusual and beautiful patterns, no two stones are ever alike.

Candelaria Turquoise Jewelry

Candelaria Turquoise Bracelet

Candelaria Turquoise Bracelet

Apache Blue Turquoise Jewelry

The Apache Blue Mine is located 7 miles west of the Candelaria Mine in Esmeralda County, Nevada. The Apache turquoise being produced here is an absolutely beautiful blue stone with eye popping black or red web matrix. This high quality Apache turquoise is very rare and hard to find, even in this mine, but it’s what every turquoise miner is searching for.

Turquoise Jewelry

Apache Blue Turquoise

Apache Blue Turquoise

Pilot Mountain Turquoise Jewelry

The Pilot Mountain Mine is located in western Nevada, east of the small town of Mina. As with most turquoise mines, this mine opened as a copper claim. Pilot Mountain turquoise was first mined around 1930 as a tunnel mine. Then it became an open pit mine when heavy equipment was available around 1970. The current owners of the claim have been mining the turquoise since 1989. While Pilot Mountain is considered an active mine, it is a very small operation. The miners go to the mine twice per year, bringing out only about 150 to 200 lbs. of rough stone each time. One of the current owners says one of the interesting parts of mining is “not knowing what you are going to hit next.”

Pilot Mountain turquoise forms in hard veins with color ranging from bright blue to dark blue with a greenish cast. Dark brown limonite mottled patterns are associated with this material. Most Pilot Mountain turquoise is called “grass roots”, meaning the best deposits are found within ten feet of the surface.

Pilot Mountain Mine Turquoise Jewelry


King’s Manassa Turquoise

King’s Manassa turquoise is mined at Manassa in south central Colorado, but began its mining days with Ancient Pueblo peoples. The Manassa mine is also known as King’s Manassa or the King’s Mine. Another name for the turquoise that comes from this mine is “Lick Skillet” turquoise which comes from the hard times that the King family and local miners had to suffer through while mining the precious stone. The name comes from Israel Perviose King and his descendants who still mine for turquoise. I.P. King discovered this vein of turquoise while looking for gold. After mining for a while, he soon abandoned the mine after seeing that there wasn’t very much gold, only some strange blue rocks that he took back to his home. He didn’t realize that these stones were valuable until a friend asked about them.

King's Manassa Turquoise Jewelry

Morenci Turquoise Jewelry

The Morenci turquoise mine produced a turquoise that is light to bright blue in hue. This stone has an unusual matrix of irregular quartz and pyrite that, when polished, often resembles silver. Also, a small amount of Morenci turquoise had some brownish matrix called “Morenci red matrix”. One of the first American turquoises to come to the market, Morenci is highly valued and difficult to obtain.

The Morenci mine is in southeastern Arizona and is now closed and buried under tons of rock. The land was leeched with chemicals that would destroy any trace of turquoise, which means that there is never a chance to re-open this mine. The former miners of Morenci still have quite a stash of rough stone, enough to release a small amount every year to keep it available.

Morenci Turquoise Pendant

Native American Jewelry

Legend of the White Buffalo


The White Buffalo are sacred to many Native Americans. The Lakota (Sioux) Nation has passed down the The Legend of the White Buffalo–a story now approximately 2,000 years old–at many council meetings, sacred ceremonies, and through the tribe’s storytellers. There are several variations, but all are meaningful, and tell of the same outcome. Have communication with the Creator through prayer with clear intent for Peace, Harmony and Balance for all life living in the Earth Mother.

Spirituality among Natives Americans and non-Native Americans has been a strong force for those who believe in the power of the Great Spirit or God.

It matters not what you call the Creator. What matters is that you pray to give thanks for your blessings and trust the guidance given to you from the world of Spirit. Many truths about Spirit are told and handed down from one generation to the next.

The legend of the White Buffalo Calf Woman tells how the People had lost the ability to communicate with the Creator. The Creator sent the sacred White Buffalo Calf Woman to teach the People how to pray with the Pipe. With that Pipe, seven sacred ceremonies were given for the people to abide in order to ensure a future with harmony, peace, and balance.
Legend says that long ago, two young men were out hunting when from out of nowhere came a beautiful maiden dressed in white buckskin. One of the hunters looked upon her and recognizing her as a wakan, or sacred being, lowered his eyes. The second hunter approached her with lust in his eyes desiring her for his woman. White Buffalo Calf Woman beckoned the lustful warrior to her, and as he approached a cloud of dust arose around them causing them to be hidden from view. When the dust settled, nothing but a pile of bones lay next to her. As she walked toward the respectful young hunter, she explained to him that she had merely fulfilled the other man’s desire, allowing him, within that brief moment, to live a lifetime, die and decay. White Buffalo Calf Woman instructed the young man to go back to the People and tell them to prepare for her arrival to teach them of the way to pray. The young hunter obeyed. When White Buffalo Calf woman arrived with the sacred bundle (the prayer pipe) she taught the People of the seven sacred ways to pray. These prayers are through ceremonies that include the Sweat Lodge for purification; the Naming Ceremony for child naming; the Healing Ceremony to restore health to the body, mind and spirit; the adoption ceremony for making of relatives; the marriage ceremony for uniting male and female; the Vision Quest for communing with the Creator for direction and answers to one’s life; and the Sundance Ceremony to pray for the well-being of all the People.

When the teaching of the sacred ways was complete, White Buffalo Calf Woman told the people she would again return for the sacred bundle that she left with them. Before leaving, she told them that within her were the four ages, and that she would look back upon the People in each age, returning at the end of the fourth age, to restore harmony and spirituality to a troubled land. She walked a short distance, she looked back towards the people and sat down. When she arose they were amazed to see she had become a black buffalo. Walking a little further, the buffalo laid down, this time arising as a yellow buffalo. The third time the buffalo walked a little further and this time arose as a red buffalo. Walking a little further it rolled on the ground and rose one last time as a white buffalo calf signaling the fulfillment of the White Buffalo Calf prophecy.

The changing of the four colors of the White Buffalo Calf Woman represents the four colors of man–white, yellow, red and black. These colors also represent the four directions, north, east, south and west. The sacred bundle that was left to the Lakota people is still with the People in a sacred place on the Cheyenne River Indian reservation in South Dakota. It is kept by a man known as the Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe, Arvol Looking Horse.

The legend of the White Buffalo Calf Woman remains ever promising in this age of spiritual enlightenment and conscious awareness. In today’s world of confusion and war many of us are looking for signs of peace.

“With the return of the White Buffalo it is a sign that prayers are being heard, that the sacred pipe is being honored, and that the promises of prophecy are being fulfilled. White Buffalo signals a time of abundance and plenty.” (from Sams and Carson, Medicine cards)

Though harsh as the world we live in may be throughout recorded history there have been spiritual leaders teaching peace, hope and balance (synergy) amongst all life. This was taught by great teachers such as Jesus, Buddha, the Dali Lama’s, and Native American leaders.

Chief Crazy Horse, Chief Seattle, and Chief Red Cloud are a few of the visionary leaders who committed their lives to bring peace, and internal happiness to all who they touched. They were tangible signs of goodwill toward all men, women and children.
Legend courtesy Jim and Dena Riley

Native American Jewelry

Turquoise Jewelry

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The sacred stone
Turquoise is a sacred stone “that has been used for centuries to adorn ritual objects and is still considered a cherished possession by Native Americans and Mexican Indians,” says Carol Karasik, author of The Turquoise Trail. An anthropologist as well as a jeweler, Karasik has published several books on native art, crafts and culture.

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Turquoise jewelry
“Production of turquoise jewelry is a vibrant cottage industry in the Southwest,” she said, “where members of the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Pueblo and other nations…create [jewelry] which hark back to prehistoric myths and traditional clan symbols.”

For thousands of years, turquoise has been treasured both for its natural beauty as well as its presumed power to heal. Not only was turquoise used by North American Native Indians for jewelry and carvings, its history even dates back as early as to Ancient Egypt, as exquisite turquoise adornments have been uncovered in tombs.

The color of turquoise
The color of turquoise can span a pallet ranging from a greenish yellow to dramatic blue, and this semi-precious stone is mined across the globe. In addition to its attractive appearance and the relative ease with which it can be drilled for stringing on beads or be carved into the shapes of fetish animals, turquoise has a more mystic property.

Myths and legends
According to the myths and legends of several cultures, the stone is believed to have the power to heal. In addition, it is reputed to assist in creativity, aid in making speeches and reduce stress. Furthermore, turquoise is said to have the ability to detoxify the body, give its wearer a deeper sense of self-knowledge, strengthen relationships, enhance friendships, and increase honesty and wisdom.

Types of turquoise
Besides North America and Egypt, turquoise mines can be found in China, Iran and Turkey. The actual hue of the stone is determined by different minerals present in the surrounding earth. The presence of iron creates a more greenish turquoise, while copper in the area generates a stone that is more blue in appearance. If there is zinc in the adjacent soil, the gem will be greenish yellow. Finally, there is a rare variety found in an area of Nevada where no minerals are present that is known as White Buffalo turquoise.

Cleaning turquoise jewelry
Care should be taken by one who wishes to clean turquoise jewelry, especially if it is a valuable antique piece. Dousing stones in chemical solvents can cause serious damage to the porous structure.

These gemstones must never be cleaned using ultrasonic or steam cleaners. Instead, mix some warm water and soap, and use a cotton-tipped swab dipped in the solution to gently remove soil, after which the turquoise should be wiped with clear water to wash off any residual soap.

Whether it is an antique heirloom or a modern creation modeled on traditional styles, a piece of turquoise and silver jewelry, handmade by a Native American Indian craftsperson can be treasured both for its beauty as well as the ancient heritage it represents.

Native American Encyclopedia

Native American Jewelry

Native American Jewelry

turquoise-jewelry-tn1239Native American Indian Jewelry

Native American Indian Jewelry has been found in excavations of prehistoric ruins. Bead making is an ancient craft. Bead necklaces are often called heishe, from the Santo Domingo word for shell. Seashells are the most common material used for beads. Seashells used in Native American Jewelry are Spiny Oyster Shell, Mother of Pearl, Abalone, Conch and Clam. They have been important trade items in the Southwest for over 1,000 years.

Native American Jewelry using silver work is not an ancient art. It was learned from the Mexican Silversmiths in the 1850s. Mexican Silversmiths would trade their Silver Trinkets for cattle from the Navajo. This association would lead the Navajo Blacksmiths to learn the art of Silver making. Navajo sand casting is one of the oldest silver working techniques among the Navajo. The Navajo Indians traded their jewelry with Zuni Indians for livestock. One of the Navajo early silversmiths taught the Zuni the art of silversmithing around 1872. Later a Zuni silversmith taught the Hopi silversmithing around 1890. The Native American Artists never mined the silver used in making their jewelry.
Native American Jewelry