Types of Turquoise
Crouched in dark tunnels, toiling while mining turquoise in sun scorched open pits or laboring in 100 foot shafts, prehistoric miners of the southwest swung heavy stone hammers into rock walls. They pried with picks made from antler and hefted shovels of bone and tortoise shell. They crushed and chiseled, extracting seams of turquoise from hard, country rock.
The Damele is a small mine about 30 miles northeast of Austin, Nevada. It sits adjacent to the Godber-Burnham claim. Very little Damele turquoise is being produced today and presently much is cut from older rough that can still be found from various turquoise dealers and collectors. Most of the material found today is a variscite, although some turquoise is still available. Damele turquoise is extremely hard, takes a nice polish and comes in a variety of colors from yellow, gold, greens and grays with a fine spider webbing. At its best it can be a beautiful gemstone. It is a well known mine with highly sought after cabochons and beads.
The Lone Mountain turquoise mine is located in Esmeralda County, Nevada, not far from Tonopah. It has been one of the great producers of Nevada turquoise. The color ranges from a beautiful clear blue to a dark blue spider web. Lone Mountain has always been noted for holding its color. To this day jewelry can be found that was made in the 1930’s or 1940’s with Lone Mountain turquoise just as blue as when it was made.
The Cripple Creek turquoise mine is located in Teller County, Colorado near the town of Cripple Creek. Miners searching for gold in the area discovered turquoise. Cripple Creek turquoise is a very hard material, running to over 7 on the Moh’s scale, with a color varying from blue green to a true turquoise blue color. Sometimes found with a golden limonite matrix. It is seen as vein material and in nodules. There are two mines in the area but very little high-grade turquoise is being mined today.
Turquoise has been mined in China for over two thousand years, which is evident by carvings from the earliest dynasties. Turquoise was never as popular in China as Jade. But here in the United States some of the finest turquoise sold over the last 25 years has come from China. Chinese turquoise ranges in color from a full spectrum of greens and light blues to a beautiful dark blue. Much of the material has a dark brown or black matrix and may also have a beautiful spider webbing. Some of the high-grade Chinese turquoise resembles and is thought to be equal to many of the better known or classic American Southwestern mines. Today turquoise in China is produced at the Maanshan mine northwest of Shanghai and mines in the Hubei province. Two of the finest mines in the Hubei province are the Yungai, which means, "a mountain covered with cloud" and the Zhuxi "a mountain where growing plenty of bamboo". The Yungai, or Cloud Mountain has produced natural turquoise that is equal to a number of the finer Nevada mines that are now closed. Mines like the Nevada Blue, Number 8, Blue Ridge and the famous Lander Blue.
The Easter Blue turquoise 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. Compared to some of the other deposits in Nevada, the Easter Blue was never considered a large producer and changed hands a number of times. The deposit was discovered in 1907 by Lew Cirac who then sold it to Lee Hand in 1915. Hand leased the Easter Blue to W.R. Gilbert who produced about 100 pounds of fine turquoise from the surface. A few owners later the mine produced 300 pound a month for nearly four years. The mine was later sold to Peter King, of Manassa, Colorado and was operated once again as the Easter Blue.
The Cerrillos Turquoise mining district has been called the earliest and the most important turquoise mining area in the country. It is located in Santa Fe County in north central New Mexico between the towns of Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
Bisbee turquoise it is a by-product of a large copper mine located near Bisbee, Arizona owned by Phelps Dodge Mining Company with some of the finest turquoise coming from the section of the copper mine known as the "Lavender Pit," where for years copper miners would bring out fine turquoise in their lunch boxes. In March of 1972 a miner named Bob Matthews was given the only lease ever granted for rights to mine Bisbee turquoise. He was said to have recovered more than 2,000 pounds of good to excellent turquoise by 1974. The Bisbee is considered to be the first large open-pit copper mine in Arizona. As the pit was extended quantities of fine turquoise were recovered. The turquoise occurred in stringers up to a few inches wide along with small nugget-like masses in granite and quartzite.
Castle Dome turquoise, which has also been known as Pinto Valley, is a by-product of a copper mine located five miles west of Miami, Arizona. Much of Arizona turquoise comes from the copper mining operations, which are often continuations of old turquoise mines. The Castle Dome mine was originally opened in 1943 and developed by the owners as a war project. With the end of War World II and a low demand for copper the mine closed in 1953. Later the area was re-opened as the Pinto Valley Mine. Turquoise was widespread throughout with masses over one-half inch thick with colors ranging from sky-blue to bluish-green with the blue color being predominate.
Although located in the Mineral Park Mining District outside of Kingman, Arizona, the Turquoise Mountain mine has been considered a separate classic mine because of the difference in it’s appearance from other Kingman area turquoise. Turquoise Mountain turquoise has also been known as Old Man Turquoise. It has its own unique blue and blue-green color and many times has been found with a golden or beautiful rust colored spider webbing.
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