Turquoise - Reference Library Part 1

TURQUOISE, JOSEPH E. POGUE. MEMIORS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMEY OF SCIENCES, 1915, Too Scientific for most tastes,. The subtitle tells the story, “A Study of It’s History, Minerology, Geology, Ethnology, Archeology, Mythology, Folklore and Technology.” There is a useful list of mines in the front of the book, presumably added after the original text was published. Color photos of mediocre quality have been added to the text. On pages 105-109 he tackles the problem of the Aztec word chalchihuitl, which means “green stone”. There was no separate word for turquoise. This book, in the Rio Grande Press reprint is easily available for as little as $3.00. The reprint adds new material, including an extra bibliography.


TURQUOISE: THE GEM OF THE CENTURY. OSCAR T. BRANSON. This is certainly the keystone book on the subject. The color reproduction is excellent and makes this book one of the few where identifying particular mines is easy and accurate. Quality of photographs identifying mines is one of the most important issues in this list of references. For a slim book (60 pages) it covers an amazing field of topics, like beads, hishi, inlay, squash blossoms, fetishes, and about any category that comes to mind. The one annoyance is the identification of collections that hold the pieces, though almost never identifies the makers. Copies less than $10.

EL PALACIO. VOL. 79 NO. 1. This special printing includes three articles on the subject which appeared in the magazine: “Turquoise” by Stuart Northrup, “Notes on Turquoise” David Neuman, and “Prehistoric Southwestern Turquoise Industry” by David Snow. All three pieces are mainly dealing with historic use of the stone.


TURQUOISE AND THE NAVAJO, LEE HAMMONS, GERTRUDE HILL. This is a curious pamphlet worth a look. Color photos on both sides of the cover are pretty good and reference a few odd mines. Less then $5.


TURQUOISE AND SPANISH MINES IN NEW MEXICO, STUART NORTHROP. The title of this book tells it all. Quite interesting for those who want to know about the prehistoric mining and mines. Not much in the way of illustrations, just a folio in the middle of the book, black and white because the old photos come that way. Rather rare.


TURQUOISE AND THE INDIAN, EDNA MAE BENNETT. This book also explores the early mining. Poor illustrations. Ends with interesting folklore from the Navajos and Zunis. Also rare.


TURQUOISE TREASURES, JERRY JACKA AND SPENCER GILL. Jacka is well-known in the Southwest for his excellent photography. The photographs are large and clear. This book focuses on unusually wonderful items like the lidded ironwood bowl created for Joe Tanner by Lee and Mary Weebothee. Villa Grove turquoise. Once again I have to criticize the captions because the makers of these astonishing pieces are often not identified. One gorgeous necklace says “Zuni necklace crafted by Kirk and Mary.” Last Name? But that is a minor element in this great photo book. Less than $15

SKYSTONE AND SILVER: THE COLLECTOR’S BOOK OF SOUTHWEST INDIAN JEWELRY. CARL ROSNEK AND JOSEPH STACY. Joseph Stacey was editor of Arizona Highways for many years. Carl Rosnek did editorial chores for El Palacio, Journal of the Museum of New Mexico. Both men have extensive knowledge of Southwestern Native subjects.

This big picture book has a curious layout sections of text printed on a textured yellowish paper stock, alternating with photo sections on slick paper. Of course the photographs are excellent, but I wish they were bigger the 12 by 9 inch size, not many illustrations are full page and five or six small illustrations per page is the norm.

You do have to work through the captions, where current research reveals different attributions. In the third color section (p. 98 by count) there is a shell inlayed with the famous rendering of the Cushing shield of Knifewing Man. “This Zuni inlayed shell, the insignia of the Priests of the Bow, was given to archaeologist Frank Cushing in the 1890s after he had been initiated into the society. He later had the shell mounted on a silver box.”

In my research the inlay is attributed to Teddy Weahkee in the Forties. Talking to a person at the Heard Museum, where the piece (minus box) resides, she suggested that the acquisition ticket, which mentions Cushing’s shield, might have been the source. Quite possibly this is another C. G. Wallace identification.

On page 108 in the fourth color section there is a bracelet featuring inlay of the Knifewing “God” attributed to Navajo smith John Bedoni. It is work by Arnold and Neva Cellicion, who never ser their own stonework. I believe it was common practice for Navajo smiths to stamp the silverwork, no matter who did the stone. Sometimes Zuni smiths did the same thing, leading to a lot of confusion as to makers.

When the book first came out I especially enjoyed PART TWO of the book, made up of interviews with important dealers, most of whom are no longer with us. This was at the peak of the jewelry boom of the 1960s. The interview with Phil Woodard p.99 is especially enjoyable. Copies under $20

TURQUOISE; THE WORLD STORY OF A FSCINATING GEMSTONE, JOE DAN LOWRY AND JOE P. LOWRY. PHOTOS BY DAVONNA LOWRY. This is one of the more recent books in this category, and. as the title suggests, it focuses mainly on the stone. They have the Turquoise Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico and much of the material here is part of that enterprise.

Nearly a foot square and nicely printed, the color photographs are great. The eight chapters cover pretty much the usual topics for the subject: World History. Minerology, Mining. Cutting, and Identifying. However almost all of the examples are new to this book.

One thing the Lowrys do in the book got my special attention--turquoise mines in Mexico, prehistoric and historic. For many, many years the official opinion was that all of the stone used in ancient Aztec, Mayan and other classic work came from mines in North America. In actual fact that was not even close to the case.

The Lowrys identify a number of Mexican mines, and they are not recent discoveries, but claims worked since ancient times. On p. 146 there is this pronouncement, “In fact, about 85 percent of all turquoise set in “Indian” jewelry comes from Chinese and Mexican turquoise mines.” I imagine those are fighting words for many in the trade. All the same, it is nice to see somebody take on this misunderstood bit of history.

Everything about this book is classy, with the possible exception of its completeness. The Lowrys have their own agenda. All the same, I always look at the index first and the bibliography next, and this books is one of the best.

It is nearly impossible to copy interesting examples of the illustrations because of the sheer size of this work. Originally $75 and worth it, I found a copy on line for $30.

TURQUOISE UNEARTHED, JOE DON AND JOE P. LOWRY. This small paperback is an interesting introduction to the subject with all the quality of their big book. Copies as low as $3

TURQUOISE, WATER, SKY, MAXINE MCBRINN AND ROSS ALTSHULER. I consider this pretty volume primarily a picture book. There are a lot of photos of old jewelry, which is always useful. The pictures are limited to one or two per page, which means they are clearer and cleaner than when they are ganged up. I found a copy on Amazon for $15.

THE TURQUOISE TRAIL, CAROL KARASIK AND JEFFREY FOXX. Another large picture book. I don’t suppose the collector can have enough of these. This particular volume spends more time on the Southwestern cultural groups than the stone or jewelry.

The text is a joy to read, but it is flowery. “The royal crowns of the Mixtec kings were adorned with turquoise from Cerillos.” And “The earth mother herself was once a little figure made of turquoise before Talking God brought Changing Woman to life.”

Between text pages 120-153 there is a slick paper photo section of wonderful jewelry—though some of the pieces show up in practically every similar book. There are two full page photos of Zuni Olla Maidens in all their finery—and loaded with turquoise. Copies for less that $20.


SILVER + STONE, MARK BAHTI.  This is a gem of a book, covering individual artists from about every tribe in the Southwest, which means there is information on Rio Grande tribes who are usually neglected.  Each section focuses on a single jeweler.

         The layout is a little messy—photos run together, small images and the like.  That is not a deal breaker.  This is still a book everyone should have.  $20 or more.

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