Mining for Turquoise Around the World

Published: 11th June 2009
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Turquoise today is the most popular gemstone that is opaque. Jewelry designers often seek out this beautiful blue stone for a sterling silver turquoise pendant and other pieces like necklaces, and earrings. This high demand for turquoise has put significant strain on the available natural sources of turquoise around the world. This article explores the historical and contemporary sources of turquoise around the world.

The United States is the largest producer of turquoise in the world today. Most of the turquoise mines in the country are located in the western states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. Here, the turquoise is generally found in conjunction with copper deposits. In Arizona, the mines at Morenci, Bisbee and Kingman have produced the best quality turquoise in the country. However, all three mines are no longer operable. The resources at Bisbee and Kingman have been exhausted to the point there commercial mining is no longer economically feasible. At Morenci, turquoise was mined as a byproduct of the copper mining here. However, a change in the mining operations at this location meant that turquoise could not longer be economically mined as a byproduct. Today, the Sleeping Beauty mine near Globe and the Cave Creek mine just north of Cave Creek are principal turquoise producing mines in the State. The first turquoise mining in the country occurred at Cerrillos near Santa Fe in New Mexico. The stones from this mine ranged from blue to khaki green. This mine has not been in commercial operation for several years now. The Tyronne copper mine near Silver City was a major producer of turquoise as a byproduct of the copper mining operations. As with Morenci, a change in the mine operations put an end to turquoise production at this location. Nevada has several operating turquoise mines. There are several claims in the Royston area of the state. Of particular note, it the Damali mine. Here, the presence of zinc in the rocks has led to the formation of the quite rare yellow turquoise.

The best quality of turquoise in the world today is generally found in Iran. What is interesting about Iranian turquoise is that it is found in trachyte formations, unlike the US deposits which are primarily associated with copper deposits. Iranian turquoise is hard and dense, and can be polished to a high shine and directly used in jewelry after only cutting and polishing. Many specimens of turquoise from here are completely free of the characteristic dark spider vein pattern. The Iranian mines have been worked for nearly two thousand years now. The first turquoise mining occurred in the Sinai. Ancient Egyptians were quite taken by the blue stone as restricted who could own and who could not own turquoise. The turquoise from these mines predates the Iranian turquoise and was not of as high quality. Today, Egypt does have several operating mines around the country, but the country is only a minor producer of turquoise.

As a note, there are several jewelry connoisseurs who are particular about the source of the turquoise in their jewelry. If you are one, make sure that you ask the seller. On the other hand, if all you want is a beautiful pendant to add to a white pearl necklace , then you can be more flexible and save some money in the process.

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