Native Americans call it the "sky stone" because of it's rich blue color, and they say it has healing properties. In some Southwestern United States cultures, turquoise is more precious than gold. Turquoise is the birthstone of December and signifies success. To the Navajo people, the beautiful blue turquoise stone signifies power, social status, and luxury.
Turquoise is a hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum and originates by the percolation of groundwater through aluminous rock in the presence of copper. Turquoise is most often found in arid, semi-arid, or desert environments and is often found with copper deposits. Prior to the 1950's, turquoise found while copper mining was considered not worth the value of shutting down copper mining in order to claim the turquoise and the turquoise was discarded as waste. But in the 1970's, when turquoise became popular amongst non-native Americans, copper mines would shut down copper production for a short time when a turquoise vein was struck, and companies specialized in mining turquoise in a very short time were contracted to come in and remove the turquoise.
Turquoise attains it’s color from the heavy metals in the ground where it forms, and it is found in colors of white, blue, green, and even lime green turquoise exists. White turquoise from Nevada is considered the rarest. Blue turquoise forms when there is copper present, which is the case with most Arizona turquoise. Green turquoise forms when there is iron present, which is the case with most Nevada turquoise. Arizona was once the turquoise capitol of the world, but today most jewelry grade turquoise comes from Nevada. Although turquoise is found in many countries, the most valuable, highest quality, and most sought after turquoise comes from Nevada. Turquoise from Iran competes with Nevada turquoise in quality and value.
Today turquoise has skyrocketed in value, mainly because it is a resource that is nearly mined out. The Apache Canyon mine in California is the only mine left today that still commercially mines turquoise. Of the handful of remainng turquoise mines that produce gem grade turquoise, most are privately owned and the yield is increasingly small. The Lander Blue Mine, which operated in Nevada in the late 70's, yielded less than 110 pounds of turquoise during its lifespan.
Turquoise is thought to have originally been mined for jewelry in Iran about 3,000 years ago. It was traded across the Middle East and Europe, and finally made its way to America. Today, turquoise is associated with Native American heritage in the American Southwest. With a tradition of creating turquoise jewelry and carvings for at least 150 years, the stone was of particular importance within Navajo culture. With the subsequent development of new artisanal and silversmithing techniques in the early 20th century, the distinctive combination of silver and turquoise was established in the Native American culture.
Today, the mass influx of fake turquoise from Asian countries has distorted the value of the mineral. Fake turquoise ranges from howlite mineral dyed to look like turquoise, fake ceramic turquoise, powdered turquoise processed by pressing it into blocks, and poor grade "chalk" turquoise stabilized with chemicals to make it look like gem-grade turquoise. Prices for genuine turquoise jewelry can range from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the various factors.
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