Author: Michel Konstantinowski | Updated: April 9, 2021
This may not be a topic you think of reality show material, but when you consider that turquoise mining may involve millions of dollars in risk, digging stones suddenly becomes undeniably compelling.
"Turquoise has existed in my family for at least three generations," Trenton Ortson, one of the stars of the INSP TV network "Turquoise Fever," said in an email interview. "It captured our lives, changed our families, let us through some difficult times, and also caused some difficult times-but I will not exchange it for anything in the world."
The Alterson family has spent years unearthing the most sought-after stones in the world, but searching is not always easy—in fact, it may be downright dangerous. From their base camp in Tonopah, Nevada, the family has experienced challenges ranging from explosives to unstable terrain, not to mention the high pressure demands of international buyers.
"My life as a turquoise miner has taught me to thank other miners and always help when I need it. Mining turquoise and helping people understand that the hard work and dedication of doing this work is the journey of a lifetime. There will never be a dull journey. The moment," Ortson explained.
Michael Garland is a fourth-generation art and jewelry seller in Sedona, Arizona, and he may resonate. Four generations of his family have collaborated with American Indian art, and this stone, with colors ranging from sky blue to sea green, played an important role in their business. "Turquoise has a fascinating and unique history," he said via email. "For thousands of years, from King Tutankhamun’s death mask to Aztec and Mesoamerican art, this beautiful stone has attracted the imagination of human beings all over the world. For centuries, turquoise has been used by the Southwestern United States. The Indian tribes cherish and use for trade and ceremonial purposes, and enhance their beautiful art forms-from sand paintings to jewelry. Its rarity and beauty continue to make it a coveted stone."
So why is turquoise so popular, and why do families like Ottesons and Garlands spend generations searching for turquoise?
Turquoise has been cherished by cultures around the world for thousands of years, which is why this opaque mineral has appeared in the history and modern art of communities in Africa, Asia, South America, and North America. Chemists understand this stone through the chemical formula CuAl6(PO4)4(OH)8·4H2O (also known as hydrated copper phosphate and aluminum phosphate).
"Turquoise is formed from a complex combination of aluminum, copper, phosphorus, water, and other local ingredients, which may change color or add matrix (host rock)," Garland said. "Turquoise is found between 3,000 to 8,500 feet (914 to 2,590 meters) above sea level, usually in dry, arid climates. Only certain areas on earth provide this turquoise-forming formula. Turquoise mines in the southwestern United States Is the most famous, "such as Bisbee, Rand Blue, Number Eight or Lonely Mountain. However, other regions of the world produce high-quality natural turquoise, such as Iran, Tibet, China, Egypt and Kazakhstan. "
"Turquoise is formed in the dry and arid regions of the world," Otterson added. "The most common places known for high-quality turquoise are Iran (Persia), Egypt, northwestern China, Mexico, and the southwestern United States. Although mines can be found in many states, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada are The most common place you will find them. Most of the turquoise mines in the entire southwest have been mined, except for some in Nevada and Arizona. Nevada has been the main producer of turquoise in the United States for some time. Green Turquoise is mainly made of", so it is not surprising that there are also many copper mines in Arizona and Nevada. The combination of arid climate and copper-rich areas makes these areas hotspots for high-quality turquoise. "
"The value of turquoise comes from the quality and rarity of the stone," Emerald Tanner and her father Joe E. Tanner Sr. wrote via email. The two are at the helm of Tanner's Indian Arts Gallup in New Mexico, a family-owned store that has been in business for more than 60 years. "Some mines have produced tons of material over the years-others are only about a hundred pounds, and in a short time. Turquoise can be as soft as chalk, or as hard as MOH scale 6 or 7-the harder More intense colors are often more valuable. Another variable in evaluating turquoise is to compare pure natural turquoise with'stable' or'enhanced' turquoise."
Turquoise is usually a natural soft, porous stone that can be damaged during the cutting process-only truly rare and good things can be cut and shaped into jewelry without any enhancement first. "Stable" stone means that the soft low-grade turquoise has undergone a special process to enhance its color and hardness. The process involves placing the stone under pressure so that it absorbs a transparent filler made of epoxy or plastic. The result: a harder stone can actually be manipulated and cut, but because it needs all the help, it is not very valuable.
You may have found other types of cheap turquoise in the gift shop. Reconstituted (or chalked) turquoise consists of crushed stone fragments, which are crushed into powder and mixed with epoxy resin. This produces a harder block, which can then be cut into flat or stone shapes. Then there are fake things: block or imitation turquoise is usually made of dyed plastic, or made by manipulating another kind of stone (such as howlite) to make it look like turquoise.
"More than 90% of the'turquoise' on the world market has been stabilized, treated or tampered with to enhance the color or harden the gemstone," the tanner wrote. "Some of the'turquoise' on the market is not even turquoise at all, but an imitation material that has been dyed or colored to look like a stone. We have always encouraged anyone who wants to buy turquoise or turquoise jewelry to inquire about green The problem of turquoise. Stone never says "If you don’t know your turquoise, please know your turquoise dealer." Natural gem-grade turquoise is one of the rarest and most collectible natural products in our world. It does It is a special kind of stone, worthy of collection and celebration."
According to Otteson, grade plays an important role in determining the overall value of a gem. Like other gemstones, the grading standards for turquoise include 4C standards—color, clarity, cut, and carat weight—but it also has other unique factors to consider, such as origin. "On average, less than 25% of the turquoise mined in our mines or any other mines is used for jewelry, and only the top 4-5% of turquoise is considered'gem-grade'," he said.
"'Gem grade' is a term commonly used by high-level turquoise buyers and collectors to describe bisilicate, dark blue, and cobweb turquoise. As a miner and cutter, I quickly learned forever Don’t hope too much when mining, because it’s hard to judge whether it’s good or bad before cutting. Gem-grade turquoise will make you breathless and make your heart rate exceed the chart."
Despite the large number of turquoises, high-quality gems are actually very scarce-in fact so scarce that in recent years, the best turquoise has been considered "more valuable than diamonds."
"Because most mines have dried up and are now closed, coupled with government restrictions and high mining costs; this completely hinders the ability to find gem-quality turquoise," Ottson said. "All these factors affect the value and appreciation of a high-quality turquoise block, which is why it is so coveted."
Ortson said that not only the top turquoise is considered more valuable than diamonds, but its value is also much higher than other types of gems and metals, which are generally considered the most coveted jewellery. "The value of premium turquoise is three times the price of gold because it is really rare," he said. "Most of the high-quality turquoise mined in the 60s and 70s continues to be traded between collectors and jewelers who really understand its true value. Growing up in a mining family, I learned to appreciate the difficulty and excitement of mining turquoise. ."
“The biggest factors in evaluating the value of turquoise are: 1. the hardness of turquoise, 2. beauty, and 3. rarity,” Garland said. The following are the effects of each factor on the overall value of the gem:
So when it comes to truly high-quality turquoise, how much do we talk about? "Unlike gold or diamonds, no two pieces of jewelry that enter high-end jewelry are exactly the same-full stop!" Otson said. "This quality of turquoise is unique and extremely rare. For every 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of turquoise mined, only about 25 pounds (11 kilograms) or 25% of turquoise is considered jewelry quality. Of turquoise, only about 1 pound (0.4 kg) is considered high-grade or gem-grade. It is not uncommon for this grade of turquoise to sell for between 40-200 US dollars per carat. For direct comparison, gold sells for At US$1,425 per ounce, there are 16 ounces in a pound, so this is equivalent to 1 pound (0.4 kg) of gold on the market at US$22,800. For the same pound (approximately 1,200-1,500 carats) of gem-grade turquoise, At the low end, it sells for $50 per carat x 1,200 carats for a total price of $60,000 per pound-about three times the price of gold. At the high end ($200 per carat)... well, we It can only be said that it is much higher...you can do it yourself!"
"Turquoise is a sacred stone to many Native American tribes in the Southwestern United States," the tanner wrote. "The unique charm of turquoise comes from the compatibility of its color with the sky and water. This is the most precious thing in the Southwest."
"Almost every Native American tribe has used turquoise, whether for therapeutic or aesthetic purposes," Garland said. "Perhaps because it is reminiscent of sky and water-two sacred elements in the Southwest-this rare blue-green gem has spiritual significance to many tribes in the region. There are many different indigenous tribes in the Southwest (only Arizona has 21 federally recognized tribes.) Each tribe has its own unique belief system and perception of the meaning of turquoise."
But perhaps the tribe known for celebrating the sacred beauty of turquoise is the Navajo. "Turquoise is of special significance to the Navajo people, especially as one of the four sacred stones of the Navajo tribe," Garland said. "Together with white shells, abalones and jets, these stones are related to the four sacred mountains that form the traditional border of Navajoland."
As we all know, turquoise not only has spiritual significance for many indigenous tribes, but is also actually used for healing purposes. "Each tribe has its own unique perspective on this," Garland said. The Navajo in particular use broken turquoise to perform their beautiful sand painting healing rituals. "
"Turquoise is generally revered as a healing stone and is considered to have healing and health powers," said Joe E. Tanner. "My grandfather worked as a turquoise miner in Arizona and Colorado for many years, so my family has a long-term love and blood relationship with this stone. My mother always said that if she doesn't rub her turquoise first, she will never Will make difficult choices in life."
The origin of the name "turquoise" is a bit misnomer. It originated from the French phrase "pierre turquoise", which means "turquoise." However, although turquoise is traded in Turkey, the gemstones traded may have originated in Iran or the Sinai Peninsula.
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