Greetings, everyone, and thanks for visiting my blog! My original intent was to have a showing of all my latest creations, but the flowers for my photo shoot wilted early, my new camera attachment turned out to be a piece of junk, and quite frankly all this cold weather has gotten me wanting to hibernate. To tide you over, I've decided to present a little educational piece about the many faces of my favorite gemstone: turquoise!
When I started out, almost all of my turquoise originated in China, but since then I've amassed a pretty impressive collection of American turquoise as well. I have high grade, low grade, and pretty much everything in between. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the kinds of turquoise there are, but I hope it will help you be better able to appreciate the wondrous variety of this particular type of stone.
Check this out! All this turquoise comes from the same province in China: Hubei. Hubei is in the eastern central portion of the country, and it is famous for high quality turquoise. The stones pictured here are mid- to high grade. One thing worth mentioning: the stone on the top row at the far right and the stone on the bottom row second from the left actually come from the Wabi Sabi mine. (I forgot to do a separate pic.)
Here is my lone piece of Cloud Mountain turquoise. This mine produces very high grade stuff, but unfortunately this is considered a low- to mid- grade piece due to the quartz inclusions. That really isn't a huge deal from an aesthetic standpoint, but collectors prefer it to be all that one color of blue with black matrix. At any rate, this is a good way to recognize Cloud Mountain turquoise.
This is my best piece of turquoise from the Treasure Mountain mine in Hubei, China. I do have other pieces, but the color variations are so similar to the Wabi Sabi mine that I get them a little mixed up. I had them separated out in my storage case, but then I knocked my case over and spilled everything all over the floor, and well, you know how that goes. Treasure Mountain turquoise tends to be more on the green side, and is quite lovely. (For what it's worth, this piece is actually very large.)
These pieces are examples of Bamboo Mountain turquoise. The Bamboo Mountain mine produces super high grade turquoise that is very sought after by collectors in China. Therefore, it very rarely makes its way to the United States, and when it does, it's like a feeding frenzy trying to get any. I'm lucky to have procured these, plus the one I just put into an oboe key pendant that I listed in my shop recently. The defining characteristic of Bamboo Mountain turquoise is a black matrix with wide variations in color to make it look very much like a stained glass window. This is my favorite of the Chinese turquoise. It's also very expensive.
These pieces are from the Red River mine in Hubei, China. To be honest, I know very little about this mine, other than it produces very hard turquoise (which is a good thing). The defining characteristic of almost all the Red River is that the color and the matrix look like water cutting through sand. It's quite striking. I've recently seen some really dark varieties from this mine that are gorgeous, but I'm never fast enough on the bidding to get any! The two pieces on the left are natural and unbacked. The three on the right are stabilized and backed. (I'll have to do another blog about what all these terms mean. I'm still learning as well.)
These unusual pieces are called Gobi Desert Lavender (or Lavendar, depending on the gem dealer). They are very rare and sought after by Chinese collectors, so, once again, we don't see a whole lot of this in the States. This turquoise comes from along the Chinese-Mongolian border. The defining characteristic of Gobi Desert Lavender turquoise is the subtle, pale blue color and the occasional random light green flecks. I personally don't have any of the ones with green flecks in my collection because I don't like the green flecks. They remind me of canned peas, and I am fundamentally opposed to canned peas. The four pieces on the left are natural, but backed for stability. The piece on the right has been stabilized. One thing I have noticed about the stabilization process is that it darkens whatever stone that has been processed. I try not to buy too many treated stones, but sometimes it's unavoidable, and some of the treated stones are just as pretty (not to mention less expensive!).
These pieces are from Tibet. Yes, that central piece is enormous. I don't know enough about Tibetan turquoise to speak about the mines, or characteristics, but as you can see there is some variation. These pieces are all old stock, mined and cut about twenty years ago. The dealer had them kicking around in a drawer and had forgotten about them (which I find is a common theme among stone cutters). The stones with little or no matrix were cut in Tibet.
And now for the American half of my collection! All these stones come from the Kingman mine in Kingman, Arizona. The Kingman mine is interesting to me because they don't waste a scrap of turquoise. The green piece is called Mojave Green turquoise, and is actually an amalgam of turquoise bits left over from the cutting process that is mixed in with copper or bronze and then dyed green. It's still turquoise, but it's a man-made product. The purple piece is the purple version, called Mojave Purple. The one in between those two is just a mix of the regular piece that hasn't been dyed. The round piece below that is actually a mixture of stabilized Kingman turquoise and spiny oyster shell. The clearer stones range from the low grade one with the big inclusion of matrix to the highest grade ones on the far right that go for $120+ retail. The tear drop shaped one in the middle has been stabilized and backed.
This is from the Royston mining district in Nevada. This particular variety of Royston is called Royston ribbon, because the veins of turquoise run like ribbon through the matrix and it's really nifty. Royston turquoise also comes "just plain" and the two tiny tear drop shapes on the bottom show you the color variations.
King's Manassa Mine. I honestly don't know a whole lot about this at the moment, other than the fact that it was mined out and summarily closed, so all that is out of the ground is all there is. This one is more for the collectors. It is backed with Devcon for stability.
This is mid-grade turquoise from the Compass mine in Arizona (I think; I'm having a hard time locating the mine right now). Note the variety of matrix and colors. Pretty nifty!
Think this is from the Sleeping Beauty mine? Think again! This mine is actually over the hill from the Sleeping Beauty mine, but still produces that same clear blue that collectors go nuts for. It's also less expensive than the stuff from Sleeping Beauty. Castle Dome mine, Arizona.
All these are also from Arizona, from mines I'm still learning about. The turquoise on the left is from the Hachita mine. The turquoise in the middle is from Whitewater. The turquoise on the right is Nacozari. All of these are high grade turquoise.
And that, friends and neighbors, is the extent of my collection! This is not by any means an extensive collection of either turquoise or information. I am still learning about the whys and wherefores of these mines, so if you have any information you want to add, or have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments!