Prospecting for Turquoise in Tonopah, Nevada
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Prospecting for Turquoise in Tonopah, Nevada

Where to mine for turquoise in the USA. And facts about turquoise, it composition and history.

About a three and half hour drive north west of Las Vegas lies the town of Tonopah Nevada and the Royston mine. The town is famous for Royston turquoise, which is known to be one of the world’s highest quality turquoise-second in quality only to the turquoise mined at the Kuh-i-Binalud Mountains of Khorasan Province, Iran. The mine is commercial, although members of the public are allowed to prospect at the mine on certain days. After an area of the mine has been blasted with dynamite and excavated, spotters look for turquoise embedded in chunks of rock. That part of the mine is then left for visitors to sift through. Large, good quality pieces of rough turquoise can be worth anything up to $500 to $600 per pound. And their value can increase substantially if they are faceted and made into jewelry.

The color of Decembers birthstone can range from sky blue to emerald green, and some of the most valuable pieces are two tone. Turquoise is composed of mainly copper, iron, aluminum and sulphate. It often has black or brown veins running through it. This is known as spider web turquoise and is caused either by black magnesium oxide or brown limonite. The best quility Spider web turquoise often came from the, now depleted, Lander Blue mine in Nevada. A dark blue turquoise variety comes from Bisbee, Arizona. Turquoise is porous and its color can be affected by many substances including oil, wine and cosmetics. For that reason it is treated with a clear lacquer to protect it.

The History of Turquoise:  The name turquoise comes from the French word meaning Turkish. That’s because turquoise that was mined in Iran and Egypt came through Turkey on its way to Europe. It’s believed the first people to mine turquoise were the Egyptians at Sinai Peninsula in about 4000 BC. Turquoise was much later found in Germany and other parts of the world, although today it is only commercially mined in Iran, Australia and South Western USA.

Turquoise and Native American People:  Native Americans had a tradition of mining turquoise for centuries. They also had a strong spiritual affinity with turquoise. For example the Apache people believed wearing turquoise made them more efficient hunters. And the Navajo believed it had divine powers, had fallen out of the sky and could ward off demons. Some of the best Native American turquoise jewelry is made by the Zuni people from New Mexico. It is always set in silver and used to make belt buckles, pendent’s, bracelets, rings and necklaces. Often shell, coral or other gemstones are combined with turquoise in this style of jewelry.

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Comments (1)

nice! I'd like to prospect for some of that!