Most quality turquoise from the United States is
found in the Southwest, particularly in Arizona, New Mexico,
Nevada, Colorado, and California. Turquoise was sacred to
Native Americans even before the arrival of Columbus. Most
of the mines in these states have run dry and few are operating
commercially these days. Even more difficult to find is
gem-quality turquoise. Most turquoise today probably comes
from Arizona, and is recovered as a byproduct from copper mining
operations. That is to say, turquoise is not mined for its
own sake, but rather found in the "stone trash" left behind from
the mining of copper. (Recall that the presence of copper
is what makes turquoise blue.)
Most of the mines in Arizona are deleted of their turquoise and are not being
commercially mined. Here are a few mines that are significant, either for
historical reasons or because turquoise is still being produced. Most of
the Arizona mines are open pit copper mines, with turquoise being retrieved by
others under contract.
Birdseye Mine. This mine has been closed for many
years, but produced collector's quality stone.
Castle Dome. Located in Inspiration, this mine operated from 1943
Cave Creek. Located to the NE of Cave Creek, Arizona.
There are reports of beautiful turquoise coming from this mine today, but we
are still investigating for the details.
Kingman Mine. Kingman turquoise is well know in
turquoise circles because of the beautiful blue coloration and black matrix
of the stones coming from the mine.
Lavender Pit. This
famous mine is located near Bisbee, Arizona. The mine is an open copper
mine. Bisbee Blue turquoise is a rich blue, often with brown
matrix. Green turquoise is also found in the mine. Little
turquoise comes out of the mine these days. Most Bisbee blue turquoise
jewelry comes from previously found supplies. It has been reported
that the copper company, the Phelps Dodge Corporation, made few efforts to
mine the turquoise. The stone in which it was embedded was hauled away
as the company dug to reach the copper deep below. The turquoise would
then be "harvested" by third parties under lease from the dump. It has
also been reported that the copper miners should "borrow" the turquoise they
came upon, stashing it into their lunch boxes, and then selling it on the
open local market.
Morenci Mine. Located in the southeastern part of
Arizona, this mine produces turquoise of a light blue color. The mine
is no longer producing significant quantities of turquoise.
Sleeping Beauty. One of the most beautiful turquoise
stones found in the U.S., "Sleeping Beauty Turquoise" is light blue in color
and has little or no matrix. This mine is still operating, producing
beautiful but expensive gem-quality turquoise.
In comparison with Arizona,
California is a small player in the
turquoise world. Turquoise has been
found in the Llanada copper mine in San
Benito County; and the Baker, Gove and
Apache Canyon mines in San Bernardino
Turquoise has been found in
fifteen mines, according to mindat.org,
although not always in commercial quantities
or qualities. In Teller County,
turquoise has been recovered in the Elkhorn
Claim, the Florence Mine, the O'Haver Claim,
the Cripple Creek District, and the Roanoke
Shaft. In Lake County, turquoise
has been found in the Sugarloaf District,
Leadville, the Josie May mine, and Turquoise
Chief Mine. This gem has also been
found in Conejos County, Eagle County,
Mineral County, Rio Grande County, and