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 through 1953.
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 County.
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 Saguache County.
Mindat.org lists over 140 locations within Nevada where turquoise has been found. These include mines in the following counties:
White Pine County
Thus turquoise has been found in 14 of Nevada’s 16 counties.
New Mexico is home to 30 turquoise-hosting mines, according to mindat.org. These mines are located in Doņa Ana County, Grant County, Hidalgo County, Lincoln County, Otero County, Santa Fe County, and Socorro County. Thus turquoise is found in the mines located in 7 of New Mexico’s 33 counties. With the exception of Santa Fe County, these are located in the southern half of the state.
While most turquoise from the United States is mined in just a few states in the Southwest — namely Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado — turquoise has been found in mines (although not in commercially profitable concentrations) in many more states.
Here is a partial list of the mines in which turquoise has been found:
Alabama: Erin Clay Co., Hobbs Mine, Idaho Mine, First Woods Prospect, Unnamed locations in Coosa County
Arkansas: Mauldin Mountain Quarries, North Mountain Mine, Mona Lisa Mine, Coon Creek Mine, Big Bear Mine
Montana: Silver Bow Co.
North Dakota: Granville Co.
Pennsylvania: Moores Mill, Bachman Mine
South Dakota: Tin Mountain Mine
Texas: Calamet and Texas Mine, Van Horn Mine, Hudson Prospect, Maltby Prospect, Sierra Blanca Peaks.
Utah: Bingham Canyon Mine, Copper Jack Mine, Jessel Bezzel Mine, Silver Shields Mine
Virginia: Bishop Mine, Sulphur Mine, Kelly Bank Mine