Mining For Turquoise In Nevada
With its discovery over four thousand years ago, turquoise is one of the oldest gemstones known to man. Ancient Egyptians are credited with its discovery in the Sinai peninsula. They used this beautiful stone to create jewelry and to adorn their homes, palaces and temples. In fact, turquoise artifacts were often buried along with people after their death because Egyptians believed that turquoise was connected to the Gods, and would help the person reach heaven in the after life. So great was their reverence for turquoise that the rulers of ancient Egypt declared that only royalty, high priests, and other persons of high standing in Egyptian society could own turquoise. It was also prohibitively expensive – sometimes costing even more than gold – making it harder for the common man in the street to buy or own turquoise objects. The Egyptians were not the only civilization that worshipped turquoise and believed in its spiritual and metaphysical powers. The Aztecs, Incas and most a Native American tribes also held this stone in great esteem. Native Americans believed that turquoise was a protective stone and inspired bravery. So warriors would adorn their shields and bows with turquoise inlays before leaving for battle. To this day, Native Americans incorporate turquoise in their religious ceremonies and rituals.
As time passed, the spiritual significance of turquoise was lost and people began to be attracted to this gemstone based purely on its physical attributes. The characteristic blue-green stone with dark spider veins of the stone have made it the most valuable opaque gemstone in the world of fashion jewelry today. The perfection of the stabilization techniques whereby moderate quality stones can be used in jewelry applications has further enhanced the popularity of turquoise. The negative aspect of this rise in popularity of turquoise for fine and costume jewelry is that it has stressed the known sources of turquoise around the world. In fact, many turquoise mines in the world have been overexploited over the past few decades, and mining is no longer economically feasible at these locations. Several turquoise mines that are now defunct can be found throughout the American Southwest, and indeed across other arid and semi arid regions of the world.
The United States is the largest producer of turquoise in the world today, and Nevada is claims the top ranking within the US, closely followed by United States. It is no coincidence that turquoise is found in Nevada. Turquoise is a hydrated complex of copper and aluminum phosphates, infused with molten silica under high temperature and pressure. These minerals are found in great abundance in the State, leading to conditions that were conducive to turquoise formation some forty million years ago.
Turquoise mines are usually found in small clusters and each cluster is typically called a mining district. Nevada has several such mining districts, and none of them is more famous for turquoise production than the Royston area. This mining district boasts of several turquoise mines, each of which produces turquoise of high quality and very unique. One of the newer sources of turquoise here is the Ajax mine. Turquoise specimens from this mine are usually light blue in color with dark blue veins, or stones that have a dark green background with light blue vein patterns. There are also several mines in this district that have ceased commercial production of turquoise, but continue to host small mining operations and individual rockhounds searching for that one unique specimen of this beautiful gemstone. The Blue Gem mine near Battle Mountain and the Blue Moon mine in Esmeralda County are good examples of mines that are now closed to commercial production. Mining at Blue Gem started in the 1930s and the mine produced gem-quality specimens in brilliant shades of blue and green. Turquoise from the Blue Moon mine was typically bright, sky-blue in color with dark (almost black) spider veining. Specimens from the Blue Moon mine today are rare and are considered to be collectors’ item. Blue Moon was closed to commercial mining in the 1970s.
There are also a series of turquoise mines in Nevada that are located on ancient lakebeds. Candelaria, Carico Lake, and the Damali mines are the best known examples of turquoise sources that fall under this category. The Carico Lake and Damali mines are quite close to each other. Yet, the turquoise found at these two locations is very different. Carico Lake mine produces a clear, iridescent, spring-green color turquoise. At Damali, the same mineral content produces turquoise that is yellow and khaki in color, and quite unique!
The author is a geo-professional in Arizona and writes extensively on gemstone jewelry, and in particular on turquoise pendants, bracelets, earrings, pins, and pearls necklaces.