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About Native American Jewelry Stones

About Authentic Native American Jewelry Stones

Amber is an amorphous translucent or opaque fossilized natural resin from an extinct variety of pine tree submerged under the sea some 60,000,000 years ago. Amber deposits have been found that are over 150 million years old, but most that you will see used in Native American Jewelry today is between 20-90 million years old. It is a beautiful gem that is cut and polished and used as a valuable gemstone for Authentic Native American Jewelry. Amber comes in a variety of colors, usually from pale yellow and honey to reddish-brown, brown, red, and almost black. Some pieces will also have two colors. The best quality of amber is clear, but some is cloudy. Some pieces will include stress marks giving it a crackled appearance. In other pieces, it may contain small insects, plant material and feathers that are millions of years old such. Some of which include ants, bees, flies, gnats, mosquitoes and wasps. It is usually found in the Baltic countries and in coal seams in Wyoming and the Dominican Republic.

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Amethyst is one of the best known and most valuable forms of quartz. Although Amethyst must be purple to be Amethyst, it can have a wide range of purple shades. Amethyst is found in geodes and alluvial deposits all over the world and each locality can produce unique amethyst to that particular region or to a particular mine. Experts can often identify the source mine that a particular amethyst came from. Some of the finest Amethyst comes from Bolivia, Brazil and Russia but it can also come from Africa, Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Madagascar, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Zambia and the United States. Amethyst may fade if exposed to the sun or heat.

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Azurite is deep blue-black to brilliant "azure" blue in color. It is often found along with malachite and cuprite. Beautiful crystals of azurite are found in many parts of the world including the United States, Arizona and New Mexico. Azurite forms under conditions that are identical with those of malachite, with which it is always associated. Azurite or malachite should never be cleaned with any product that contains ammonia.

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Charolite is a relatively new semi-precious gemstone. It was discovered near the Chary River in Siberia in 1978, hence where it gets its name. To date it is only found in this one location. Charolite is one of the rarest minerals the market today. It is used as both an ornamental stone and as a gemstone for Native American Jewelry. The color of Charolite is described as a stunning lavender, lilac, violet and/or purple. The look of Charolite is unlike any other mineral and can't be mistaken. The white chrystalline "needles" give Charolite a very distinctive appearance and depth often forming a swirling pattern of interlocking Chrystals. It has the appearance of purple marble, but really defies description.

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Coral is an organic gem. The oldest known findings of red coral date from the Mesopotamian civilization from about 3000 B.C. Coral is formed from a colony of marine invertebrates that is primarily a skeletal calcium carbonate gem. The formations as seen in the water look like tree branches. Many colors and varieties of coral grow in warm and temperate climates and in the cold water found at greater depths, but they are most abundant in warm, shallow water in warm coastal waters from around the world. There are over 200 coral species found just in the Great Barrier Reef. Coral varies in color: pink, black, orange, pink, red, and white. The rarest variety is the blood coral or oxblood coral. This is a very deep red variety. The best oxblood coral comes from the Mediterranean Sea. Coral is usually cabochon cut. Coral should not come in contact with acid (i.e., vinegar), because of its calcium composition.

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Gaspeite was discovered in 1966 and is found only in a few localities: Quebec, Canada and Western Australia. The best Gaspeite is from North of Perth, Australia. Colors of Gaspeite range from a light green to an almost apple green color. Some varieties are almost neon green. Gaspeite can also contain brownish patches which give a distinct character. Gaspeite gets it name from the Gaspe Peninsula, where it was first discovered. The Gaspe Peninsula is in Quebec, Canada. Gaspeite is usually cut in cabochons.

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Jet is Anthracite Coal which is a sedimentary rock formed from plants that lived millions of years ago. Jet is used a great deal in contemporary and traditional Native American inlay jewelry.

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Lapis has been highly prized since ancient Babylonian and Egyptian times. Genuine lapis is a natural blue, opaque stone. It is brilliant deep blue and sometimes possesses small sparkling gold or silver colored flecks which are pyrite inclusions. The best lapis comes from Afghanistan and Argentina. It can also be found in Russia, Chile, Canada and occasionally the United States.

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Malachite is named for the Greek work "mallow" which is a green herb. Malachite is a copper ore that comes in a brilliant green marked with bands of contrasting shades of the same green. Malachite is often found in copper producing areas such as Russia, Mexico, Australia, England, Southwest U.S. and notably Zaire is a major producer today. Never clean malachite with any product containing ammonia.

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Mother of Pearl is a hard, iridescent inner layer of certain shells such as abalone, pearl oyster and mussel. Mother of pearl varies in shades of white, yellow, pink and gray. Care should be taken not to expose it to chemicals.

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Spiny Oyster Shell, Spondylus Brodnip Princess, is found in the Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico. Spiny Oyster began to be exported for jewelry making in the Southwest in 1976. The shell comes in three main colors: red, orange, purple and sometimes white and yellow.

The name Spondylus is a Latin word that means "spines on its back". Brodnip was the name of the scientist who traveled with Cortez when Baja California was explored. The name "princess" was given to the shell when Cortez presented his marine discoveries to the King of Spain. The king's daughter fell in love with the shell; thus, it was named after her.

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Sugilite is named for the Japanese petrologist who discovered it, Kenichi Sugi. Sugilite is found only in South Africa and is a by product of mining for manganese ore. It is found in very deep shafts about 2 miles deep. Sugilite first appeared in jewelry in the late 1970's and was sold as Royal Azel and Royal Lavulite. It is lovely, deep, rich purple to purple red in color. It is an opaque gem that is usually cut into cabochons or beads and is used in Southwestern Jewelry inlay work by top artisans.

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Turquoise has captivated man's imagination for centuries. The robin's egg blue gemstone, worn by Pharaohs and Aztec kings, is probably one of the oldest gemstones known. There are archaeological as well as literary references that pre-date the Christian era by five millennia. The four bracelets of Queen Zar, found on her mummified arm, date to the second ruler of Egypt's First Dynasty, approximately 5500 B.C. Scholars believe the robe worn by the High Priest Aaron was adorned with turquoise. Aristotle, Pliny and other early writers refer to stones that must have been turquoise. Turquoise has been extensively used by both southwest American Indian tribes and by many other Indian tribes in Mexico since 200 B.C. Archaeological evidence exists that the prehistoric people, the Anasazi and Hohokam, mined turquoise at Cerrillos and the Burro Mountains of New Mexico. Kingman and Morenci turquoise from Arizona was a popular trade item and has been found in archaeological sites hundreds of miles away from these mines. Turquoise from the Cerrillos mine in New Mexico has been found with the Aztecs. The stone was used in religion, art, trade, treaty negotiations as well as jewelry. Even today, it is still considered as the stone of life, good fortune and symbol of wealth by our American Indians and other cultures of the world.

Turquoise, chemically, is a hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum and is formed by the percolation of meteoric or groundwater through aluminous rock in the presence of copper. For this reason, it is often associated with copper deposits as a secondary mineral. Turquoise is most often found in arid, semiarid or desert places such as Iran, Tibet, China, Australia, Mexico, Russia, Turkestan and the southwest U.S.

Turquoise gets its color from the heavy metals in the ground where it forms. Blue turquoise forms when there is copper present, which is the case with most Arizona turquoise. Green turquoise forms where iron is present, the case with most Nevada turquoise. Matrix is the host rock, mother rock. It can be made from several different elements such as pyrite, chert, quartz, cuperite and manganese oxide. The sought after spider web turquoise is made up of small nuggets naturally cemented together with rock or matrix. When cut and polished the stone resembles a spider web. So many geologic chains of events must synchronize to create just one thin vein of turquoise that the mineral can rightly be envisioned as a fluke of nature. Turquoise is the rare and improbable product of an incalculable number of chemical and physical processes that must take place in the right combination and proper environment over a time span of hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of years.
  • High Grade Natural Turquoise: found in all shades from sky blue to apple green. It is the hardest grade and takes the best polish. The contrast between the color of turquoise and the color of matrix {or mother rock} enhances the beauty of each stone. Many mines produce distinctive stones whose origin can be identified by an experienced person.
  • Enhanced turquoise: The Zachery or Foutz process impregnates turquoise with vaporized quartz. This makes the stone harder, darkens the color and takes a good polish. This process is hard to detect by normal methods because quartz occurs naturally with some turquoise.
  • Stabilized or Treated Turquoise: American manufacturers have perfected a process using pressure and heat to fill the microscopic gaps in the stone with plastic resin. When cured the product is a treated stone hard enough to cut and polish. Most nugget and some heishi products are made from real turquoise that has been stabilized. Stabilization allows genuine but lower grade turquoise to be used in Southwestern Jewelry.
  • Wax Treated: Much of the turquoise from China is wax impregnated. The paraffin treatment deepens and stabilizes the color but only affects the surface.
  • Reconstituted: This term describes pulverized turquoise scrap from stone cutting mixed with blue dye and plastic binder. Most products marketed under this name should really by labeled as simulated "block". Compressed Nugget is a similar product made from larger pieces.
  • Block: A mixture of plastic resin and dyes that is produced in loaf sized blocks. We used to call this reconstituted because we were told it was made from ground up turquoise scraps. In reality there is no actual rock of any sort in block turquoise; it is entirely man-made and should be labeled "simulated". Block is produced in many colors, simulating many different stones and shells. Except for occasional batches of Lapis Block that contain ground up iron pyrite, these are entirely simulated. Block is used heavily for inlay and heishi.
  • Dyed Stones: There are several naturally occurring stones that look similar to turquoise when they are dyed blue. These include Howlite, a white rock with black or gray markings, and Magnite or Magnesite, a chalky white mineral that forms in rough nodules looking faintly like the vegetable cauliflower. Other simulations include glass, plastic, faience ceramic and polymer clay.
  • This information on the treatments and grades was originally written by Homer Milfred published by the New Mexico Abandoned Mine Land Bureau in the Report 1994 - 1 - November 15, 1995. We feel that this is the most accurate and simplistic information on the grades of turquoise. We would like to add that there are some lesser grades of natural turquoise in smaller pieces that are used in small settings and inlay work. These come in varying grades of hardness. The "block turquoise" referred here is really imitation or plastic and is quite often marketed as the real thing. They can even create a matrix in it. Plastic turquoise or and other block stones can melt, fade and become quite less attractive after purchase and wear. Imitation stones are quite often used in machine stamped Southwestern silver jewelry made overseas and marketed here as Native American jewelry.

The Ajax mine is located in south-central Nevada in the Royston area. This mine is relatively new and yields stones from light blue with darker blue veins to a predominately dark green with light blue veins. The dark green with light blue veins is considered quite unusual for turquoise.

The Bisbee mine, near Bisbee, Arizona, is one of the more famous of the American mines because it was one of the first to be put on the market. Bisbee turquoise is a significant by-product of the Lavender Pit copper mine that is now closed. Bisbee turquoise is famous for its deep blue color and its smoky black matrix. Most of this turquoise has already been mined, and is one of the most highly collectible stones.

Blue Gem mine was located approximately 6 miles south of Battle Mountain, Nevada, within a large copper-mining operation. Blue Gem mine produced almost every shade of green and blue from intense blues to deep green combinations with a hard, irregularly distributed matrix. Of the several Nevada mines that are named Blue Gem, the Battle Mountain Blue Gem mine, which began production in 1934, yielded the most valuable Blue Gem turquoise because of its rich color and hardness. This mine is now closed and is highly sought after by collectors.

The Candelaria turquoise mine is a small Nevada mine that produces very little stone and is only occasionally worked. The turquoise is of good quality and is a high blue color with an intermittent black or brown, non-webbed matrix. Because it is not frequently available it is considered collectible.

Carico Lake turquoise is named after the location of its mine on a dried up lake bed in a high, cool area of Lander County, Nevada. It has been marketed under names such as Aurora and Stone Cabin. It's clear, iridescent, spring-green color is due to its zinc content and is highly unique and collectible. Carico Lake turquoise is also found in a dark blue-green color with a black, spider web matrix. The Carico Lake mine is primarily a gold producing mine but from time to time the mining company leases the turquoise producing part of the mine to individual miners who are permitted to work that part. The limited amount of turquoise and time allowed to mine it make Carico Lake turquoise a valuable addition to one's collection.

Mines in this district also produce faustite, an apple-green mineral similar to turquoise but identified as a separate mineral in 1953.

Cerrillos Turquoise mine is located between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is one of the most famous prehistoric mining districts in the American Southwest. It has a history entwined with both the ancient Native people of the Southwest and more recent American mining companies.

Cerrillos turquoise was created and mined under unusual circumstances. It is the only turquoise that formed at the base of a volcano; thus, a variety of colors developed from the minerals in the various volcanic host rocks. Seventy-five colors have been identified, from tan to khaki-green to rich, blue-green to bright, light colors. Cerrillos turquoise is a very hard stone that takes a good polish.

In addition to producing a distinctive stone, the Cerrillos turquoise mine is the oldest mine of any kind in North America. Located ten miles south of Santa Fe, Cerrillos was the site of the largest prehistoric mining activity on the continent because the huge turquoise deposit was partially exposed on the surface. Pueblo people mined the are extensively between 1300 and 1600 A.D. Pueblo miners from the San Marcos Pueblo, who later moved to the Santo Domingo Pueblo south of Santa Fe, most heavily worked the mine. Pueblo miners removed 100,000 tons of solid rock to create a pit mine 200 feet deep. An incredible feat considering they only used stone axes, mauls, antler picks and chisels. They dug other vertical shafts into the ground to reach veins of turquoise. Miners carried tools and leather rock baskets on their backs as they climbed in and out of the shafts using notched logs as ladders. The turquoise obtained here by the early Pueblo miners was traded from Mexico to the Midwest and from the east and west coasts. In New Mexico, many pieces of Cerrillos turquoise for personal use and trade have been unearthed in the prehistoric ruins of Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon. The Pueblo people continued to extract turquoise from the Cerrillos mine until the 1870's when a silver mining boom raised an interest in the area. The Tiffany Company in New York and its associates bought up the mine area and extracted $2,000,000 worth of turquoise between 1892 and 1899.

There are more than two hundred dig sites located there and the largest and most famous are the Blue Bell, Castilian and Tiffany mines.

Cripple Creek turquoise mine is located in Teller County, Colorado and was discovered when miners looking for gold in the area also found turquoise deposits. Two separate mines are currently active in the area both under the Cripple Creek name.

The Damele {also known as Damali} mine is located in east-central Nevada near the Carico Lake mine. Damele turquoise is quite distinctive because the zinc content turns the stone yellow-green and increases its hardness. The matrix of Damele is webbed with a dark brown to black matrix. The mine is small, thus its availability is limited. Due to its rare color, Damele is a collectible turquoise.

The Dry Creek turquoise mine is located on the Shoshone Indian Reservation near Battle Mountain, Nevada. Discovered in 1993, they were not sure what it was. Because of its hardness, it was decided to send it to have it assayed and it was in fact, as thought, turquoise. It was not until 1996 that it was used in jewelry. Turquoise gets its color from the heavy metals in the ground where it forms. Dry Creek turquoise forms where there are no heavy metals present, which turns out to be a very rare occurrence. The lack of any specific color consistency makes this stone distinctive and unique from other turquoises. To date, no other vein of this turquoise has been discovered anywhere else and when this current vein runs out, that will be the last of it. Because this turquoise is as rare as the sacred buffalo, the Indians

Enchantment turquoise mine is located near the town of Ruidosa, in the Sacramento Mountains of southeastern New Mexico. A gold miner while prospecting in 1958 "rediscovered" the "Lost Mine of Enchantment". It was first identified on an 1895 map as "old Indian diggings". It is the first new mine discovered in New Mexico since the days of Coronado in the 1500's. The mine remained a well-kept secret until1997 when the miner visited the Turquoise Museum in Albuquerque and asked why the museum didn't display turquoise from Lincoln County, New Mexico. He was told that there were no known turquoise deposits in Lincoln County. He later returned with samples and the Lowry family, owners of the Turquoise Museum, acquired the claim. Today, the Lost Mine of Enchantment produces a medium grade turquoise that often shows a deep green color with tan or golden brown matrix. Yet, it can also range to a deep, rich blue. The green is influenced by the iron content in the stone and the blue by the copper content. They call it "Sacred Buffalo" Turquoise.

Fox is on of Nevada's most productive turquoise mines. In the 1940's, Dowell Ward purchased the old Cortez claims and developed them using the names Fox, White Horse, Green Tree and Smith to differentiate among the colors produced in the area and to create a larger perceived share of the turquoise market. The area produces a huge amount of good quality green or blue-green stone with a distinctive matrix.

The Kingman mine is located in Mohave County in western Arizona. The copper mining in the Mineral Park Mining District around Kingman has produced a larger supply of turquoise throughout the years. The matrix of most Kingman is naturally white but is usually dyed to black with shoe polish.

The best known of the contemporary mines was originally discovered in 1970's by a Shoshone sheepherder who stumbled upon a vein of turquoise on a hillside while tending his sheep. Eddy Mauzy and his family mined and marketed turquoise from this site to top southwest Indian artists. Jewelry featuring Indian Mountain turquoise was featured in Arizona Highways magazine in the 1970's. Indian Mountain mine is in Lander County, Nevada.

Lone Mountain turquoise mine, located in Esmeralda County, Nevada, once produced a great variety of turquoise. Usually found in nodules and is noted for some of the finest examples of spider web turquoise as well as clear, deep-blue stones. The turquoise is also noted for its ability to hold its color and not fade. Among "classic" American turquoise, only Lander Blue is more valuable. This mine has also been known as Blue Jay Mine. Lone Mountain turquoise is a valued addition to one's jewelry collection.

Also known as King's Manassa turquoise, Manassa turquoise mine is located in Manassa, Conejos County, Colorado. This site was originally mined by Ancestral Pueblo people and was rediscovered in 1890 by gold prospector, I.P. King. His descendants still work the claim. King's Manassa turquoise is best known for its rich, brilliant greens and golden matrix. Blue and blue-green turquoise has been found amid these deposits as well.

Morenci turquoise is mined in southeastern Arizona, Greenlee County. It is high to light blue in color with an unusual matrix of irregular iron pyrite or "fool's gold" matrix that when polished often looks like silver. The name is derived from the large open pit Morenci copper mine where a great deal of turquoise from Morenci has been of the "lunch box" variety - carried out by workers and miners. Morenci turquoise is well known; it was one of the first American turquoises to come on the market and is often difficult to obtain because the mine is now depleted. Morenci turquoise is a collectible.

The Number 8 turquoise mine is in Calin, Nevada, and was at one time a gold and copper mining operation on the west side of the Tuscarora Mountain Range. It was a large mining district encompassing ten 20-acre claims and was active from the 1930's through the early 1950's. The mine has produced one of the most prized spider web turquoise deposits in the world. In its prime, enormous nodules were found, including one that weighed 150 pounds. Number 8 turquoise is famous for its black, golden-red and brown spider web matrix set off with the unique bright powder blue turquoise background. The mine is now depleted and Number 8 turquoise is extremely valuable.

Pilot Mountain is located in Esmeralda County, Nevada. This mine is currently active and is worked by one family. Pilot Mountain turquoise ranges in color from blue to green with a dark brown, black or reddish matrix. This stone is admired for its deep blue-green colors.

Red Mountain is located in Lander County, Nevada. This mine has produced a large quantity of graded turquoise and the best Red Mountain turquoise rivals some of the high quality turquoise produced by the best mines in the Southwest. Red Mountain turquoise with its intricate often red spider web matrix is usually set in the finest gold and silver American Indian Southwestern Jewelry.

The Sleeping Beauty mine, located near Globe, Arizona, produces a solid, light blue color with no matrix and is set in many styles of American Indian jewelry. A favorite of Zuni silversmiths, Sleeping Beauty is often used in needlepoint, petitepoint and inlay jewelry because of its consistency in color and is easy to cut. This mine is one of the largest in North America and is relatively abundant and affordable.

Stormy Mountain turquoise mine is located in Elko County, northeastern Nevada. Along with Blue Diamond mine, Stormy Mountain is known for producing hard, dark blue turquoise that includes a blotchy, black chart matrix that resembles storm clouds. This mine is presently not active and is a valuable addition to one's collection.

Turquoise Mountain and "Bird's eye" turquoise come from the same mine in Northwestern Arizona near the Kingman mine, Mineral Park Mining District. The mine was closed in the 1980's and has also been sold as "Old Man Turquoise". Turquoise Mountain turquoise is light to high blue with both webbed and non-webbed matrix. "Bird's eye" describes stones from this mine that show areas of light blue circled with dark blue matrix resembling the eye of a bird. It is a beautiful addition to one's collection.

Turquoise from the Tyrone mine was associated with the copper mine operations southwest of Silver City, New Mexico. The name "Tyrone" refers to a group of claims around Silver City and the Tyrone copper mine. This mine is currently owned by Phelps Dodge. Turquoise has not been mined from the mining operation since the early 1980's when Phelps Dodge changed its method of copper ore processing to crushing and acid wash. This method, obviously, destroys any turquoise in the copper ore. The Tyrone turquoise in new jewelry is from private stashes. It is a medium blue in its high grade form. Today, it is valued both for its beauty and rarity.

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More Products:
Amber Native American Jewelry | Amethyst Native American Jewelry | Azurite Native American Jewelry
Charoite Native American Jewelry | Coral Native American Jewelry | Gaspeite Native American Jewelry
Jet Native American Jewelry | Lapis Native American Jewelry | Malachite Native American Jewelry
Mother of Pearl Native American Jewelry | Spiny Oyster Shell Native American Jewelry
Sugilite Native American Jewelry | Turquoise Native American Jewelry
Native American Jewelry | Authentic Native American Jewelry | Southwestern Jewelry

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