Turquoise has been used for thousands of years and it is found in many different locations throughout the world. Most of the Turquoise used in jewelry making here in the US comes from mines that are located in the southwestern part of the country. Most Turquoise is a bi-product of copper mines, but many of these mines also yield silver and gold. Chinese Turquoise is also used, but it is not as desirable as American Turquoise. There still many small mines in the US that yield small amounts of the stone. We use mostly Sleeping Beauty Turquoise in our jewelry, but there are other varieties that we occasionally use. The two following mines have been the largest producers of Turquoise for quite a while.
SLEEPING BEAUTY TURQUOISE
The Sleeping Beauty mine is located near Globe, Arizona and it has been producing Turquoise for many years. Sleeping Beauty is known for its clean sky blue color thought is can range into green, but this is very rare. The blue variety is highly desired by the Chinese, Japanese, and eastern Indians. Over the years they have consumed much of the production of this type of Turquoise, which has over the years has driven the price up. In 2012 the Sleeping Beauty was shut down, and since then prices have skyrocketed. Eventually all of the rough material that has been stashed away by the producers of beads and cabochons will run out and everyone knows it. Because of this the price keeps escalating at a pretty high rate.
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The Turquoise mine located near Kingman, Arizona has been yielding vast amounts of Turquoise for many years. This Turquoise runs the comes in a variety of blues and greens, but it usually never has the clean blue color that Sleeping Beauty is known for. Much of the Kingman Turquoise is stabilized because of its softness. It is not nearly as desirable as the Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, but since the closing of that mine, Kingman Turquoise has escalated in price because it is the only mine left producing large amounts Turquoise in the United States.
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Several years back I came across a stash of Armenian Turquoise, which I had never seen before. This Turquoise comes from the same mountain range that Persian (present day Iran) Turquoise used to come from, but it is on The Armenian side. These stones were cut more than 30 years ago and have some real diverse characteristics. It is too costly to import this stone these days because of the duties that the government in Armenia wants and you can imagine what it would be like trying to get Turquoise out of Iran these days. In the 1970’s Persian Turquoise was available in this country, but that was before all the turmoil overtook the middle east. The reason I mention this stone is so people will know what we are talking about when we have a piece with Armenian Turquoise.
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Coral is found in locations all around the world. The most common Coral that is used in jewelry comes from the western Mediterranean Sea. Most of it is processed in Torre del Greco, near Naples, Italy, which has been the top Coral Trading center more than 200 years, and it processes nearly 75% of Coral used in jewelry. Most of the Coral from this area is of the red variety, but some beautiful orange Coral has come from the Sicily area. This area has been closed to Coral harvesting so all of this material was harvested in the past.
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Momo Coral is found in the area of the South China Sea. This Coral ranges in color from pink to orange to angel skin to deep red. It is highly desired just like the Mediterranean Coral, but there is much less of it. Harvesting this Coral has been banned so it is getting very scarce which in turn has driven the price for all Corals upward.
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SPINY OYSTER SHELL
Most Spiny Oyster Shell used in the jewelry comes from the Baja California area of Mexico. The three predominant colors found in this region are bright orange, light to deep red, and purple. Some of the purple shells have some yellow in them, but this color is pretty rare. The Incans almost worshipped this shell and you will see it in their jewelry they made hundreds of years ago. Orange Spiny Oyster Shell is found in the Phillipines also, but since it is such a small shell with a very thin layer of color, these shells are limited as to what they can be used for. You never see beads made from this shell because of the thin layer of color, but it can be used for cutting smaller cabochons and also for inlay work.
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Gaspeite is a green stone that ranges in color from an olive green to a bright apple green. It got it’s name from the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, Canada where it was first discovered, but it was a very small amount. All of the Gaspeite being used in jewelry today is from a nickel mine in southern Australia. One group of traders brought over tons of the stone in the mid 1990’s, but that was a one shot deal. None has been brought over since then for reasons unknown to me, but this has made it mostly unavailable these days and if you can find it, the price is going to be almost prohibitive. The only reason we have any of this stone is because we bought several hundred kilos years back and have been having it cut overseas as we need it.
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Variscite is a green stone that varies in color from a pale green to an almost emerald green. Variscite has more of a lime green tint to it as opposed to Gaspeite which has a green apple color to it. It comes from several areas in the world, but the most highly desired stone is the dark green Variscite from Utah and the stone from Nevada that has veins of black running through it. It is still being mined and is available on the open market, but the highly desired colors are tending to get a little pricey.
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Chalcedony (pronounced Calsidney) is a translucent stone that actually belongs to the Quartz family of minerals. This stone can range in color from a soft grayish blue to light gray or even white. Much of this stone comes from Nevada, California, and Oregon while a small amounts originate in Namibia, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe. There are a lot more beads made from this material due to the fact that the very clean Chalcedony, which is desirable for cabochons, is a lot more scarce.
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Charoite is a purple stone found only in Siberia. This stone ranges in color from violet to an light purple with a hint of gray. Charoite is pretty new to the market and although there are very limited quantities, it is still pretty reasonably priced.
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Denim Lapis is a lower grade of Lapis. It is not deep blue but rather more of the color of Levis which is where it got it’s name. It can range from the color of brand new Levis to the color of faded out Levis. It became popular in the 1980’s with jewelry makers in the Southwest and to this day is somewhat popular. The pale blue stone is not as readily available as regular Lapis, especially the good clean quality Denim Lapis. A lot of the Denim has little white specks running through it which makes it not very attractive. It has always been one of the cheaper stones on the market because of the limited number of people who use it.
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Lapis, sometimes called Lapis Lazuli, is a very dark blue stone. Most of it comes from Afghanistan, and it has been used for over 6000 years by the people of the middle east. It was so plentiful that kings and princes would actually built staircases, giant pillars, and whatever else they could think of out of the stone. It is still a stone that is very available and because of the amount of Lapis in the middle east the price has not really gone up too much over the years. Back when the Russians were trying to take over V Afghanistan, it got rather expensive because it was very hard to get out of the country, but the price has tapered off since then.
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Sugilite is a rare purple stone that was first discovered in Japan, but was not of jewelry quality. In 1979 a large deposit of high grade material was discovered at a manganese mine in South Africa. All of the Sugilite being used today in jewelry production came from this location. Sugilite gets its attractive purple colour from traces of manganese. It can range in color from pinkish-purple to a deep bluish-purple. The most desirable Sugilite is a deep opaque purple with no black matrix. Since it is no longer being pulled out of the ground, it has become much rarer and much more expensive.
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Tourmaline: Tourmaline comes in an array of colors, but the most common are pink and green. The qualities of this stone can vary widely from rich, almost Emerald green to a light green much like Peridot to a pink color ranging from light to an almost deep red pinkish color. Very high grade Tourmaline is usually cut into faceted stones for setting in prong mounts, but a lot of this material is cut into cabochons and also beads. Much of the Tourmaline on the market today is found in Brazil, but it comes form many other parts of the world. Good clear Tourmaline is not cheap, but it is still available.
Amethyst: Amethyst is a clear violet colored stone ranging in color from light to deep purple. It is from the Quartz family and owes its color to aluminum and iron impurities. There are several parts of the world that it comes from but the largest deposits are found in Brazil. There is no shortage of this stone so it is pretty reasonable in price except when buying the best of the best.
Citrine: Citrine is a clear yellow stone with the same characteristics as Amethyst except for the fact that it has less iron impurities causing it to be yellow instead of purple.
Iolite: Iolite is deep blue clear gemstone much resembling Sapphire. It is found throughout the world, but most of the Iolite on the open market today comes from India. The largest gem grade Iolite was discovered in 1996 in the state of Wyoming. It can range from a light smoky blue to a rich dark sapphire blue. It is readily available today in the open market.
Topaz: Topaz is a sky blue clear gemstone that has been around for more than 2000 years. It has always bee thought of as a blue stone, but the truth of the matter is that topaz can be many shades of color including white. What gives it its color is the impurities that are made up of the mineral composition of the stone. There is a lot of Topaz still available on the market today.
Peridot: Peridot is a light green gemstone with it’s own characteristics. Unlike Amethyst and Citrine, Peridot’s color comes from the basic chemical composition of the mineral itself and not from minor traces of impurities. All Peridot is green ranging from a light to dark in color. Most of the Peridot comes from Burma though there are deposits Pakistan, China, and Arizona as well. Since it is an all to itself in color stone, Peridot can get pretty pricey, but it is still very available on the open market.