American Turquoise – Past to Present

Turquoise History to present day – Turquoise Information

Turquoise Information
The Anasazi culture began in the Southwest in approximately 350 B.C. and the Anasazi people began mining Turquoise as early as 200 B.C. It is believed they mined Turquoise for spiritual purposes and to supply artisans with gemstones to carve and grind into beads as well as mosaic pieces to apply to seashells that were traded from Mesoamerica. Anasazi people mined Turquoise at what we now know as the Conejos
area of Colorado, at Cerrillos, in the Burro Mountains, and at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.

The Anasazi had trade routes that spanned the western part of North America and Mesoamerica. Turquoise stones from ancient Turquoise mines at Cerrillos have been found in multiple Aztec archaeological sites in what is now Mexico and Turquoise Stones that the Anasazi mined in Chaco Canyon have been found as far away as Chichen Itza, which was the greatest Mayan City of those times located on the Yucatan Peninsula. They traded Turquoise for Parrots and Seashells as well as other trade items brought from Mexico and California by nomadic traders.

Turquoise commerce became very important and at its height, approximately 1000 A.D., the Cerrillos Turquoise mines were the major source of wealth of the Anasazi civilization. Chaco Governors had taken control of the Turquoise Mines at Cerrillos and raw Turquoise was brought to Pueblo Bonito, at Chaco Canyon to be cut into beads, amulets and small pieces to be used for mosaics. Mesoamerican merchant traders took Turquoise from the Anasazi’s back to their homelands for use in jeweled and mosaic creations by Mayan Artisans and other items. Nomadic Traders for the Toltec merchants in central Mexico visited the Anazazi’s regularly as trade from the Southwest to Mesoamerica had become brisk.

Shortly after 1000 A.D. the people’s of western Mexico discovered how to work with metals and began making copper bells and other metal trade items to send with traders up the coastline and across the Sierra Madre to trade for Turquoise with the Hohokam (now known as Arizona) and the Anasazi Indians in exchange for their metal works.

As Natives began to find large Turquoise deposits in Arizona and Nevada, Turquoise trade with between the Toltec Empire and the Anazazi’s from Pueblo Bonito began to diminish and as more Turquoise came into circulation, trade collapsed. Around 1100 A.D., a civil war destroyed the Toltec Empire and there was no longer a demand for Turquoise by the Toltecs. Trade with western Mexico must have not been active enough to support the economy that had been developed amongst the Anasazi’s.

By 1200 AD, the Chaco Canyon center and most of the settlements of the Anasazi civilization were entirely deserted. They moved to the Rio Grande Valley and a few other desert river areas of what we now call New Mexico, to establish several Pueblos. The Santo Domingo Indians are noted as being the most prevalent and industrious in continuing to work with and trade in Turquoise. The Cerrillos Turquoise Mine is located a short distance from the Santo Domingo Pueblo and it is certain the Santo Domingo Indians continued to use Cerrillos Turquoise to
make Turquoise Beads and ornaments for trade.

As Santa Fe became an important trade route, the Santo Domingo Indians went to Santa Fe to trade their Turquoise Beads and handcrafts to the brisk trade coming though the region. Many examples of early Santo Domingo Turquoise Beads and Jewelry are on display in Museums throughout North America as the Santo Domingo were ambitious and prolific in their arts, crafts and trade.

As settlers began migrating westward, the Navajo Indians took up blacksmithing to capitalize on the immigrants by repairing their wagons and other utensils. In the mid 1860’s, a blacksmith named Atsidi Sani learned how to work Silver into ornaments and Silver Jewelry. Atsidi Sani is responsible for making the first Navajo Indian Jewelry and most likely Atsidi Sani was responsible for making the first Navajo Indian Turquoise Jewelry. It is known the Navajo traded for Turquoise Beads from the Santo Domingo for many years prior to incorporating it into Silver to make Turquoise Jewelry.

Navajo Turquoise Jewelry was immediately accepted by the Navajo people and soon traded between other American Indian tribes began. The spread of Turquoise Jewelry to distant areas began quickly once the Navajos began making it. History records show that Atsidi Sani and his brother taught many other Navajos how to make Turquoise Jewelry as the demand was so strong for their Silver Jewelry with and without Turquoise.

By 1880, the Railroad had come through the Southwest which opened a new market for Turquoise Jewelry. The Native American Indians would bring their Jewelry to all of the stops in Arizona and New Mexico.

In 1908, the Grand Canyon became a National Monument and Tourism to the Southwest took off. Turquoise Jewelry was one of the main Tourist items in the park and quickly grew as Trading Posts along Route 66 sprung up one after another.

The Turquoise Boom! – There was a major Turquoise boom in the 1930’s – 40’s which encouraged many to hunt for Turquoise in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado. Many Turquoise Mines opened to produce the Turquoise to quench the thrust of the market that was under way. Each Turquoise Mine had different characteristics in the Turquoise that it produced and many produced highly unusual Turquoise from the others. For this reason the naming of Turquoise Mines came to be.

By the 1960’s, buyers of Turquoise Jewelry were requesting particular types of Turquoise and paying premium prices for Jewelry items that were made with high quality Turquoise. Marketers of Turquoise Jewelry quickly recognized high quality Turquoise as well and promoted it heavily to the consumers that were buying Turquoise Jewelry.

By the 1980’s, Turquoise and Turquoise Jewelry had become recognized as an American heritage that was very collectible. Notable individuals that were well-known for their valuable collections of fine art and antiquities were now collecting American Handcrafted Turquoise Jewelry.

By 2000, and the advent of the Internet, American Turquoise and Turquoise Jewelry from the Southwestern United States has been noted to be one of the most unusual types of handmade Jewelry in the world and admired by important individuals worldwide. In the short period of
time from 2000 to 2011 the demand for high quality Turquoise has risen exponentially while the mining for it has nearly ceased. The costs of mining along with mining restrictions have brought the mining of Turquoise nearly to a halt. There are presently only two Turquoise Mines in the United States actively producing Turquoise in bulk, the Kingman Turquoise Mine and the Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Mine.

At the same time that Turquoise mining in the U.S. has diminished, Turquoise mining in China has escalated and a major share of the Turquoise in Jewelry being produced is Chinese Turquoise. In the past couple of years the quality of Chinese Turquoise has gone down so
dramatically they have started to produce fake Turquoise.  At the 2011 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show it was announced that the Chinese Government has put a 3-5 year moratorium on mining Turquoise in China and is enforcing this new law with their military.

The bottom line is that Turquoise has become one of the top ten most desired gemstones on earth and the production on authentic natural Turquoise is slowed down to an alarming rate.

Today 2011, quality American Turquoise and Turquoise Jewelry has reached an all time high in demand as well as value. The value of high-grade Turquoise is increasing in value well over 100% annually and with Turquoise mining activity in the state it is in, it is certain that high quality Turquoise values are going to go through the roof in the future.

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