If you live in–or have the pleasure of visiting — America’s Southwest, you will undoubtedly encounter Native American turquoise jewelry. If any of those things are true for you, then I predict you will fall in love with the Squash Blossom Necklace.
What is a squash blossom necklace?
Native American Indians create jewelry that has a certain look. Designs are typically made with turquoise and silver. Turquoise cabochons that are bezel-set in silver make it into bracelets, conchos, earrings, and necklaces.
A necklace fashioned with certain elements of a squash plant flower is a Squash Blossom Necklace. Whether the necklace resembles the flower is in the eye of the beholder. See a photo comparison here and decide for yourself.
The naja, a Navajo word meaning ‘crescent,’ is an incomplete circle serving as a pendant in the necklace. The curved, open design may have been influenced by the horse bridles of Spaniards who occupied the Southwest, who in turn might have been influenced by early Moorish designs. It is important to note that the open pendant is not the ‘squash blossom’ part of the design.
The squash blossom comes in on the necklace part of the necklace, specifically in the beads that make up the rest of the piece. The ‘bead’ is turquoise, more correctly described as a turquoise cabochon (or cab) in a bezel setting.
Soldered onto one side of each cab are three separate pieces of silver, serving as the petals of the blossom. This is where creativity enters the design of each ‘blossom’ bead. The silver petals may be small or long and thin, wispy or substantial, but always three silver petals will emanate from each turquoise bead.
Completing the blossom on the opposite side is a shank. The shank is drilled, forming a hole through which the blossom beads are strung to form a necklace. Often, the blossom bead has no shank, the hole for stringing being drilled right through the turquoise bead or cab.
No squash blossom necklace is like any other. Every squash blossom necklace is unique and made by hand by a Native American Indian of Navajo, Zuni, or Pueblo descent.
Sterling silver is the precious metal of choice. The finished jewelry is usually stamped as such (with ‘925’ or ‘sterling’) including the initials of the artist. When buying such a piece, be sure to ask what the initials stand for, so that you know the full name of the Native American creator of your splendid Squash Blossom Necklace.
Article by Lorrain Yapps Cohen
Imagine it’s 1877. Nearly two decades ago, you rushed out to the West seeking all that gold they talked about. And all you got was wet, dirty, broke, and a few sparkly flakes. Unless you were Hugh, Harry, and Joe. For the three prospectors, Misters Jones, McCoy, and Halcro, their determination paid off, not in gold but in a copper find in the mountainous corner of southeastern Arizona.
They staked their claim, and as the song says, fools rushed in. Hundreds of claims later in less than two years, the area developed into a mining camp known locally as Mule Gulch. The town kept on growing, attracting more miners, more claims, more digging for earthly riches. But they were no fools; they just had no money.
The Copper Queen mine resulted from the largest claim. It too needed a financial backer for operations to continue. That backer turned out to be Dewitt Bisbee, a judge from San Francisco, for whom the growing Arizona mining town, Bisbee, was named. It is said that Judge Bisbee never saw Bisbee. If it were me for which they named a town, I surely would have scheduled a visit. It went on to be one of young America’s most important mining cities of the time.
It’s 1881. Another large claim, the Atlanta, soon attracted the attention of another business investor. Phelps Dodge (not to be confused with certain Chrysler car dealerships) bought up Atlanta, merging it with the Copper Queen in 1885, bringing in the railroad in 1889, and becoming the owner of most of the valuable copper mining properties in the region by the turn of the century.
Now back to the future for a moment. Remember your chemistry and gemological knowledge. Turquoise is a hydrous phosphate of copper and aluminum and gets its familiar aqua color from the copper.
Turquoise is found in veins associated with copper ores. So, it’s no surprise that turquoise was found in the Bisbee mines, which were mining copper ore for more than fifty years.
It’s 1950. To increase copper production, low-grade ores were worked from nearby areas. One such open mine, called Sacramento Hill, was ordered extracted by the Phelps Dodge mine operations manager, Harrison Lavender. When Lavender’s crew was done with Sacramento Hill, they renamed it Lavender Pit, not only because the hill was now a pit, and not only because Harry Lavender ordered it dug out, but also because it was lavender, the color. Yes, the pit looks light purple from afar.
It’s 1972. Phelps Dodge has mined about all the copper from it can from Lavender Pit. The turquoise found there was of more interest to the miners who dug there than it was to the company. It is said that miners stashed turquoise chunks and chips in their lunchboxes. Bob Matthews, one of those miners, was granted rights to mine whatever turquoise was there. And a fine turquoise it was, indeed, although there wasn’t that much of it. All of it was embedded in granite and found in veins only inches wide. About a ton in total of jewelry quality turquoise was extracted from Lavender Pit within the next two years.
It’s now. Lavender Pit in Bisbee, Arizona, is a tourist destination with foot paths and walking tours conducted at the rim. Visitors can peer into the place where Bisbee turquoise came from, but will nevermore. Bisbee turquoise, what there was of it, can now be found in vintage turquoise jewelry, from collectors, or ordered from the current owners. You can imagine that they ration whatever existing supply remains. All of this is the reason authentic Bisbee turquoise is expensive, in short supply, and high demand, but, oh, so lovely and oh, so hard to get.
Sourced from: Durango Silver Co, Nevada Gem, The Ghost Town Gallery and Lorraine Yapps Cohen
White turquoise is a stone that can be mistaken for howlite or magnesite. Here’s what I know about the difference between them.
The real white turquoise is not turquoise-colored at all but a white stone with a black matrix. I like to think white turquoise is turquoise before it turned blue and absorbed all that copper over the eons of geologic time. Chemically speaking, turquoise is CuAl6(PO4)4(OH)8.4H2O. Understandably speaking, turquoise is a hydrous phosphate of copper and aluminum, and gets its familiar blue color from the copper. So, if somebody dug up the turquoise before the copper settled in, it would be colorless, hence white turquoise. Right?
The real white turquoise is from the Dry Creek Mine in Nevada. Discovered on the Shoshone Indian Reservation in the 1990s, the tribes there didn’t make much jewelry from the white turquoise found litereally in their backyards. The Navajo and Zuni, being master crafters of turquoise jewelry, put the white turquoise to work in their creations much the same as their turquoise-colored turquoise. They called the white variety “sacred buffalo turquoise” because it was as rare as a white buffalo. Or as rare as a plain buffalo for that matter, because as far as I know, there hasn’t been a buffalo sighted in the Navajo Nation for decades. But what do I know.
Howlite is also a white stone with a black matrix. A calcium borosilicate hydroxide, chemically it is Ca2B5SiO9(OH)5. And how did howlite get its name? After Henry, the Nova Scotian geologist, that’s Henry How. Howlite is the white stone often dyed blue and “substituted for turquoise by unscrupulous jewelry dealers” (according to Charlotte Kuchinsky in her AC article, “Howlite: Uncovering the Duality of the Gemstone“). So, if howlite looks like turquoise before the techs turned it blue in the lab, maybe howlite is the stuff in the ground that’s turquoise before copper turned it blue. No. You don’t need to know any chemistry to see that the chemical formulae for turquoise and howlite are sufficiently different, with or without the copper (Cu), to be very different rocks from one another.Magnesite is yet another white stone with a black matrix. A carbonate of magnesium, magnesite is MgCO3, and is named after, well, magnesium the element. And the only thing it has in common with white turquoise and howlite is that it is yet another white stone with a black matrix.
So where’s all that difference between the fakes and the real thing? The fact is that they are all beautiful white stones with a black matrix and none of them are fakes for a white stone with a black matrix. What you call them may be the same or may be different. Call them what you will. Call them by whatever the seller said they were. The fact is you’ll never know if they’re different from what somebody says they are or what you bought them as. Oh, you can pulverize your necklace and put it through an elemental analysis to know whether you have white turquoise, howlite, or magnesite. For myself, I’d rather have the necklace and enjoy it for the beauty I bought it for.
I do know that the white turquoise I have as my jewelry supply was sold to me as white turquoise. I do not know what ground, mine, or country it came from before it was sold to me. And I didn’t think of asking, being the trusting soul that I am. The stones were gorgeous, the white ones in a black matrix, and I paid a fair price for the rather ample supply I purchased (although I paid an unfair price for the airline’s over-limit weight charges to get it on the plane).
Lovely to look at and interesting to wear, all of them–white turquoise, howlite, and magnesite– were created equal in the eyes of Mother Earth and destined to display their majesty through the artistry of jewelers who see lovely white stones with a black matrix and call them beautiful.
Written by Lorrain Yapps Cohen
My first encounter with amazonite was in a desert rock shop in Arizona. My husband, my vigilant rock hound and specimen scout, held up a handful of pretty blue-green stones. “How do you like these? I liked them alot and knew they would work nicely in a wire-wrap necklace design. “I’ll take these turquoise stones.” I told the friendly rock shop sales lady of my buying intentions, but she corrected me. “They’re not turquoise, they’re amazonite,” she said that in a way that sounded more like ‘amazing, right?’.
So, questions facing me squarely centered on how to pronounce the newly discovered stone: More like “amazing,” which is what those stones were? Or more like “Amazon,” the big South American river and big online sales outfit? Also, which syllable in amazonite is to be stressed? The rock shop sales lady and I had different answers and orthogonal opinions about those pronunciation matters. I’ll leave you to wonder how it worked out.
What also needed working out was the difference between amazonite and turquoise. The two have a similar color, but that’s where the similarity stops. What follows are ways to tell them apart.
Amazonite is turquoise-colored stone in a white matrix. Turquoise is turquoise-colored stone in a black matrix. The background to the turquoise color is the distinguishing visual clue. It’s distinctive, if you pay attention to what did not attract you to the stone in the first place. So, don’t be snookered by the attractive turquoise color. The background is key for telling one from the other.
Elementary, my dear!
Now, here’s where a little knowledge of chemistry goes a long way. The chemical formula for amazonite is too long to fit on this line. It’s a silicate, that is, its chemical foundation is silicon and oxygen with atoms of potassium, aluminum, sodium, and calcium in the molecule too. Suffice it to say simply that amazonite is a feldspar. Feldspars form from the crystallization of magma in veins and constitute 60% of rock in the earth’s crust. So, feldspar, of which amazonite is a turquoise-colored member, is quite a common mineral.
Turquoise also has a chemical formula that barely fits on this line. Simply stated, turquoise is a hydrous phosphate of copper and aluminum. Simply stated, its not a silicate like amazonite is. Simply stated, it doesn’t have the potassium, sodium, and calcium atoms that amazonite has in its molecule. Simply stated, turquoise isn’t even close, elementally, to amazonite.
Uncommonly common color
It’s the turquoise color of turquoise and amazonite that’s so similar. Copper is what accounts for the color in turquoise. In amazonite, the color story isn’t nearly so clear. It was believed that copper caused the turquoise color in amazonite too. But our preceding chemistry lesson–and somebody else’s elemental analysis–showed that copper is not one of the elements present in amazonite. So, where does the color come from?
The short answer is nobody knows for sure. Hoffmeister and Rossman postulated in 1985 that lead, in small quantities with water in the feldspar, cause the turquoise color in amazonite. A better answer does not appear forthcoming.
I’m not sure gemstone lovers and jewelry makers are interested enough to find out, as they appreciate amazonite for the lovely color it displays, whatever its source. And now that we know how to recognize amazonite visually, we no longer are fooled by the pretty turquoise look-alike.
In gemstone jewelry, it’s all about the color and how the gemstone appeals to one’s sense of beauty and harmonious design. In the rock shop, “Ring up those amazing turquoise-colored stones, whatever they are!”
Sources: personal experience, www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazonite , Hoffmeister, Rossman, Am. Min. 70, 794-804 (1985).
Written by Lorrain Yapps Cohen
Learn A Little About Green Turquoise Jewelry
Green is the currently fashionable color for fine jewelry and fashionable jewelry accessories. Green is the color; turquoise is the stone. Maybe. For us Turquoise fans it is definately Green Turquoise.
Natural green turquoise occurs in colors ranging from blue to green, often with a black matrix or black veining. A known natural green turquoise is Broken Arrow turquoise, sourced from the Otteson family’s Nevada mine. It’s different from other domestic turquoise sources in that the turquoise isn’t turquoise-colored, it’s green.
Some green turquoise gets its green from color treatments of howlite and magnesite, both white stones with a black matrix. In their natural state, howlite and magnesite closely resemble authentic white turquoise. When dyed, the stones take on a green color that is indistinguishable from natural green turquoise color by the casual observer. To a professional natural green Turquoise is obviously different looking from the colored product of synthetic green Turquoise jewelry.
There are tests to determine whether green turquoise is natural or dyed. The tests, however, are destructive. Whether green turquoise is natural or color treated, the stones are interesting natural lapidary sources for turquoise jewelry.
The necklace of green turquoise shown in the photo is fashioned from stones sold as ‘green turquoise.’ It is at the discretion of viewers to decide whether the green color is real or fashioned from alternative stones and man-made treatments, or whether the source of the green even matters. For this jewelry designer and gemstone writer, it’s about the design. I like the lovely green color however it got there! Do you?
Green Turquoise Jewelry
by Lorraine Yapps Cohen
HSN Rock Star Jay King’s Buddy Marty Colbaugh, Owner Of THE Kingman Mine, Doesn’t Play Favorites: He Sells Turquoise To HSN Rival QVC
QVC’s Today’s Special Value Saturday is a blue Kingman turquoise necklace and enhancer made from Kingman turquoise that was found in a huge vein in the mine last year. This Turquoise has been stabilized as is most of the Turquoise sold on the two TV Shopping networks. Rarely, is natural Turquoise sold on the TV or in most commercial settings. To find natural quality Turquoise one must find a local American craftsman or highend jewelry gallery.
So Colbaugh is appearing in on-air promos on QVC and on videos on the network’s website.
But Colbaugh is also a business associate and friend of Jay King, who does the Mine Finds line for QVC rival HSN.
Just over a month ago, Colbaugh appeared live on HSN with King when the Today’s Special was a Kingman turquoise ring.
The blue Kingman turquoise used for both pieces is apparently from the same “find” last year, and there has not been such a turquoise score at the Arizona mine since the late 1960s or early 1970s, Colbaugh said on both HSN and one of his QVC videos.
When QVC host Jill Bauer said that the Today’s Special Value was manufactured in Albuquerque, N.M., we almost jumped out of our chair, because that’s where King’s factory is. But of course he is not making the QVC necklace.
Veteran QVC Southwestern jewelry vendor Carolyn Pollack, who like King is based in Albuquerque, is making it.
You will find Kingman Turquoise in every Turquoise Jewelry store and on every website. Kingman Turquoise is most likely the most commonly used Turquoise in the world next to Chinese Turquoise.
Turquoise – crystal form triclinic
Perfect texture – sky blue colour
Revered by the Aztecs and the Myans
Loved by the Apache Hunters
Tuirkish horsemen called it sacred
Protecting both the horse and rider
Verses form Koran carved on it
Turquoise – crystal form triclinic.
Turquiose – Lovely Ladies dreamstone
Lovely both to wear and fondle
Gemstone loved by all Victorians
Turquoise symbol of life’s cycles
Birth to Life and then to Heaven
It changes colour as it ages!
Mirroring all our life’s stages
Turquoise – Lovely Ladies dreamstone.
Turquoise – birthstone for Decemeber
Linked to star sign Sagitarius
Bringing happiness and fortune
Creativity and blessing
To the lives of all who wear her.
Gentle gemstone – tactile Turquoise
Shining with the Blue of Heaven
Turquoise – birthstone of December.
Sky Blue – Ice Blue – awesome turquoise
Turquoise – crystal form triclinic
Turquoise – Lovely Ladies dreamstone
Turquoise – birthstone for December
December for birthstone – Turquoise
Dreamstone Ladies Lovely – Turquoise
Triclinic form crystal – Turquoise
Turquoise awesome – Blue Ice – Blue Sky.
This poem is dedicated to the Angel of December.
(John Knight – Cool Colchester – 26 January 2010)
Oh, how ~ you lovely, silent thief
who stole the blue away
from the heavens and the seas,
the green from leaves ~ do play
on my heart strings, beckoning
me to purchase you and bring
the kind of joy ~ that only you,
in the world of gems can do.
You, who grow more treasured with
passing time ~ I can’t resist
and have to tell you ~ you’re beloved
by those who know the value of
this precious stone ~ that takes so long
just to come to be,
and one more rare, increasingly,
God’s gift ~ that is ~ to me
and others who ~ love beauty, too,
that’s cool, serene ~ displayed, in you!
It matters where your life begins,
close to copper, iron
or if there is aluminum
and other metals found,
that determine shades of blue,
green, or matrix, running through.
You were worn by Pharos, Kings
in ancient days ~ and are
still, among all gems we see,
more splendid and by far
the one that fills the eye with awe,
that fills the soul to overflow,
because you are ~ the shining star
of jewelry, made, today.
And as the world’s depleted of
your presence ~ one will pay
dearly for you ~ when you are
natural, polished and by far
lovelier than words can say,
and so, today, I seek
to find you for the ones I love,
to cherish and to keep,
for you, Turquoise, will always be
the ocean, sky that colors thee!
Sally Edwards Prescott
Durango Silver Company has been working in the global marketplace since the 1990′s when they worked with the Marsay Company of Tokyo. Ultimately Durango Silver Company re-tooled his company to produce 23,000 pieces of American Turquoise Jewelry items to applied onto Sterling Silver Zippo lighter cases. It was a big hit and Durango Silver Company went on to produce nearly a half million Sterling Silver and Turquoise pieces for export to Tokyo, Japan.
More recently, Durango Silver Company has been shipping Silver and Turquoise Jewelry to many corners of the world and have found global trade to be much easier these days as many of the shipping companies such as UPS, Fedex and their favorite shipper the U.S. Postal Service has made great strides in global shipping and insurance.
Durango Silver Company is now partnering with a company in Malta to unveil their new global website for the European community at www.Turquoise-Jewelry.com. Our company is in a R & D process to develop a new inovative style of Sterling Silver Jewelry that can accomidate any type of gemstone that is called for by a particular demographic.
Durango Silver Company is also looking at other prospects in the global marketplace for their authentic American made products which are in great demand. As economics become tighter we may have to dig deeper, says John Hartman (CEO,) whatever it takes, we are Americans and we are some of the most creative minded people on earth!
Keep your eyes peeled… Durango Silver Company always has new things in the works!
The United States economy has slowed dramatically despite what government reports and president Obama claims. We must realize they do need to be optimistic or we would be in a hell of a state. As we have passed the 15,000,000,000,000.00 point we can no longer even pay the interest on the money we have borrowed from the world and soon we will lose possession of the world bank. There is no doubt, we are in a very serious situation that has some very interesting implications – the U.S. is the peace keepers of the world and what will the world do with out the U.S. to come to their rescue? Anyway, as individual Americans we must now be aggressive for ourselves and start reaching out to find our own way to stay afloat in these trying times that are upon us now and the uncertainty of tomorrow.
Turquoise and Turquoise Jewelry is popular in many parts of the world, did you know it was first discovered over 7,000 years ago in Egypt? There are examples of Turquoise Jewelry are on display in the Cairo Museum that have been carbon dated back to 5500 B.C. People in many areas of the world have worn Turquoise for thousands of years and still love it as much as they alway have.
Different cultures around the world do not adorn themselves as lavishly as Americans and Tibetans do, however, there is a great market out there for American Turquoise and American Turquoise Jewelry as American Turquoise is some of the finest in the world and the world loves American Turquoise.
As the American market has slowed down and consumers are hanging on tight to their wallets, other economies around the globe are doing quite well and business is as usual. The time is upon us to look to the world and find new places to sell our goods. We must re-evaluate what type of Jewelry will be appropriate to market than design and develop new Jewelry styles that will fit into their lifestyles.
It would be intelligent for American business to take control of their own destiny and seek the way for the future well-being of their own businesses. It would not be intelligent to sit back and watch your business fall deeper and deeper into debt and disaster. Lets get busy and market ourselves to the world!
Durango Silver Company