Captivating man’s imagination throughout history, this beautiful semi-precious stone has played a great role in trade, art and jewelry for centuries.
One of the world's most ancient gems, turquoise has a rich history surrounded by a certain mystery. Archaeological excavations revealed that the rulers of ancient Egypt adorned themselves with turquoise jewelry, and Chinese artisans were carving it more than 3,000 years ago. Ancestral Pueblo commerce centered on this semi-precious stone. In fact, it was so widely traded that archaeologists have found it at sites throughout much of North America. The gem’s name comes from the French expression pierre tourques, or “Turkish stone.” The name, which originated in the thirteenth century, reflects the fact that the material probably first arrived in Europe from Turkish sources. Even explorers such as Marco Polo made notes throughout his travel books on the bright blue stone.
Turquoise is a mineral. The majority of it is found in regions with a rich volcanic or thermal history. It forms when water percolates through rocks that contain copper, aluminum and other minerals. A chemical reaction takes place resulting in deposits that we know as turquoise. This, of course, is a simplified way of describing a process that takes millions of years and only happens when a complex set of conditions occur.
The colors that can be seen in turquoise are a direct result of where it came from. The blue in turquoise is enhanced when copper is present. If the area where turquoise is formed contains more aluminum, the turquoise will be more of a green color. When zinc is present, the deposits are a yellow-green color. Black markings that occur in turquoise are called matrix and the term spider webbing is often used to describe it.
In the United States, domestic mines hold some of the most coveted turquoise in the entire world. Most of these mines are located in the West and Southwest of the country, the Cerrillos mines being the oldest. The Cerrillos mines were the site of the largest prehistoric mining activity on the continent. Currently, Doug Magnus, an artist represented by Sorrel Sky Gallery, owns these mines located outside of Santa Fe. Today, very little turquoise comes from these mines making owning a piece of Cerrilios turquoise very sought after.
IN NATIVE AMERICAN JEWELRY
The fascination with turquoise in America came about in the 1920’s when more of people were able to travel, especially by way of train. Native American jewelry became more popular after 1925, when the classic squash blossom necklaces were first brought to the market. This squash blossom craze lasted well into the 1940’s, and is still an item perused by many collectors and enthusiast today. It was also in the 1920’s and 1930’s that the Concha belt changed from a simple silver design to a more ornate style featuring multiple turquoise stones.
Native American jewelry continued to be crafted and sold in the 1950’s and early 1960’s in a traditional style. Turquoise did not become widely popular until the mid-1960’s and early 1970’s. At that time the simple and natural beauty of turquoise jewelry became the rage of the American fashion scene. It was during this boom period, up to the 1980s, that many Native American artists made their mark. By incorporating turquoise, they created unusual concepts and techniques in jewelry designs.
AT SORREL SKY
Natural turquoise is both beautiful and magnificent. Each piece truly becomes one with its wearer, as natural turquoise develops a lovely patina as it is worn and absorbs oils from the skin. Several jewelry artists like Doug Magnus, GURHAN, Kaizen, Pam Springall, Darryl Dean and Rebecca Begay, and Ben Nighthorse, just to name a few, create amazing pieces featuring turquoise. Each one of these Sorrel Sky Gallery artists, with their own individual style, provides an array of ways to utilize and wear turquoise. Every design creates appreciation for the beauty of turquoise, celebrating the complex and remarkable nature of this stone.