Talking Turquoise with Joe Dan Lowry

On July 8th 2015, we took questions from our online viewers, about Turquoise and answered them with Turquoise expert, Joe Dan Lowry. Watch this video to hear the answers and much more about the enchanting gemstone, turquoise!

Joe Dan’s family has been involved in the turquoise industry for five generations and he is also the developer and curator of Albuquerque’s Turquoise Museum.

Explore Native American Turquoise Jewelry >>

Most people don’t know that turquoise is a global gemstone. China is the number one producer. Mexico is number two. It’s a global art form that uses turquoise.

Turquoise ready for polishing in the Turquoise Museum’s cutting studio.

When you go into Santa Fe or Old Town or Gallup, you’re just thinking Native American art. But there are all kinds of artists and art forms that use turquoise—Persian, Chinese, Tibetan, Mexican—and their turquoise art is sold around the world. The place where you get the highest prices for turquoise right now is Japan. It’s just stunning to most people that turquoise is global.

Joe Dan Lowry, author of TURQUOISE: THE WORLD STORY OF A FASCINATING GEMSTONE, at the Turquoise Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In Native American turquoise jewelry, the jewelry is primary and the turquoise is secondary. If you go anywhere else in the world, turquoise is primary and the artistry is secondary. For example, when you go shopping for a diamond, it’s not about the setting. It’s the diamond that is going to tell you what the price is. America and the Southwest have done an incredible job of marketing the artist. But the frustration now is that since we’re a global world, the prices the world pays for turquoise is much higher for the best than the American market is willing to pay.

All natural raw Kingman Turquoise

I don’t work from an agenda or a list. I work from the questions I get and I try my best to bring you knowledge, and knowledge about where you can access more information if you’re interested. I also want to know what other people think, what you’ve been told about turquoise. I’m learning too. We all learn in the moments we live. 

This is my family’s history that I’m trying to protect for history. Turquoise is my tool to meet the world. I get to travel the world and meet people all because of what this gemstone has offered the world. In the Southwest we get to feel and touch our history and the people who represent it. That is so cool. It’s not all high-society, let’s put on a bow-tie and go to some event. Our events are like “Hey, long time no see! How’s the family? How you been?” Institutions are only as valuable as the people who part of it. When an institution allows the people who are part of it to be who they are, then the institution is always stronger for it, and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center does that.

Raw turquoise ready to be shaped in the Turquoise Museum’s cutting studio.

What I would say to people interested in buying turquoise and turquoise jewelry is that the best thing is to buy is what you like. Always buy what you like for the right reason, and the right reason is defined by you and nobody else. If you want to buy a piece of jewelry because it matches your shoes, that’s great. If you want to spend $65,000 on a rare piece of jewelry by a rare artist, that’s good too. Buy what you like.

Turquoise cabochons ready for setting.

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For anyone interested in turquoise, from mineralogy and history to the mystical qualities and art of turquoise jewelry, we highly recommend Joe Dan Lowry’s book of TURQUOISE: THE WORLD STORY OF A FASCINATING GEMSTONE. It is an invaluable resource on turquoise for artists, collectors and dealers.

Explore Handcrafted Native American Turquoise Jewelry in the Gemstone of Enchantment Collection >


  • My wife and I chatted with Joe Dan Lowry at the Turquoise Museum in Albuquerque earlier today. Joe Dan graciously provide many insights on turquoise and life. Living for the moment, I had purchased some beautiful turquoise jewelry for my family members while in town. Joe Dan afforded these temporary treasures more valuable with the knowledge gained about the gem’s history and appreciation for the craftsmanship and creativity of the artists who design and construct these precious keepsakes. I have yet to read his books; however, in person Joe Dan inspires the soul.

    Steve Hennessee
  • Does turquoise have “grades”, and, what is meant by terms like “stabilized”, “enhanced”, & “raw”? How can the average person tell real turquoise from fake?

    Tony Ford
  • I get confused with the terms “natural”, “stabilized”, and “enhanced.” Is it true that “natural” turquoise with any nice color/matrix comes from mining in years past – that the “natural” turquoise mined today doesn’t have the color without being “enhanced” and/or “stabilized”?

  • We hear that turquoise is dwindling greatly in supply. Is there an estimated timeframe for how long it will be available, based on today’s mining efforts?

  • How can I know if I’m buying the real deal and if it’s American Native made?

    Diane Carlo

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