Getting to Know Turquoise

Native American Turquoise Jewelry
For thousands of years, Native American people of the Southwest have made, worn, and traded mosaic inlay and beads of turquoise, shell, bone, or stone. Before the arrival of metal, ancient Puebloan people, the ancestors of today’s Pueblo Indian tribes, mined turquoise in what is today Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. Chaco Canyon, in northwestern New Mexico, was at the center of turquoise trade routes stretching from the Pacific Northwest to Central America. Turquoise was not set in silver until the late 19th century after Navajo and Zuni artisans learned metalsmithing. The blue and green gem quickly became a favorite with Native American silversmiths, and was extremely popular with tourists visiting the Southwest in the early 20th century. Today, turquoise jewelry is often seen in the regalia of dancers on Pueblo feast days, given as gifts. 

Some Native Americans believe the gem was a gift from the spirits and call it “The Sky Stone”.

Today, turquoise is one of the most iconic images of the Southwest and is still revered among Native American jewelry artists.

From our archives, here are some interesting facts that we learned in 2018 when our staff sat down and "Talked Turquoise" with world-renowned turquoise expert, Joe Dan Lowery, of the Turquoise Museum that is located right here in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Art of Turquoise
When visiting New Mexico or when thinking of Native American art, turquoise immediately comes to mind. From Santo Domingo Heishi beads to Zuni Pueblo Channel Inlay, turquoise is a common sight in Native American jewelry, 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. Turquoise is a global gemstone with China and Mexico being its number one and two producers, respectively.

Generations of Lapidary In Native American jewelry, the artistry of the jewelry is primary, with turquoise being secondary. If you travel anywhere else in the world, turquoise is primary and the artistry is secondary. The skill and craftsmanship that has been developed over the generations is exceptional, and in the Southwest, we get to feel and touch our history with this stone and the people who represent it.

Formed Within the Earth Turquoise is formed when water enters an iron-rich limonite or sandstone that contains copper, aluminum and other minerals. It takes millions of years and the right conditions for turquoise to be formed. The gemstone’s blue color can be attributed to the presence of copper while the presence of aluminum adds a greenish hue to the gem.

To learn more about this fascinating stone, from mineralogy and history to its mystical qualities, we highly recommend Joe Dan Lowry’s book and a trip to the Turquoise Museum—an invaluable resource on turquoise for artists, collectors and dealers.

Explore the many ways in which Native American jewelers have incorporated turquoise into their creations by visiting our turquoise collection. We thank you for trusting Indian Pueblo Store as your connection to authentic Pueblo art and artists.

SHOP OUR TURQUOISE COLLECTION

7 comments

  • Good info. I love turquoise. It would be nice to know how to recognize the different turquoise patterns which come from different sites.

    Suzanne
  • Good info. I love turquoise. It would be nice to know how to recognize the different turquoise patterns which come from different sites.

    Suzanne
  • Grazie per questo bel articolo. Io ho un bel anello d’argento con pietra turchese, ma in Italia è difficile trovare manufatti in vero turchese e poi è molto costoso.

    Bozzato Remo
  • Am indigenous-descendant; always feel so good wearing turquoise. Thanks for the history

    Kathrina
  • Thanks for the info

    Patricia Batson

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