Friday, July 6, 2012

It's All About the Rocks

Don't get me wrong here—the sterling work is where the real artistry comes in. But closer examination of Native American works show that the stone was the inspiration for the piece, and the sterling work is often designed around it. This is the case when a stone 'speaks' to the artisan.

Certain mines produce stones that are soft, yet stable, and are easily carved to fit into a particular style of jewelry. Zuni Petit Point and Needle Point pieces are almost exclusively done using Sleeping Beauty mine stones for this reason. Their sky blue color and absence of matrix make for some pretty amazing displays.

Many mines produced for a short period and some rendered stones that are easily identified, but there are so many mines that have been in operation for decades, the different turquoise veins that are tapped will often have stones of drastically varying characteristics. This can make stone identification difficult as one mine will produce stones very similar to another.

There are a few exceptions; turquoise from the Lander Blue mine, the #8 mine, the Bisbee mine and a few others, have an unmistakable matrix and color as the veins of the mine continually produce turquoise of the same look and quality. The desire for this type of stone is high, with Lander Blue being the most expensive turquoise on the market due to the low production rate of the mine and the unusual matrix and color of the stones. As you might guess, we don't find a lot of Lander pieces, but when we do, they sell very quickly.

Turquoise is such a wonderful and time honored offering from the earth, its importance in Native American works is highly significant, and when a piece is true to the stone, it increases its value considerably. We see a lot of work and it's always disappointing to see sterling work that was obviously done with great care, only to have an inferior stone slapped into it. But turquoise prices, especially for high-grade stones, have proven prohibitive to artisan's that produce a lot of work. It's the pieces that are done by artisans with little concern for mass production that invariably incorporate quality stones. These are the pieces we present on the website.

Stone selection is a major factor in the pieces we offer, and turquoise that has been treated / stabilized is shied away from—its color and matrix are no longer natural and it gives the stones a plastic appearance. The stabilization process became popular in the 1950s as a way to offer more stones to the jewelry manufacturing industry—the process was used on inferior grade materials that were prone to breaking, and its still being done today, with the stones being incorporated into mass produced jewelry.

We do the best we can when identifying natural turquoise stones, and will not give a definitive identification unless we're certain of their origin, which is often the case. There are just too many variations produced by a single source to say with absolute certainty in some instances, and misleading our buyers is simply not an option. The pieces we offer incorporate superior stones, many being gem quality, from high-grade sources. There's just no reason to do it any other way.

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