Turquoise is possibly the most valuable, non-transparent mineral used in jewelry. It has been mined since at least 6000 BC by Egyptians. Like other opaque such as coral, turquoise is commonly sold by the size in millimeters rather than by weight.
Turquoise is usually found sandstone layers and can be seen as splotches or as a network of brown or black veins running through the sandstone. There are many small-scale mining operations that are worked by hand. Only one mine in Apache Canyon California operates at a commercial capacity today.
With a hardness of just under 6, about the hardness of window glass, this gemstone takes a good polish. It comes in white, blue, green, brown, yellow and all of the shades in between. The value of the turquoise you will find is determined by the richness of color. Robins egg is usually the most valuable. The more of a green hug or lightening of color will decrease the value. Turquoise should never be soft or chalky in color.
Turquoise is typically found in the arid regions of the world and some high quality gemstones have been found in the Southwest United States such as Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.
More that 120 mines have produced significant quantities of gem quality turquoise in Nevada. Nevada mines are primarily worked for the gemstone as apposed to other mining areas where turquoise is usually the result of the by product of other mining activities. The geological formation of Nevada turquoise, it is hard and dense and usually does not require any treatment or enhancements to be used in jewelry.
The Royston mining district located near Tonapah, Nevada conducts tours of the mining facility Wednesday through Saturday excluding holidays. For $100 per person you will get a bucket to fill up by picking through the tailing piles. You will need to bring gloves, hat, sunscreen, water, and a good pair of shoes.
The mines in Royston have been in operation since 1902 and by 1915 over $5,000,000 worth of turquoise has been removed from the mines. It was believed to have been the largest single producing turquoise mine in America at that time.
The Ottesons Mine also offers mine tours, Wednesday through Friday excluding holidays. For $50 per person you will get a bucket to fill up by picking through the tailing piles.
Turquoise is found throughout the Southwest United States. Always contact the states Bureau of Land Management for any fees or permit requirements before treasure hunting on public land. Also get permission from any land owners before hunting on private property.
In Arizona turquoise has been found near Albuquerque, Bisbee, Cave Creek, Globe, Kingman, Turquoise and Birdeyes mountains.
In California turquoise has been found in San Bernardo, Imperial, and Inyo counties.
In Colorado, search Conejos, Lake, El Paso and Saguache Counties.
In Nevada, search Clark, Elko, Esmeralda County, Eureka, Lander, Mineral County and Nye counties.
New Mexico, Eddy, Grant, Otero, and Santa Fe counties.
Tools you will need to hunt for turquoise; Pick Axe, rock hammer, gloves, safety glasses, bucket. Remember you are searching arid regions of the world so proper clothing is a must. Wear clothing in layers because weather can change very rapidly in these areas. Water, hat and a good sunscreen is a must.
Happy Treasure Hunting.