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Gemstones Information

Stones are listed in alphabetical order. Links to information about American turquoise mines can be found under the turquoise heading on this page. We will continue to add more samples of gemstones in the future.

Amber is an organic gem formed from the hardened, fossilized sap or resin of pine trees. It is a beautiful gem that is cut and polished and used as a valuable gemstone. Amber can contain insects and plants that are millions of years old such as gnats, flies, wasps, bees, ants and mosquitoes. Sometimes there may even be moths, beetles or grasshoppers. Amber varies in color from yellow and orange to brown. It is usually found in the Baltic countries and in coal seams in Wyoming and the Dominican Republic.

Amethyst, a transparent purple variety of quartz, is one of the best known and most valuable forms of quartz. The name “amethyst” comes from the Greek and means “not drunken”. It was once thought to prevent the wearer from getting drunk and also thought to bring peace of mind.

Amethyst is purple and ranges from light to dark which is caused by iron or manganese compound impurities in the mineral. Amethyst comes from many parts of the world and each locality can produce a unique amethyst to that area or particular mine. Some of the finest comes from Brazil, Bolivia, and Russia. It can also be found in Australia, Canada, Germany, Uraguay, Madagascar, Namibia, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Mexico, Italy and the United States. Amethyst can fade from heat and exposure to the sun, so you should protect your amethyst from these conditions.

Ammonites are the fossilized, hard shells of extinct mollusks that existed from the Paleozoic to the end of the Cretaceous era. They were abundant in all the oceans. Their closest relative is the chambered Nautilus from the Pacific and Indian oceans. After millions of years the original shell is slowly replaced by minerals such as agate or calcite. Ammonite fossils are found on every continent. They are treasured for their appearance and form. Some show very intricate suture patterns, which are created by the complex walls dividing the inside of the shell.

The Navajos and other Native American Indian tribes carried ammonites in their medicine bags for health and good hunting. They were called Buffalo stones because of their resemblance to the North American Bison.

Azurite is a copper ore and occurs in a vivid blue. Azurite and malachite can form together – they have a similar formulae. Never clean malachite or azurite with any product containing ammonia.

Charoite is a relatively late comer to the marketplace, having been known only since the mid 1970’s. The color of charoite is described as a stunning lavender, lilac, violet or purple. The white chrystalline “needles” give charoite a very distinctive appearance and depth often forming a swirling pattern of interlocking chrystals. Charoite is found in the inerfluve of the Chara and Tokkin rivers, northwest of Aldan on the Jakutsk area, northeast of Lake Baikal, Russia.

Chrysoprase is a highly translucent, bright, light green to dark green valuable form of chalcedony. The stone’s vivid green color comes from nickel silicate. It is usually cut into cabachons. This stone is mined exclusively in Australia and is sometimes confused with jade and called “Australian jade”.

Coral is one of the world’s few organic gems. The oldest known findings of red coral date from the Mesopotamian civilization from about 3000 B.C. Coral is formed from a colony of marine invertebrates, primarily a skeletal calcium carbonate gem. The formations as seen in the water look like tree branches. Many colors and varieties of coral are found in warm coastal waters from around the world. Coral varies in color: white, pink, orange, red and black. The rarest variety is the blood coral or oxblood coral. This is a very deep red variety. The best oxblood coral comes from the Mediterranean Sea. Coral is usually cabochon cut. Because of its calcium composition coral should not come in contact with acid such as vinegar.

Gaspeite was discovered in 1966 in the Lemieux Township of the Gaspe’ Peninsula, Quebec, Canada. It is also found in western Australia – the best from North of Perth, Australia. It is found as a secondary mineral around nickel sulfide deposits. Gaspeite comes in light green to an unmistakable apple green color. Gaspiete is usually cut into cabachons.

Jet is Anthracite Coal which is a sedimentary rock formed from plants that lived millions of years ago. Jet is used a great deal in contemporary and traditional Native American inlay jewelry.

Lapis has been highly prized since ancient Babylonian and Egyptian times. Genuine lapis is a natural blue, opaque stone. It is brilliant deep blue and sometimes possesses small sparkling gold or silver colored flecks which are pyrite inclusions. The best lapis comes from Afghanistan and Argentina. It can also be found in Russia, Chile, Canada and occasionally the U.S.

Malachite is named for the Greek word “mallow” which is a green herb. Malachite is a copper ore that comes in a brilliant green marked with bands of contrasting shades of the same green. Malachite is often found in copper producing areas such as Russia, Mexico, Australia, England, Southwest U.S. and notably Zaire is a major producer today. Never clean malachite with any product containing ammonia.

Mother of Pearl is a hard, iridescent inner layer of certain shells such as abalone, pearl oyster and mussel. Mother of pearl varies in shades of white, yellow, pink and gray. Care should be taken not to expose it to chemicals.

Spiny Oyster Shell, Spondylus Brodnip Princess, is found in the Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico. Spiny Oyster began to be exported for jewelry making in the Southwest in 1976. The shell comes in three main colors: red, orange, purple and sometimes white and yellow.

The name Spondylus is a Latin word that means “spines on its back”. Brodnip was the name of the scientist who traveled with Cortez when Baja California was explored. The name “princess” was given to the shell when Cortez presented his marine discoveries to the King of Spain. The king’s daughter fell in love with the shell; thus, it was named after her.

Turquoise has captivated man’s imagination for centuries. The robin’s egg blue gemstone, worn by Pharoahs and Aztec kings, is probably one of the oldest gemstones known. There are archaeological as well as literary references that pre-date the Christian era by five millennia. The four bracelets of Queen Zar, found on her mummified arm, date to the second ruler of Egypt’s First Dynasty, approximately 5500 B.C. Scholars believe the robe worn by the High Priest Aaron was adorned with turquoise. Aristotle, Pliny and other early writers refer to stones that must have been turquoise.

Turquoise has been, since 200 B.C., extensively used by both southwest American Indian tribes and by many other Indian tribes in Mexico. Archaeological evidence exists that the prehistoric people, the Anasazi and Hohokam, mined turquoise at Cerrillos and the Burro Mountains of New Mexico. Kingman and Morenci turquoise from Arizona was a popular trade item and has been found in archaeological sites hundreds of miles away from these mines. Turquoise from Cerrillos mine in New Mexico has been found with the Aztecs. The stone was used in religion, art, trade, treaty negotiations as well as jewelry. Even today, it is still considered as the stone of life, good fortune and symbol of wealth by our American Indians and other cultures of the world.

Turquoise, chemically, is a hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum and is formed by the percolation of meteoric or groundwater through aluminous rock in the presence of copper. For this reason, it is often associated with copper deposits as a secondary mineral. Turquoise is most often found in arid, semiarid or desert places such as Iran, Tibet, China, Australia, Mexico, Russia, Turkestan and the southwest U.S.

Turquoise gets its color from the heavy metals in the ground where it forms. Blue turquoise forms when there is copper present, which is the case with most Arizona turquoise. Green turquoise forms where iron is present, the case with most Nevada turquoise. Matrix is the host rock, mother rock. It can be made from several different elements such as pyrite, chert, quartz, cuperite and manganese oxide. The sought after spider web turquoise is made up of small nuggets naturally cemented together with rock or matrix. When cut and polished the stone resembles a spider web.

So many geologic chains of events must synchronize to create just one thin vein of turquoise that the mineral can rightly be envisioned as a fluke of nature. Turquoise is the rare and improbable product of an incalculable number of chemical and physical processes that must take place in the right combination and proper environment over a time span of hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of years.

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