Boulder Turquoise – Native American Jewelry Materials

Boulder turquoise has a warm earthy look to it because it is Mother Earth with a ribbon of bright turquoise running through it – thus it is also sometimes called Ribbon Turquoise. The ribbon can appear and disappear in the mother rock.


Pilot Mountain Boulder Turquoise Pendant by Tony Garcia, Laguna Pueblo


Boulder Turquoise can be found in any mine, but often the rock surrounding the turquoise is too brittle or soft to polish into a cabochon or a stone for a setting.

Therefore, a few mines are noted for their production of usable Boulder Turquoise for jewelry: Pilot Mountain and Royston. Read More about US Turquoise Mines here.


Pilot Mountain Boulder Turquoise Pendant




What is Matrix in a Turquoise Stone?

Matrix is the term used to describe the contrasting material in a parent rock – usually turquoise.

Matrix can be thick channels or delicate fine lines like a spiderweb.

Spiderweb Matrix in #8 Turquoise

It is usually made of iron pyrite and can look like fleks, spots or distinct veins.

Some people like stones WITHOUT matrix – they are called “clear stones”.

Clear Turquoise Stones in a Donovan Cadman Cluster Bracelet

Other people are drawn to the variations in the shapes and colors of turquoise with matrix.

Matrix can add texture to the stone as well as a bit of glimmer in some cases.

The most common matrix colors seen in turquoise are black, brown and honey.

Black Matrix in Turquoise Mountain Turquoise

Brown Matrix in Fox Mountain Turquoise

Honey Colored Matrix in an Emerald Valley Turquoise Bracelet

When turquoise is cut so that there is more Mother Rock than Turquoise, it is called Boulder Turquoise. So in this case the “veins” are turquoise !

Boulder Turquoise Pendant

So many beautiful stones to enjoy !


Native American Jewelry – Green Turquoise

Navajo Sterling Silver and #8 Turquoise Bracelet

What is the difference between green turquoise and turquoise (blue) turquoise? I have some of both and I also think some of my pieces have changed color.

Turquoise comes in all shades of blue, to blue-green, with a possible shading towards brown-veined greens.

Navajo Sterling Silver and #8 Turquoise Bracelet

Navajo Sterling Silver and #8 Turquoise Bracelet

Matrix (veining) may or may not be present in any color(s). It is the natural variations in turquoise that make it appealing.

Navajo Turquoise Mountain Pendant

Navajo Turquoise Mountain Pendant

The color of turquoise in American Indian jewelry ranges from brownish green to bright blue.

Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Bracelet

Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Bracelet

Found in veins sandwiched in between layers of mother rock, the turquoise can show some of the influence of the mother rock in its matrix or veining. The matrix colors range from blue to golden brown to black and sometimes with golden flecks (sometimes called “fools gold” or iron pyrite), which is considered very desirable by some.

The more blue, the higher the copper content. The more green, the higher the iron content.

Navajo Sterling Silver and Easter Blue Turquoise Bracelet

Navajo Sterling Silver and Easter Blue Turquoise Bracelet

Turquoise can change color over time due to exposure to oils from the skin, lotions and any other oily liquids that the stone comes in contact with. Blue turquoise tends to turn green after 10, 20 or 30 years. But not all blue turquoise will turn green. Why?

High quality turquoise is so dense that it is not porous enough to allow oils to invade and change its color. Very high quality turquoise does not need to be stabilized or protected – it can be used in its natural form.

Lesser quality turquoise is often porous so needs to be stabilized to protect it from the wearer and the environment.

Because most old turquoise was not treated, it seems to eventually turn green. A vintage piece with patina on the sterling silver and green stones go together like milk and cookies.

Vintage Native American Pawn Turquoise Bracelet

Vintage Native American Pawn Turquoise Bracelet

Some contemporary artists capitalize on that and when they produce an antiqued piece they choose for it a turquoise stone from one of the mines that produce green stones.

Navajo Horse Pin by Albert Cleveland

Navajo Horse Pin by Albert Cleveland

Read more about Turquoise and US Turquoise Mines


How Zuni Navajo Native American Fetishes Are Made

How Zuñi & Navajo Native American Fetish Carvings are Made

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Stones UsedZuni Horse Fetish Carving

Although fetishes are carved from many types of rock today, fish rock is the stone traditionally used for fetish carvings. Also popular are pipestone, serpentine, Picasso marble, turquoise, jet, picture jasper, argite, lapis, azurite, sodalite, marble, dolomite, mother of pearl (MOP), onyx, and spiny oyster. See more about Stones.

Medicine Bundle

Zuni Bear Fetish carving with medicine bundleMany fetishes have a medicine bundle, offering bundle, or adornment tied on the back of the animal that can consists of coral seed beads, shell heishi, feathers and other stone pieces. These may be used as an offering to the fetish, to evoke the spirit of the fetish or to increase the strength of a fetish.

Coral bits, from the ocean, represent marine life or the heart of the fetish.

Turquoise represents the sky and water.

Penn shell heishi is brown and represents the earth.

Use of the six colors (see Six Directions below) white, yellow, red, blue, black and speckled or multi-colored, together symbolize the six directions.

Feathers are very powerful medicine when added to fetishes, so are rarely added to rock carvings for the market.


Medicine Bundle on Zuni fetish carvingSometimes a stone arrow is included in the bundle. It used to be these were real arrowheads but now they are small arrowheads carved out of shell. The arrowhead can protect the fetish from harm on its journey and the arrowhead can strengthen the power of the fetish.

If the arrow points ahead, it protects the fetish from things it will encounter.

If the arrow points backward, it protects the fetish from things that might come up from behind.

The bundle is tied on with sinew, which is from muscle fiber and symbolizes strength. Some contemporary artists use leather or heavy beading thread.

DetailZuni Horse Fetish carving from Fishrock

The style and detail of carving varies among artists but usually includes detail on the face, ears, tail and mane. Often the eyes and other spots of adornment on the animal are inset pieces of contrasting stones such as turquoise and coral.

Heart Line

Zuni Fetish Carving with Heart LineSingle, double and triple heart lines are inset in some fetishes. The heart line is a line etched, painted or inlaid along one or both sides of the animal. It usually extends from the mouth to the region of the heart.

There are many interpretations as to what a heart line represents, but it is often said to represent the pathway of the breath of the animal to the life force, which is the heart. Others feel that the heart line points to the soul of the animal. It is thought that a heart line gives the fetish healing or medicinal power.

Turquoise Mines in the US


Some of the turquoise mines in the US

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Bisbee (Cochise County, Arizona) Deep blue color with smoky black matrix.

Blue Diamond (central Nevada) operated from the late 1950’s to 1980. This stone typically has dark smoky swirls with brilliant blue windows.

Candelaria (Northern Nevada) A small depleted (closed) mine. Stones have luminous quality.

Carico Lake (Lander County, Nevada) Blue and green.

Cripple Creek (Teller County, Colorado) Green and blue with brown matrix; by-product of gold mining.

Sterling Silver Navajo RingsDry Creek (Battle Mountain, Nevada) Pale blue or white because no heavy metals are in the ground where it forms. Also called Sacred Buffalo Turquoise because the White Buffalo is a very sacred and rare buffalo. Read more…

EASTER BLUE An old Nevada mine owned and operated by Danny and Dean Otteson. It is located in Nye County near the Royston turquoise area. In was opened in 1907 and produces turquoise from surface and underground mines. The turquoise is hard, of fine quality and a rich blue color with beautiful matrix.

Fox Turquoise mine (Lander County, Nevada) discovered in the early 1900’s, was once Nevada’s largest producer of green or blue-green turquoise with a distinctive matrix. The different sites of Fox deposits were developed using the names of Fox, White Horse, Green Tree, and Smith to differentiate among the colors of turquoise produced. The Fox mine is now closed.


Kingman (Mohave County, Arizona) Blue stones with white matrix sometimes dyed black.

King’s Manassa (Conejos County, Colorado) is best known for its brilliant greens and golden and brown non-webbed matrices, but blue and blue-green stone is found there as well. This site, east of the town of Manassa, was originally mined by Ancestral Pueblo peoples. It was rediscovered in 1890 by gold prospector I.P. King, and his descendants still work the claim.

Lander Blue (Lander County, Nevada) The rarest of all Southwest US turquoise; high grade and most valuable.


Lone Mountain (Esmeralda County, Nevada) Deep blue stones with fine spider webs.

Morenci (Greenlee County, Arizona) Blue color with “Fool’s Gold” (iron pyrite) matrix.

Sterling Silver Navajo RingsNumber Eight (Carlin, Nevada) Exceptional spiderweb turquoise with the matrix ranging from golden brown to almost black, but a deep golden webbing is most characteristic.

Royston turquoise mine district (Nye County, Nevada) consists of several mines including Royston, Royal Blue, Oscar Wehrend and Bunker Hill. Discovered in 1902 it is the oldest patented mine in Nevada. Royston turquoise is known for its beautiful deep green to rich light blue colors in the same formation and the stones are often two-tone, displaying both dark and light green and sometimes blue. It has a heavy matrix ranging from dark brown to gold in color. Royston turquoise is considered very collectible.

Sleeping Beauty (Globe in Gila County, Arizona) Uniform blue turquoise that is easily matched and cut. Often clear but sometimes with white matrix that is dyed black.

Sterling Silver Navajo Rings

Pilot Mountain (Esmeralda County, Nevada) Blue and green stones with dark brown, reddish or black matrices.

Turquoise Mountain (Mohave County, Arizona) Blue and green.

Stormy Mountain (Elko County, Nevada) Dark blue with black matrix looking like blotches.

white buffalo turquoiseWhite Buffalo Turquoise or White Buffalo Stone is not turquoise at all, but a different stone that is white stone with black and brown inclusions. By definition turquoise contains copper (it is a copper aluminium phosphate), which is what gives the characteristic blue color. Presence of iron will shift the color toward green. “White turquoise” without blue color is technically not turquoise and is more accurately called White Buffalo Stone. As far as we know, White Buffalo Stone comes from only one mine in Nevada, which is owned by the Otteson family. Howlite is commonly passed off as White Buffalo Stone.

Turquoise is the birthstone of December and is thought to bring good fortune, strength and helps overcome illness.

The Navajo consider turquoise to bring good fortune and appease the Wind Spirit.

The Zuñi believe blue turquoise is male and of the sky and green turquoise is female and of the earth.

Hopi legend tells of the lizard who travels between the above and the below, excretes turquoise. This stone can hold back floods.


Turquoise Used in Native American Jewelry


©  2010 Horsekeeping © Copyright Information

Turquoise comes in all shades of blue, to blue-green, with a possible shading towards brown-veined greens. Matrix (veining) may or may not be present in any color(s). It is the natural variations in turquoise that make it appealing. The color of turquoise in American Indian jewelry ranges from brownish green to bright blue.

The more blue, the higher the copper content. The more green, the higher the iron content.

Native American Natural Turquoise Pendant

Native American Natural Boulder Turquoise Pendant

Native American Natural Turquoise Pendant

Native American Natural Turquoise Pendant

Not All Turquoise is Created Equal

If you are looking at two turquoise bracelets one at $30 and the other at $500, what is the difference? Well, there are many uses and misuses of the word turquoise.

Natural Turquoise is a stone that has not been altered in any way. It is the way it was found in nature. Natural Turquoise looks very real and beautiful but, over time, when exposed to light, sweat, perfume, makeup, oils and detergents, it can deteriorate (crumble) and lose its color or change color to a pale green. It can also lose its structural stability and crumble and crack. To deal with these problems, methods have been developed to preserve turquoise. Manufacturers and dealers use the following terms in a non-standard fashion, so if you are ever in doubt when purchasing a turquoise item, you should ask about the origin of the turquoise and its treatment.

Vintage Kingman Turquoise Native American Pawn Pendant

Vintage Natural Kingman Turquoise Native American Pawn Pendant

Hand made Native American Indian Jewelry; Navajo Sterling Silver    bracelet

Enhanced usually refers to a natural stone that has been treated with electrical currents that hardens the stone and enhances the color. Nothing else is done to the stone. Enhanced turquoise should not change color over time.

Stabilized turquoise has been impregnated with an acrylic or epoxy to harden the stone and enhance the color. Almost all turquoise used for heishi necklaces and fetish carvings is stabilized because otherwise the heishi would quickly fade and break.

Compressed stones have been hardened by extreme pressure.

Artificial or Imitation Turquoise – There are a number of manufactured turquoise products, some of which look like real stone and others that look like plastic. Some minerals, like howlite, can be dyed to look like turquoise.

Synthetic and Lab Grown Turquoise have the same chemical composition and physical look of natural turquoise.

Block Turquoise is manufactured in blocks and is made to look like turquoise. It may be all plastic polymer or it may have crushed or powdered turquoise or other stone mixed with resin or polymer. Block Turquoise sometimes has swirls or blobs of dark dye added to simulate the look of matrix.