In a recent post, Silvio recalled his days in New Mexico. The memories came to mind as he selected a piece of jewelry to feature on the Ornament Studio Facebook page that day: a sterling silver ring featuring a magnificent Cerrillos turquoise. “While in New Mexico, Teresa and I lived 3 miles as the crow flies from the Cerrillos Mine, where this Turquoise comes from,” observed Silvio.
Highly prized gems are often named after the region where they are mined. The turquoise has mesmerized jewelry lovers for hundreds of years. Like other valued gems, it is used not merely in jewelry making, but also in all manners of ornamentation on vases as well as in interior design.
Historians and archeologists have determined that Native Americans mined turquoise for centuries prior to the arrival of European settlers. We also know that the turquoise was commonly traded between tribes. Indeed, turquoise is common in artifacts left by tribes established miles away from the Pueblo Indians who mined the gem. We also know that the Spanish presence had little impact on the Pueblo’s interest in turquoise. This is largely due to the fact that the Spanish considered it to be an insignificant gem.
According to archeologists, the Pueblo Indians actually began collecting turquoise in the Cerrillos Hills as early as 900 AD. Turquoise is present in other parts of New Mexico, but the Cerrillos deposit is by far the largest and it is the one that has most influenced the use of the gem and its popularity.
The deposit was so vast that, initially, the Native American miners could gather turquoise merely by chipping it from surface outcrops. They turned to digging as visible surface deposits became depleted. Their extraction method, consisting mainly of stone hammers and fire, would have required a lot of effort, which is another clear indication of the value they placed on the turquoise.
The New Mexican ground owes its rich red color to the abundance and wide array of minerals present there. It is this very phenomenon that produces the red veins and inclusions that lend to the turquoise its mystical beauty.