There’s a marvelous exhibit on turquoise currently running here in Santa Fe at the Museum of Indian Art and Culture on Museum Hill. This exhibit is titled Turquoise, Water, Sky: The Stone and its Meaning.
The show features a wonderful assortment of items from the Museum’s collection of turquoise objects and jewelry. Pieces being shown range from ancient to modern times and the exhibit also includes the work of a number of well known Native American artists.
I was fortunate to be able to attend the Friday night opening of the show and got to see a lot of wonderful turquoise jewelry worn by other attendees – a real treat in itself. There were some special dance performances by a group of Zuni dancers that were held as part of the show. The dancers performed Saturday and Sunday on the plaza outside the museum.
One of my favorite pieces from the show is a blue turquoise frog with red coral eyes. The frog dates from ancient items. Although we traditionally think of turquoise as being blue, the colors of turquoise can range from a variety of blue shades to greens and yellow hues. The colors vary depending on the chemical content of the deposit where the turquoise is formed. Bluer hues reflect a greater copper content. Iron contributes the greenish hues while zinc can create the yellow tones. Turquoise deposits are formed slowly over a long time.
Originally turquoise came from the Near East – from places like Persia (Iran). It was shipped through Turkey and the name Turquoise originated from the Old French for Turkey.
Turquoise was mined by the native populations in various areas in New Mexico in the ancient past (approximately 1300 to 1600), but the supply of quality material is now very limited. Today’s market includes a lot of “stabilized” turquoise that has been treated chemically to be hard enough to use in jewelry and, sadly, also a lot of fake turquoise “look-alikes.”
In addition to the turquoise being shown at the museum, there is also an exhibit of marvelous photos of Native Americans taken by a variety of well known early photographers
I could go back to see this show again and again. Unfortunately, this exhibit will be closing the end of the day on May 2nd, so don’t wait to visit. I love to use turquoise in my own jewelry designs and I’ll have more information about this amazing stone and it’s lore in upcoming blog posts