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Collecting turquoise can be a rewarding hobby that doubles as an investment...a very pretty investment that you can wear.
I'm Linda and I bought my first turquoise ring when I was 12 years old and my interest in Native American arts grew with me. Here is that very ring:
I have had a life-long love affair with turquoise jewelry. When I was a fashion designer in the 1980s conchos and turquoise made their way to my hat and jacket designs. Later in the 1990s I had an antique store and I would travel the backroads of the heartland for American Country antiques. On these road trips I'd always come home with a truckload of wooden folk art and furniture, a pair of perfectly worn-in used cowboy boots to wear and a few pieces of turquoise for myself.
When I divorced at the age of 40 and became a single mom with a 2 year old daughter, I learned how to have an antique store on line, because I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom. Raising my daughter without outside child care was my number one priority. When times got tough, the turquoise that I had lovingly taken care of all those years took care of us as I sold a few pieces at a time to pay the bills. It was during one of those hard times that I had a light bulb moment. As I searched through my collection for a piece to sell, I decided that I would study in great depth and learn everything that I could about turquoise jewelry and change my country antique store to be very much an Indian jewelry shop.
I read books, books and more books. (I still read them.) I interviewed the Indians that I had been buying from for years. I was always one to quest, but I increased my asking of questions greatly. I met new people, even an old hippie that has been selling turquoise since the 1960s. He's a white guy, but he calls himself a "Hippajo" because he's a white guy that wishes he was a Navajo. He is still a wealth of information for me.
The book that I learned the most from regarding construction of silver work and the progression of construction style is this book by John Adair.
You see, when you want to collect, there are many ways to do so.
You can collect turquoise, set or un-set. It is also available rough or polished or even carved into animal totems called fetishes. You can learn about the turquoise mines and which types of turquoise are the rarest. Did you know that there is an American turquoise stone that is so rare and beautiful that it is sold by carat weight? Did you also know that there was fake turquoise called howlite that is dyed a turquoise color? They even make plastic turquoise. Much of the turquoise is treated and that information I will save for another article. It is best to learn about turquoise or buy from a very trusted source.
So many different mines and different looking turquoise!
The rings above are from my private collection, but you can view more rings here.
Here is Lander Blue, the rarest turquoise of all:
In comparison, this is howlite, which is not turquoise at all.
When I was starting out, this book helped me understand some of the attributes and general characteristics of the turquoise coming out of the mines that existed in the 1970s.
There are several good books on Turquoise stones and mines. There are also great websites that show current mines that are open and producing.
Another way to collect is by age. There are collectors that collect only very early pieces. Did you know that the earliest Navajo silver jewelry pieces were made of melted silver coins, teapots and other recycled silver? These pieces are highly prized and sought after by sophisticated collectors. Perhaps you have heard that there were trading posts that sold Navajo jewelry that was made just for tourists. These pieces were made lighter weight to keep the cost down. They were available at Fred Harvey train stations across the USA.
This is a very early ring made of melted, repurposed silver.
Here are a few early Fred Harvey era bracelets. These were made lighter weight with lots of stamping and appliqué. They were all very "Indian" themed to appeal to tourists at the train station. These pieces were made by Indians as well, just to the specifications of the traders.
See examples of Fred Harvey earrings here.
My favorites are the Fred Harvey era bracelets. I love to wear many at a time. We call that fashion style "stacking" your bracelets. Collecting a stack can be really fun!
If you are curious about the styling if these pieces you can see about 20 pieces of Fred Harvey era jewelry here.
Some people collect by artist or by tribal family names. Others collect by tribe.
One of these rectangular rings is Zuni and the other is Navajo. Both are early. Can you tell which one is which?
I'll give you a hint. A Navajo man named Manny told me this when I first started to learn about turquoise jewelry. He said to always think of it this way. The Navajo artist will create the jewelry design around the shape of the stone. The Zuni artist will cut and shape the stones to fit the shape of the design of the jewelry piece.
I bet you know now!
This is just a small sampler of what there is to learn about collecting turquoise, but I am sure that you can see how I became turquoise addicted!
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If you wish to shop around to see what I have hand picked to offer to you, you'll find my turquoise offerings HERE.