This day in age-in my experience-it goes without contest that when one thinks of american turquoise, whether knowledgeable in turquoise or not, out of the 50 OG famous american turquoise mines and the hundred more 'newer' mines there are only a few mines people inherently know of, Sleeping Beauty, Royston, Kingman, Lander and Bisbee. Bisbee being at the top of that list Bisbee turquoise is a very new mine compared to all the others even though it commands so much attention and has so much known lore surrounding it. This beautiful rock originally comes from the south eastern bank of the open pit copper mine that is the towns hallmark landscape backdrop.
The mine has been non operational since the 1970's and being a copper mine never actually mined turquoise, the turquoise that came out of the pit was snuck out by workers. Later, the dumps would be leased for turquoise but even that was short lived. This turquoise was some of the highest quality turquoise ever unearthed because of the depths some of it was found at, the lore is that some was found at over 1000ft in a coal shaft and others say 500ft max, either way both these depths are unheard of for turquoise. Most of the bisbee turquoise found these days is pulled from the infamous private property of dump #7 just south east of the abandoned open pit. Ironically the soil that produced this amazingly beautiful hard turquoise was considered to be 'waste rock' as compared to the high grade copper ore being dug and hence the infamous 'lavender' dirt piled long and high offsite into dump #7
We live on the outskirts of Bisbee and have come to love the amazing lore and allure of this beautiful rock that is literally imbedded into the culture.
Everytime we tell someone we live next to Bisbee they ask, "you get any turquoise?" or assume that because we deal turquoise that we moved here for the turquoise even though attaining this rock is knowingly expensive and dangerous. The legends of the locals that sneak into these pits to comb over the tailings for this precious blue rock is always an arena of quiet conversations around town. Quality and scarcity drives the price of this special stone through the roof, making the risk of being caught and prosecuted for trespassing, a business expense for the people who live here to make a living in an otherwise employment dead zone. Although we have never crossed the fences and looked for turquoise ourselves, everytime we drive by those dumps the urge is there.
The mine owners, who-by the way- don't live anywhere near here, have created a tension amongst the people who live around this neglected festering open wound in the earths crust. The massive deserted piles of 'waste rock' that make up the southern skyline of highway 80 for a mile and shorten the day of both the communities of Warren in the morning and Saginaw in the evening, drive a stake between the settlements. If you live in Saginaw and your friend lives on the east end of the Warren district, as the crow flies 10 minute walk picking up world class abandoned blue treasure along the way, or the crow walks around for 45 minutes traversing highway traffic and breathing diesel fumes.
You cannot go anywhere in any part of Bisbee without the mines affect blocking your vision or running into fencing. Yet to all is known that there is valuable beautiful iconic deep blue turquoise lodged in deep brown and red matrix hidden throughout these dumps that the copper ore rock crusher missed, and is there to be discovered. This turquoise drives this culture, not the suit and tie wearing-out of touch- mine owners and their purchased hole in the ground. Maybe one day they will wake up and realize communities are symbiotic with the land. The land provides. To supress the peoples access to the beautiful rocks that sit in an old dump pile that they are forced to stare at everyday is to dissociate from the community. In more recent times there is a reclamation project started to cover up dump 7 with landscaping, they say it's to 'beautify' the dumps but all know it's to keep people from attaining turquoise. It's the broken child bully in the school yard, even though they don't care anything about the turquoise they will do everything within their power to keep others from attaining it no matter the cost.
Every now and again we will cross paths with one of these legendary individuals who dye their cammo lavender, scale the fences and evade security to pocket a few little pieces at a time. These brave people are all to happy to trade some stone for use of a saw, cabbing machine or simply a hitchhiker that will trade a ride to the store for a small jar of blue.
The way this particular rock came to me, a guy came over and handed me a black rock and said, "here you can have this, my backpack caught on fire from my cigarette and this rock was in it. I don't feel like dealing with it and thought you might want to have it." I sanded some of the soot away and saw a tiny veinlet of blue on the edge, i planned a saw run through it and sliced right through a pocket of bisbee blue running through quartz crystal. Bisbee in quartz is one of the most rare events to ever occur and for it to be really attractive while doing it is something that is only seen a couple times in a lifetime. I showed the butterflied halves to just a couple people and this ring was commissioned the same day.
Since being initiated into the turquoise world our stockpile of amazing southwestern lore continues to grow, we are big on history and pick the brains of people who have walked this earth and dug turquoise for a very very long time. I love to be a conduit sharing info about this amazing stone that is turquoise. Thanks for reading.