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Jun 18, 2010
9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Palace Gem and Mineral Show
Learn about the Tiffany Turquoise Mines

New Mexico History Museum
The 5th annual Palace of the Governors Gem & Mineral Show kicks off on June 18 for three days of family-friendly opportunities to learn more about (and purchase) materials used in traditional Southwest jewelry. As a special treat, Doug Magnus will speak about the history of the Cerrillos turquoise mines, including the fabled Tiffany Mine that produced gems exclusively for Tiffany & Co., each stone’s color a perfect match of the classic Tiffany’s box.

The event runs from 9 am to 5 pm June 18-20 in the Palace Courtyard. Entry is free via the Blue Gate south of the New Mexico History Museum’s main entrance at 113 Lincoln Avenue.

Guest speakers:

Garrick Beck on natural stones: 11 AM Saturday.

Beck’s Santa Fe company, Natural Stones, specializes in genuine, natural stones that are not dyed, synthesized, "stabilized" or "enhanced."

Doug Magnus on the Cerrillos turquoise mines: 2 PM Saturday.

Magnus, a Santa Fe jewelry designer whose Santa Fe 400th line is available in the Spiegelberg Shop at the New Mexico History Museum, has owned the six turquoise mines in Cerrillos, N.M., since 1988.

Sandy Craig on the opals of Ethiopia: 1 PM Sunday.

Craig’s Orca Gems and Opals of Littleton, Colo., carries specimens, rough, rubs and cut stones from Nevada, Mexico, Honduras, Ethiopia, Lightning Ridge, Lambina, Mintabi, Yowah and Koroit.

The Cerrillos mining district has seen activity since 600 A.D., first for Native peoples, then Spanish colonists and, around the turn of the last century, Anglo miners, including the American Turquoise Company.

In 1889, George F. Kunz, Tiffany & Co.’s renowned gemologist, won an award in Paris for a collection that contained a sample of New Mexico turquoise. In 1892, Kunz announced that certain colors of turquoise had come to be considered “gem quality” – namely, the Tiffany Blue color. According to a New York newspaper: That is a turquoise far and away the finest in America, and it came from these new mines in New Mexico. It is worth $4,000. … (I)t is probable that gems to the value of $200,000 a year may be obtained from this mine. Kunz recognized the possibilities of further branding the Tiffany Blue color by maintaining almost-exclusive rights to the turquoise he had made suddenly valuable.

In that same year, James P. McNulty came to Cerrillos to mine turquoise, eventually landing with the American Turquoise Company, which owned the claims to a number of mines. The ATC sold almost all of its turquoise directly to Tiffany & Co., where designer Pauling Farnham (regarded by some as “Tiffany’s lost genius”) crafted some $2 million worth of it into jewelry.

Today, the mines are likely played out, said Magnus, who was able to obtain several specimens of the raw ore “that had been hoarded for 80 or 100 years by the man that did all the mining for the American Turquoise Company.” 

Despite the difficulty of obtaining specimens, Magnus said, turquoise seems to be enjoying new verve. “I’ve been working with it since 1972, and I’ve watched it become the single most popular semi-precious gemstone in the realm of semi-precious gemstones. And that’s worldwide.”

The Gem & Mineral Show, in conjunction with the Palace of the Governors Native American Artisan Program, allows gem and mineral dealers and Native American artisans to tell their unique stories about the historical relationships that have existed between Native silversmiths and jewelers, miners, and gem and mineral traders. 

Exhibitors will include: Garrick Beck; Orca Gems and Opals; Roadrunner Mining and Minerals; Bright Star Gemstones; and Will Steerman.

Come to look, come to touch, come to buy, but most important, come to learn more about the historic interplay between miners, mineral traders and the artisans who bring life to these fruits of the earth.

For info or booth rentals contact David Rogers at 505-476-5157, or David.rogers@state.nm.us


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