Friday, June 7, 2024

Where does sleeping beauty turquoise come from?

Sleeping Beauty Turquoise is renowned in the gem world for its stunning, vivid blue color, which has made it a favorite among jewelry enthusiasts and collectors. This gemstone’s journey from its geological formation to its prominent place in modern jewelry is a fascinating tale. In this article, we will explore the origins and location of Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, its geological formation, mining history, gemstone characteristics, the impact of its mine closure, the market and imitations, and its uses in jewelry.


Origin and Location

Sleeping Beauty Turquoise originates from the Sleeping Beauty Mine, located in Globe, Arizona. This location is approximately 90 miles east of Phoenix and sits within the Tonto National Forest. The mine itself is named after the nearby mountain range, which, when viewed from a distance, resembles a sleeping woman lying on her back, thus the name “Sleeping Beauty.”


The turquoise found in this mine is noted for its vibrant, robin’s egg blue color, a hue that has captivated gem enthusiasts for decades. The mine’s geographical positioning in Arizona, a state famous for its rich deposits of various minerals, including copper and silver, adds to the uniqueness and quality of the turquoise extracted from this region.

Geological Formation

Turquoise is a secondary mineral formed through the action of percolating acidic solutions on pre-existing minerals. The formation of Sleeping Beauty Turquoise involves several geological processes over millions of years. It typically forms in arid regions where the mineral-rich water seeps through rock formations.

The primary host rock for turquoise in the Sleeping Beauty Mine is a type of volcanic rock called rhyolite. As water percolates through this rhyolite, it interacts with copper, aluminum, and phosphorus, leading to the formation of turquoise. The presence of copper is crucial as it gives turquoise its characteristic blue color. The specific conditions in the Sleeping Beauty Mine, including the right mix of minerals and the geological environment, contribute to the high quality and vibrant color of the turquoise.

Mining History

The history of the Sleeping Beauty Mine dates back to the early 20th century when it was primarily a copper mine. It wasn’t until the 1950s that turquoise mining began in earnest. As the demand for turquoise jewelry grew, so did the interest in the Sleeping Beauty Mine’s turquoise, renowned for its clarity and bright blue hue.

For several decades, the mine produced a significant quantity of turquoise, making it one of the leading sources of this gemstone in the world. The turquoise from this mine was especially popular among Native American jewelers and was widely used in traditional Southwestern jewelry designs.

However, in 2012, the Sleeping Beauty Mine ceased its turquoise mining operations. The mine shifted its focus back to copper extraction due to economic factors, including the rising price of copper and the decreasing availability of high-quality turquoise. The closure marked the end of an era and significantly impacted the availability of Sleeping Beauty Turquoise in the market.

Gemstone Characteristics

Sleeping Beauty Turquoise is highly prized for several distinctive characteristics. Its most notable feature is its uniform, sky-blue color, often referred to as “Persian blue,” reminiscent of the finest turquoise found in ancient Persia (modern-day Iran). This color is typically free from the black matrix or veining found in other types of turquoise, making it highly sought after for jewelry making.

The gemstone’s smooth and consistent texture, combined with its vibrant color, makes it ideal for cabochons, beads, and inlay work. The absence of matrix allows jewelers to create pieces that showcase the pure, unadulterated beauty of the stone. Additionally, Sleeping Beauty Turquoise is relatively hard, making it durable and suitable for various types of jewelry.

See Also: 6 Things to Consider When Buying Turquoise

Closure and Rarity

The closure of the Sleeping Beauty Mine in 2012 has made this turquoise even more desirable. As supplies dwindle, the gemstone’s rarity has increased, driving up its value. Collectors and jewelry designers now pay a premium for Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, particularly pieces with the most vivid and uniform color.

This scarcity has also led to a rise in the use of stabilized turquoise. Stabilization is a process where the turquoise is treated with a polymer to enhance its durability and color. While stabilized turquoise is still beautiful, it does not hold the same value or appeal as natural, untreated Sleeping Beauty Turquoise. The closure has also spurred a market for vintage Sleeping Beauty pieces, as these are often seen as more authentic and valuable.

Market and Imitations

The market for Sleeping Beauty Turquoise is robust, driven by its beauty, rarity, and the legacy of the mine. However, with the mine no longer producing, the gemstone has become a target for imitations and enhancements. Buyers must be cautious and knowledgeable to avoid purchasing lower-quality or misrepresented stones.

Common imitations include dyed howlite or magnesite, which are white minerals that can be colored to mimic turquoise. These imitations can be convincing but lack the intrinsic qualities of genuine Sleeping Beauty Turquoise. There are also composite turquoise products on the market, where small pieces of turquoise are bonded together with resin to form a larger stone.

Reputable dealers and certifications from gemological laboratories can help ensure the authenticity of Sleeping Beauty Turquoise. Buyers should look for stones with documentation proving their origin and, when possible, purchase from established and trusted sources.

Uses in Jewelry

Sleeping Beauty Turquoise has long been a favorite in jewelry design. Its pure blue color makes it versatile and timeless, fitting both modern and traditional styles. Jewelry designers across the globe appreciate its consistent quality and striking appearance.

In Southwestern and Native American jewelry, Sleeping Beauty Turquoise is often set in sterling silver and used in intricate designs that highlight the stone’s beauty. Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi artisans have created stunning pieces that incorporate Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, from statement necklaces and bracelets to intricate inlay work in rings and earrings.

Contemporary jewelry designers also embrace this turquoise for its vibrant color. It is often paired with gold and other gemstones to create high-end, fashionable pieces. The stone’s versatility allows it to complement various styles, from bohemian to luxury, making it a staple in many jewelry collections.


Sleeping Beauty Turquoise is more than just a gemstone; it is a piece of history, a testament to nature’s beauty, and a cherished material in the world of jewelry. Its origin from the picturesque Sleeping Beauty Mine in Arizona, combined with its unique geological formation and mining history, adds depth to its allure. Although the mine’s closure has made this turquoise rarer, it continues to captivate gem enthusiasts and jewelry designers worldwide.

As the market adapts to the scarcity of natural Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, the value of existing pieces continues to rise, making them cherished items for collectors. Whether set in traditional Southwestern designs or modern jewelry, Sleeping Beauty Turquoise remains a symbol of natural beauty and craftsmanship, a gem that truly lives up to its enchanting name.

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