Behind the Gem: Sleeping Beauty Turquoise
The mine is closed so I would get it while you still can. In 41 years in the gem trade this is the finest turquoise I’ve ever seen.
Since the 1970’s, Sleeping Beauty Turquoise has been regarded as the finest turquoise mined in modern times. World famous for its robins’ egg blue color which was uniform and free of matrix, it set a new standard for turquoise the world over. It was and still is the most famous gem ever mined in the United States. Sleeping Beauty Turquoise was mined at the Sleeping Beauty mine located in Globe, Arizona. Sadly, the mine permanently closed in 2012. It was unique because the turquoise mined there was of unprecedented high quality, possessed a uniform color when compared to any other turquoise and it took a great polish. On top of all that, it was being mined in vast quantities which allowed designers to use very large sizes and even beads. Frankly... it spoiled us.
Image of the Sleeping Beauty Turquoise mine in Arizona (Image accessed via mdmPix)
The coloring element of turquoise is from copper and sleeping beauty has a lot of it, which is why it radiates such a great blue hue. Most turquoise has matrix (veining caused by the growth of other rock minerals throughout the turquoise deposit) but sleeping beauty was incredibly matrix free and pure. It was so pure that it did not need to be stabilized with polymers.
All turquoise has a porous structure caused by molecular gaps in its crystal lattice work. Water molecules can enter those gaps and oxidise the copper which turns it green. In order to stop this, we stabilize the turquoise by making it waterproof. 98% of the world’s turquoise is stabilized with polymers which seals up those gaps in the matrix. Some turquoise can have up to 25% additives, but not Sleeping Beauty.
Sleeping Beauty was so pure it could be stabilized using a process called the “Zachery Process” which uses direct current of electricity. This causes the gaps in the crystal latticework to close in on itself effectively reducing the gap to a size too small for a water molecule to enter, in other words, natural waterproofing. Sleeping Beauty will not turn green because of this therefore maintaining its stunning color. his is the only turquoise I know of that is stabilized with NO coloring agents, waxes, oils, dyes or polymer used… that’s very rare in the world of turquoise.