Turquoise demand soars as mines close
Excerpts featuring Alanna Bess from the full article: Published in the Financial Times, March 19, 2015. By Syl Tang
Cate Blanchett won compliments for her simple Martin Margiela black dress at the Academy Awards in February. But the dress took a back seat to her turquoise bib necklace by Tiffany & Co.
Although considered a semi-precious stone, in recent years turquoise has become increasingly expensive and rare. As a result, its cost to jewellers has soared....
“It has become more difficult to buy high-quality natural rough. You saw a lot in the 1960s and 1970s,” says Alanna Richman, designer of Alanna Bess, a range stocked by US retailers Pitkin County Dry Goods in Aspen and Penny Lane in San Antonio.
The wholesale price of turquoise is difficult to gauge because of wide variations in the stone’s quality. Turquoise from the Sleeping Beauty mine in Globe, Arizona — the most expensive produced in the US and the world’s most abundant source — can today sell at wholesale for as little as $100 a strand. But a 14mm perfect round and colour-single strand could achieve a wholesale price of $10,000.
Ms Richman’s stone is from Sleeping Beauty. The mine supplied copper and turquoise for 40 years. However, turquoise production was closed in August 2012, when the owners decided to focus solely on copper mining, a more lucrative endeavour because of the metal’s widespread industrial uses. Turquoise is often produced as a byproduct of copper.
Several designers have suggested the closure of Sleeping Beauty’s turquoise operation has driven up demand, as jewellers from Europe, Asia, and the US acquire the remaining inventory.
“People say there’s no mine like it in the world. I bought it to stash away but who knows what will happen. Whether there will be more of it is a gamble,” says Ms Richman.
Sleeping Beauty is not the only mine to shift from turquoise production in the US southwest — home to the largest reserves of turquoise worldwide. In 1975, the Copper Queen mine, which had produced Bisbee Blue turquoise from Bisbee, Arizona, closed its mining operations. Morenci mine in Greenlee County, Arizona, although still active, is one of the largest copper reserves in the world with an estimated 3.2bn tonnes, and so focuses on copper rather than turquoise.
Ms Richman says: “For some time, Sleeping Beauty has had the best reputation. When we started using it, it was only in our more special pieces. When the mine closed, people realised it was time to cut more of the material.”
For pieces featuring large stones of significant blue and without matrix — the black lines that criss-cross through some turquoise — auction houses have achieved significant prices.
Click here for the full article in the Financial Times.