Home Turquoise American VS Chinese Turquoise: What is the difference?

American VS Chinese Turquoise: What is the difference?

by Madonna

Turquoise is a captivating gemstone with a storied history spanning thousands of years. Known for its unique blue-green hues, turquoise has been cherished by various cultures for its beauty and supposed metaphysical properties. Among the most renowned sources of turquoise today are the United States, particularly the Southwestern states, and China. This article delves into the differences between American and Chinese turquoise, exploring their geological origins, historical significance, quality and characteristics, mining practices, and market dynamics.

Geological Origins

American Turquoise:

The most famous turquoise deposits in the United States are found in the Southwestern states, particularly Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. These regions possess the ideal geological conditions for turquoise formation. Turquoise is a secondary mineral that forms through the weathering and oxidation of pre-existing minerals, primarily copper, aluminum, and phosphorus. In the Southwestern U.S., the arid climate and the presence of copper-rich rocks contribute significantly to turquoise formation.


One of the most iconic American turquoise mines is the Sleeping Beauty Mine in Arizona. Known for its pure, sky-blue stones, the Sleeping Beauty Mine produced some of the finest turquoise in the world before it ceased operations in 2012. Other notable mines include the Kingman Mine in Arizona, famous for its vibrant blue hues with a characteristic black matrix, and the Blue Gem Mine in Nevada, which produces a wide range of turquoise colors from blue to green.


Chinese Turquoise:

China has a long history of turquoise mining, with significant deposits found in the Hubei Province. The geological conditions in Hubei are favorable for turquoise formation, similar to those in the American Southwest. The turquoise from this region is typically found in association with limestone and dolomite rocks.


Chinese turquoise is known for its diverse color range, from light blue to dark green, often with intricate matrix patterns. The Zhushan and Shiyan areas in Hubei are particularly renowned for their high-quality turquoise. Unlike American turquoise, which often exhibits a more uniform color, Chinese turquoise is celebrated for its variety and the unique patterns created by the host rock matrix.

See Also: The Chinese Turquoise

Historical Significance

American Turquoise:

Turquoise has played a crucial role in the cultural and spiritual practices of Native American tribes, especially those in the Southwestern United States. The stone is deeply embedded in the traditions of the Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi tribes, among others. These tribes have used turquoise in jewelry, amulets, and ceremonial objects for centuries, believing it to possess protective and healing properties.

The Navajo people, in particular, have a rich history of turquoise craftsmanship. Navajo silversmiths are renowned for their intricate silver and turquoise jewelry, which combines traditional designs with modern aesthetics. Turquoise is also a significant element in Navajo sand paintings, which are used in healing ceremonies.

Chinese Turquoise:

In China, turquoise has been valued since ancient times, with evidence of its use dating back to the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE). It was used to create a variety of objects, including jewelry, ceremonial items, and inlays for furniture and other artifacts. Turquoise was highly prized in ancient China, often associated with nobility and used in burial items to ensure the deceased’s safe passage to the afterlife.

Chinese turquoise has also been used in traditional medicine, where it is believed to have various health benefits. It was ground into powder and used in elixirs and topical treatments, reflecting the stone’s perceived healing properties.

Quality and Characteristics

American Turquoise:

The quality of American turquoise varies significantly, with factors such as color, hardness, and matrix playing crucial roles in determining its value. High-quality American turquoise is characterized by its vibrant blue color, often referred to as “robin’s egg blue” or “sky blue.” The absence of matrix (the host rock’s veining) is also highly prized, although some collectors appreciate the intricate patterns that the matrix can create.

The hardness of American turquoise is another critical quality indicator. Turquoise from the Sleeping Beauty Mine, for example, is known for its hardness and durability, making it ideal for jewelry making. In contrast, softer turquoise requires stabilization—a process that involves impregnating the stone with a polymer or resin to enhance its strength and color.

Chinese Turquoise:

Chinese turquoise is distinguished by its wide color spectrum and unique matrix patterns. The color ranges from pale blue to deep green, with some stones exhibiting a combination of both hues. The matrix in Chinese turquoise can be quite striking, with black, brown, or golden spiderweb patterns that add to the stone’s aesthetic appeal.

The hardness of Chinese turquoise can vary, and like American turquoise, some stones may require stabilization to improve their durability. High-quality Chinese turquoise is often as hard and vibrant as its American counterparts, making it a favorite among collectors and jewelers.

Mining Practices

American Turquoise Mining:

The mining of turquoise in the United States has a long and storied history, with both large-scale commercial operations and small-scale artisanal mining playing significant roles. In the past, many turquoise mines were part of larger copper mining operations, where turquoise was extracted as a byproduct. Today, some of these mines continue to operate, while others have been exhausted or closed for economic reasons.

Artisanal mining is also prevalent in the Southwestern United States, with individual miners and small companies extracting turquoise from both established and new deposits. These operations often emphasize ethical and sustainable mining practices, focusing on minimizing environmental impact and preserving the natural landscape.

Chinese Turquoise Mining:

Turquoise mining in China has traditionally been carried out by small-scale artisanal miners, although larger commercial operations have become more common in recent years. The mining practices in China vary, with some operations employing modern techniques and machinery, while others continue to rely on traditional methods.

In recent years, there has been an increased focus on improving the sustainability and environmental impact of turquoise mining in China. Efforts are being made to regulate mining activities, ensure fair labor practices, and promote the responsible sourcing of turquoise.

Market Dynamics

American Turquoise Market:

The market for American turquoise is influenced by factors such as rarity, quality, and cultural significance. High-quality turquoise from renowned mines like Sleeping Beauty and Kingman commands premium prices, driven by both its aesthetic appeal and historical value. The closure of some major mines has further increased the rarity and value of American turquoise.

Native American craftsmanship also plays a crucial role in the market dynamics of American turquoise. Jewelry and artifacts made by Native American artisans are highly sought after, with collectors valuing the cultural heritage and traditional techniques embodied in these pieces. The market for American turquoise is robust, with strong demand from both domestic and international buyers.

Chinese Turquoise Market:

The market for Chinese turquoise is characterized by its diversity and affordability. While high-quality Chinese turquoise can fetch substantial prices, the wide range of quality and color available makes it accessible to a broader audience. Chinese turquoise is popular among both collectors and jewelers, who appreciate its unique patterns and vibrant hues.

In recent years, Chinese turquoise has gained increased recognition and appreciation in the global market. Efforts to promote the authenticity and quality of Chinese turquoise, along with improved mining practices, have contributed to its rising popularity. The market for Chinese turquoise is dynamic, with strong demand from both domestic and international buyers.


The comparison between American and Chinese turquoise reveals a fascinating interplay of geological, historical, and cultural factors that shape the identity and value of these gemstones. American turquoise, with its rich cultural heritage and iconic mines, holds a special place in the hearts of collectors and enthusiasts. Chinese turquoise, with its diverse colors and intricate patterns, offers a unique and equally captivating alternative.

Understanding the differences between American and Chinese turquoise enhances our appreciation of these gemstones and the traditions they represent. Whether one prefers the pure blue of American turquoise or the varied hues of Chinese turquoise, each stone carries a story of its origin, craftsmanship, and the people who cherish it.


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