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Mike Ryan II

Mike retired from a thirty-year career as a financial advisor, author and teacher in 2011 and reawakened a passion for turquoise first begun in the 1970’s. He had some experience from writing a technical book, Asset Allocation and the Investment Management Process and a book about money, The Colors of Money. His interest in turquoise led him to Philip and they decided to complete a book project Philip had been working on for over twenty years. The result was The Great American Turquoise Rush, 1890-1910 about the early days of turquoise mining in the southwest. As they were finishing work on The Great American Turquoise Rush, 1890–1910, it became clear that this was actually Part One of an enduring history of turquoise in America. They agreed to continue the story with Turquoise in America Part Two, 1910–1990. Part Three, The Stories of Turquoise 1990-2020 concludes the trilogy covering one hundred thirty years of turquoise history

In researching this history, primary source material is a problem because turquoise miners do not generally keep detailed records of their activities and secondary accounts about turquoise history are rare. Unlike the period covered in Part One, Part Two covers relatively recent history—and within memory. Mike was able to interview over 70 people associated with turquoise. These were transcribed then edited and condensed these “Stories of Turquoise” to be included with the historical narrative.

The Stories of Turquoise reflect the recollections, conveyed through interviews, of those still able and willing to provide their accounts and memories and intersect the narrative of the history, especially that of more recent times. Turquoise has had a near-magical effect on people since the Persians first pulled it out of the ground as early as 7,000 years ago. Whatever the future may hold for the whims of fashion and desire, this love affair with turquoise will continue. 


Philip Chambless

Philip has lived in the mountains outside El Morro, NM since the 1970’s and is a full-time turquoise prospector, lapidary and jewelry designer. He has researched the history of turquoise for more than twenty years. As his interest in turquoise grew in the late 1980s he moved to Santa Fe where southwest jewelry was going strong. It was during this time that his old buddy Douglas Magnus acquired the so-called Tiffany Mines at Cerrillos. His interest in owning a turquoise mine drove him to seek out his own, but Philip is red/green colorblind, making it hard for him to see the turquoise in its dusty native state. To make up for this color vision shortcoming, he utilized his love of history to research the old forgotten turquoise mines. Countless hours in college libraries and county courthouses across the Southwest led him to locate the mining claims in New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Nevada.

Although he had acquired research for 20 years it took the collaboration with Mike Ryan to bring The Great American Turquoise Rush, 1890–1910 to fruition. However, it was only part of the story. After the collapse of the initial rush, turquoise mining continued, but the focus shifted to the reservation and tourist trade. This book is about that period and the men and women who supplied the stone for the turquoise jewelry we covet today.

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