In Turquoise in America Part Two 1910-1990, we tell the history of turquoise largely through the stories of those who lived the history. While we strived to provide rigorous research and documentation of fact, our readers tell us that it is the stories that drives the narrative and captures the imagination. I interviewed over 70 people who had ties to the turquoise trade. This story is from someone who shall remain nameless. That is partly due to his private nature but also, I suspect, and as you will hear in the story, because high graders prefer to remain unknown.
I was approached by a fellow, living in the Santa Fe area, who had some turquoise to show and a story to tell. In the 1970's as a young man he worked on a state road crew that was repairing parts of I-25 near the Cerrillos exit. He had heard of the old turquoise mines around Turquoise Hill and one day, after work, he decided to nose around a bit on the old claims.
As he told, he noticed some color in the face of a small cliff that he recognized as part of the Castilian Mine that was part of the group that had been mined during the period included in Turquoise in America Part One The Great American Turquoise Rush 1890-1910. Most of the turquoise extracted by the American Turquoise Company had come from the Muniz claim, aka the Tiffany, so named because of the glamor associated with the well known company who was the primary customer of the ATC, and located about a half mile south of the Castilian.
He returned days later with some equipment that allowed him to lower himself over the face of the overhang and work the color. Now of course he was trespassing on private land since the claims at Turquoise Hill had all been patented and were private property. He high graded the stone which means he illegally stole the stone from the owners. At that time the mines were owned by the Gerard family from New York. Years later, returning to the scene of the crime, after ownership had passed to others, he was deterred from any more shenanigans by the shots fired at him by the caretaker who no doubt had designs on doing some high grading himself. The story is told in Part Two by Doug Magnus the current owner of the mine.
This is the total amount of turquoise taken from the Castilian by the unnamed high grader. The sky blue in the lower left corner would have been the only turquoise commercially viable during the early period and would have been cut to remove any matrix.
These stones are among the highest grade of Cerrillos turquoise I have seen and would be graded at Very High Grade to Gem Grade by the R2 Rules of turquoise grading.
I estimate the weight of this cab to be over 200 carats with a range of exceptional color over a sunburst of golden to sunburnt matrix. R2 grade of 95.25 or Gem Grade GG. See our article and videos on Grading.
In Part Two we heard many stories of turquoise provided by well known members of the turquoise trade. There are many more stories to be told, some from those whose names will be told and remembered and many more like this unnamed high grader who recovered perhaps the highest grade of Cerrillos ever seen.
Or rather unseen and unknown. Until now.
Mike Ryan II
Santa Fe, November 2021