White Buffalo "Turquoise"

This beautiful white stone is commonly referred to as "White Buffalo Turquoise", however it actually is not a turquoise.  The name was given to the stone by the Otteson's who own many mines in the southwest including the White Buffalo mine.  This "White Turquoise", along with others, is actually one of two substances called Howlite and Magnasite.

Many mines in the United States do have white turquoise materials that will test as actual turquoise, however it is very soft with a hardness of "0" on the Mohs scale.  It is as soft as chalk making it nearly impossible to cut and polish into white turquoise cabochons.  The material can be enhanced or stabilized making it suitable for quality jewelry.  The only problem with enhancing or stabilizing is that stone will lose it's white color and return to it's natural blue or green color. 

Several years back, Dean Otteson, the owner and miner of the Royston Turquoise Mine had been noticing that there was a market for something white in the Southwest Jewelry market. He went to his father Lynn Otteson, who had been scouting and mining Turquoise in the Tonopah area for over 50 years, and asked if he was aware of any White Turquoise in the area. Lynn Otteson knew right where to go. He remembered the White Buffalo Turquoise that he had seen years before. So they unearthed the rare and beautiful treasure. There are critics and competitors who say it isn't turquoise at all. However White Buffalo Turquoise lies in veins like turquoise. Surrounded by in black chert a black rock similar to flint. It cuts and polishes like turquoise.

As soon as they Mined and cut the White Buffalo Turquoise, they took it to the market and it was a hit, people absolutely loved it. As usual, the testing of the material did not come back for months and White Buffalo had become so popular by that time that it's name, White Buffalo Turquoise had become the name of this material and it was set in stone! So today, we must call it White Turquoise or White Buffalo Turquoise in order for consumers to know what we are talking about.

The bottom line is that this beautiful hard white Gemstone has now become the standard for White Turquoise and right or wrong it is called "White Buffalo Turquoise". It was named that by the Otteson's and in respect of their great Turquoise Mining past, we will go along with this name only because it is owned and mined by some of the most famous and historic Turquoise Minors of all times, The Otteson's.

Another "white turquoise", Wild Horse is a stone from Arizona. Wild Horse came out shortly after White Buffalo and was sold by many as White Turquoise. It is not Turquoise but is another white stone that is used in Southwestern Turquoise jewelry. Wild Horse is white in color with brown to reddish brown matrix.

A beautiful White Buffalo pendant in a classic silver Navajo style setting.  

A beautiful White Buffalo pendant in a classic silver Navajo style setting.

 

Above is a unique cuff bracelet with three large White Buffalo pieces set inside a cluster of red coral. Made by Navajo artist Calvin Martinez. 

Above is a unique cuff bracelet with three large White Buffalo pieces set inside a cluster of red coral. Made by Navajo artist Calvin Martinez. 

Oldest Living Indian

John Smith, Oldest living Indian pictured above at the age of 131.

John Smith (d. Februrary 6, 1922), also know as Gaa-binagwiiyaas ( which the flesh peels off)—recorded variously as Kahbe Nagwi Wens, Ka-be-na-gwe-wes, Ka-be-nah-gwey-wence, Kay-bah-nung-we-way, Kay-bah-nung-we-way or Ga-Be-Nah-Gwen-Wonce—translated into English as "Sloughing Flesh", "Wrinkle Meat", or Old "Wrinkled Meat".  He was a Chippewa Indian who lived in the Cass Lake (Minnesota) area and is reputed to have died at the age of 137.

Tufa Cast

A Brief History of Native American Silver Work

When the Spanish came into what is now New Mexico and Arizona, they brought with them silver and other metal, this was the beginning of silver work for the Pueblo Peoples and Navajo. The Spanish taught them to work with molten silver to create jewelry and other items.

The old silversmiths would have to melt silver from the embers of a fire left burning overnight. The silversmith would place silver coins into a crucible, which was placed into the bucket of embers. They would have to fan the flames for an hour or longer to create the molten silver. The silver would then be poured into molds created out of tufa stone and allowed to cool.

Today Silversmiths use torches to melt the silver down, many still use the tufa to create on-of-a-kind works of art.


Tufa Stone

Tufa stone is a soft and porous volcanic stone that can be found in many parts of the world, including the Navajo reservation in Arizona and as far away as Armenia and Western Australia.

The tufa stone is perfect for making molds because of its softness, making it easy to carve designs into.  However because of its chemistry and being a volcanic stone it can withstand high temperatures making it ideal for the tufa cast jewelry process.  The texture created from the tufa stone is very unique giving each piece of jewelry created through this process a unique look and feel.  However, because the stone is very soft and porous it can typically only be used once or twice for casting.


Tufa Casting Process

The tufa casting process is much the same today as when the Spanish first introduced silver work to the Native American Indians. Once the design has been sketched or conceptualized, the basic process is as follows:

  1. The design is carved into the stone. This requires a delicate hand, especially for intricate designs.
  2. The tufa stone is carbonized, or covered with a fine layer of ash
  3. The two sides of the mold are bound together
  4. The silver is melted in a crucible using a torch until it is molten and glowing
  5. The molten silver is poured into the mold to cool and harden
  6. Once the silver has hardened, it is taken out of the mold and filed and sanded to get rid of any unwanted burrs, sand or extra pieces
  7. The final product is polished