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New Mexico Mineral Symposium — Abstracts

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Arizona Gemstones With a Few From New Mexico

Wolfgang H.T. Mueller

Oracle, AZ

After several prior presentations of this subject, it was formalized during the Arizona Centenial as an article “ARIZONA GEMSTONES” in the Jan-Feb 2012 issue of Rocks & Minerals Magazine.

Gemstones have been collected for millennia in the area that is now Arizona. Native peoples have been using gemstones as personal adornment for at least 10,000 years. Materials used were shell, bone, and stone–argillite, claystone, copper, flint, sandstone, and turquoise. The use of turquoise only goes back about 1,500 years.

Arizona has one of the largest selections of gemstones in the U.S. as well as being a major U.S. producer. This is in great part due to the proliferation of Arizona’s mines. The greatest influence being its world-class copper mines, producing gemstones from primary emplacement as well as secondary weathering/alteration of the ore bodies.

The most famous and/or abundant gemstones include: quartz, agate, jasper, azurite, “campbellite”, chrysocolla, copper, fire agate, garnet, gem chrysocolla, magnesite, malachite, obsidian (apache tears), peridot, petrified wood, shattuckite, and turquoise. Manmade gemstones are also significant both unintentional as well as intentional. For discussion purposes the gemstones are divided into six groups: the quartzes, the metals, the classics, the leftovers, unnaturals (manmade) and beware and be aware. The featured gemstones are on display in the lobby.

This introduction to the great variety of Arizona gemstones will touch on the highlights, the major or famous locations as well as a cross section of the less known gemstones.

There are literally hundreds of gemstone locations throughout Arizona, from large to almost unrecognizable. Gemstones can be found almost anywhere in the state. Ten locations throughout the state are highlighted. The largest quartz group region is in the petrified forest area around Winslow, Holbrook, and the Petrified Forest National Park. Of course the park is off limits for collecting. The second largest is the Burro Creek area west of Bagdad. The remaining eight are copper mining camps: Ajo, Bagdad, Bisbee, Clifton/Morenci, Globe/Miami, Jerome, Kingman-Mineral Park, and Ray.
Arizona’s major economic gemstones are fire agate, gem chrysocolla, peridot, petrified wood, and turquoise, “the big five.” Of these turquoise undoubtedly is the best known, made famous by its extensive use in Native American jewelry.

It seemed only logical that some of New Mexico’s gemstones also be featured since they were mainly formed by the same process as in Arizona and more importantly, to celebrate the opening of the new Mineral Museum here in Socorro. Featured New Mexico gemstones will include smithsonite, Chrysocolla, agate and ???

Photos and Lapidary Work by Wolfgang & Diana Mueller.


  1. Anthony, J. W., S. A, Williams, R. A. Bideaux, and Grant, R. W. (1995) Mineralogy of Arizona. 3rd ed. University of
    Arizona Press, Tucson.
  2. Granger, Byrd H. (1960) Arizona Place Names. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
  3. Jernigan, E. Wesley, (1978) Jewelry of the Prehistoric Southwest. 1st ed. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
  4. Mitchell, James R., (1995) Gem Trails of Arizona, Gem Guides Book Co. Baldwin Park, CA.
  5. Mueller, Wolfgang (2012) Arizona Gemstones. Rocks & Minerals Vol 87, No1: 64-69.
  6. Schlegal, Dorothy M., (1957) Gem Stones of the United States, Geological Survey Bulletin 1042-G
  7. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines (1991) Minerals Yearbook Vol. 1 Metals and Minerals 1989
  8. U.S.G.S. (1908) Mineral Resources of the United States, Calendar Year 1907, Part II- Nonmetallic Products


gemstones, argillite, claystone, copper, flint, sandstone, turquoise, quartz, agate, jasper, azurire, chrysocolla, garnet

pp. 23

36th Annual New Mexico Mineral Symposium
November 13-15, 2015, Socorro, NM