World-class turquoise from the Azure Mine

The Azure Turquoise Mine, located in the Burro Mountains 10 miles southeast of Silver City, New Mexico, was big news in the mining and gemstone communities of the late 1800s. Below are excerpts from three professional publications of the period:

U.S. Geolological Survey — 1891: Gemstones, Metals
(Ch. 2: Gemstones in 1891)

The three humps of the Burro Mountains are seen on the far horizon, in this 1960s photograph taken in Arenas Valley, a community east of Silver City. ~ Bea Ingraham Photo

Two new localities for turquois [sic] have been discovered in the Burro mountains, near the old Paschal smelting works, about 15 miles southwest of Silver City, in Grant county, New Mexico. This discovery resulted in the forming of an eastern company, which is finding fine material.

This company, organized in October, 1891, under the name of the Azure Mining Company, under the laws of the State of New York and incorporated, has a number of turquois mines in New Mexico, but up to the present has paid especial attention to but one mine, the Azure. This has been steadily worked and several thousands of dollars’ worth of turquois have been sold. The colors range from a deep sky-blue to a blue with a faint tint of green, the fine material being limited in quantity. The stones produced at this mine always have a tint of green, due either to a partial change in the mineral or to a local variation. They are not by any means an ideal turquois blue, but they furnish good merchantable material, and if they continue to keep their color it is believed that they will eventually drive out of the market the Egyptian and the poorer a quality of American stones. Up to the present time the output of good turquois has not much more than paid for the expenses of the enterprise. After selling the turquois for seven months the owners claim that thus far they do not know of a single stone that has changed color.

About 12 miles from this deposit is an Indian graveyard. In every grave that has been opened a few polished or irregular-shaped turquois beads have been found.

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The turquoise: a study of its history, mineralogy, geology,
ethnology, archaeology, mythology, folkore, and technology (1915)


Deposits of turquoise, formerly of importance but now largely exhausted, are situated among the Burro Mountains, Grant County, near the southwest corner of New Mexico. The principal occurrence centers about the Azure mine, which is 10 miles S. 35° W. of Silver City and 1 miles north of Leopold, overlooking the Mangas Valley.

Turquois was mined in this region in prehistoric times; excavations and heaps of debris, containing stone implements and coiled pottery, mark the site of the ancient operations, and have determined the location of some of the modern workings. The deposits were probably exploited also under Spanish rule. John E. Coleman, locally known as “Turquoise [sic] John,” is generally accredited with the first modern discovery of turquoise. He is supposed to have stumbled upon some old workings while on a hunting trip in 1875 and to have been instrumental in locating the first claim, the Caviate [sic].

The Burro Mountains consist in the main of a core of pre-Cambrian rocks, chiefly granitic, intruded by quartz monzonite and quartz monzonite porphyry. Much of the region has been severely fractured and mineralized, and to the south of the turquois deposits are copper veins formed through secondary enrichment. The turquois lies both in the granite and in the porphyry dikes traversing it, and is found in places along the contact. It has been deposited in fractures where the rock has undergone alteration.

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Memoirs of the National Academies of Sciences 
Volume XII
Part 2
3rd Memoir

Burro Mountains — The Azure mine, located 10 miles S. 35° W. of Silver City, was opened in 1891 by the Azure Mining Co., of New York. It has been operated in modern times more extensively than any other turquois mine in this country, and its stones are the equal of the Persian gems. The total value of its output is stated to have been between $2,000,000 and $4,000,000. The deposit has been worked by an open cut, measuring about 600 feet in length, 100 to 200 feet in width, and 60 feet in depth, with tunnels at several levels. In 1893 the famous “Elizabeth pocket” was entered, which produced more high-grade turquois than any single deposit on record.

For additional information on the Azure Mine and the history of Silver City, New Mexico, see The Azure Mining Company posts a letter and Remembering Silver City.