August 26, 2019 9 Comments
For those of us who are obsessed with turquoise jewelry, a brand new show has debuted on the INSP channel called Turquoise Fever. It follows the Otteson family in Tonopah, Nevada, who have owned a number of turquoise mines for three generations. Their claims encompass many different mines, including one of our personal favorites, Royston Turquoise. Royston Turquoise has a lovely variation between blue and green with a brown matrix. Turquoise Fever was especially interesting for us at Stagecoach because Gary gets a lot of his stones from the Otteson's and has met them on many different occasions. Finding the high-grade stones that Gary uses in his jewelry can be difficult but the Otteson's are always a reliable and trusted source.
The first episode of Turquoise Fever starts with a bang, literally. The first few scenes show the vast emptiness of the Nevada desert with only hills, small mountains, and rock formations as far as the eye can see. Suddenly one of these small mountains erupts in a tremendous slow-motion explosion. The show explains that these miners use dynamite to blow open areas where they believe veins of turquoise exist. They must carefully gauge the size and place of the explosions in order to not destroy the precious material they are hunting for. After an explosion, they search through the crater for turquoise pieces or veins that they can further excavate. It’s remarkable how dangerous this operation is. Besides the dynamite, some of the Otteson's will use heavy excavation machinery while others break apart boulders with sledgehammers or pickaxes. This work is done in remote areas sometimes hours away from the nearest hospital and far out of cell phone service. They did show one particular accident with one of their large excavators. Fortunately, no one was hurt and they were able to continue working. It is quite amazing to watch this mining operation unfold.
The plot of this first episode involves one of the Otteson’s best customers, Yasutomo Kodera, coming all the way from Japan to purchase turquoise stones. They explain that he comes every few years and that his visit can turn into a $200,000 day for the Otteson's. Yasu comes to the United States looking for the highest-quality turquoise to use in his designer jewelry. Obviously, the Otteson family wants to please him with their selection. The fact that a Japanese designer is one of the Otteson’s best customers is not a surprise. Turquoise jewelry is phenomenally popular in Japan, so much so that many of the top Native American jewelry artists have moved to Japan to open their own stores. American turquoise is the most sought after in the world so it’s no surprise that some of these designers come to the United States to pick out their own stones. I think it is really neat that this American art form has become so popular overseas and is really a testament to the talent and quality of the Native American jewelry artists.
When Yasu arrives, he tells the Otteson's that he has not come just for their quality turquoise stones. He explains that he has expanded his jewelry into department stores where typical blue turquoise jewelry may not go with all clothing. He needs White Buffalo for a different look. If you don’t know, White Buffalo is a white stone with black “char”. When it was first discovered, the miners believed it was a white form of turquoise and promoted it as such. Several months later when test results revealed that was not actually turquoise, the name still stuck. Even today you still see this called White Buffalo Turquoise even though it is it's own original material. That being said, White Buffalo jewelry is very popular and you see it being used more and more in Native American jewelry. The white and black colors are versatile in that they can go with many different outfits. Yasu told the Otteson's that he wanted White Buffalo because it worked with certain clothing that the blue turquoise just doesn’t.
The moment when Yasu told the Otteson family that he needed White Buffalo was quite a dramatic point in the episode. They explained that the stone only comes from one area of the world and they haven’t mined it for 8 years, primarily because they were having difficulty finding the material. Most of the remainder of the episode shows them hunting for this stone. The family splits up, some taking four-wheelers and others horses, searching for White Buffalo. The areas they search are called The Black Hills because there appears to be black rock covering the ground, which I assume is the dark char that is found in the White Buffalo stone. Eventually, they find a good deposit of the material and even discover a boulder containing the largest single nugget that they have ever found. They exclaim, “this could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars” and “that’s gonna make us famous!” The Otteson's have located the high-grade White Buffalo stone that they need to fulfill Yasu’s order.
Take a look here at some of our White Buffalo jewelry
The end of the Turquoise Fever premiere shows Yasu picking out the cut and polished stones that he wants. While no total dollar amount is stated, it’s clear he is spending at least many tens of thousands of dollars on these stones. You see him excited about their selection of Royston Turquoise, with its combination of blue and green coloring. Finally, they show him the highest-quality turquoise that they currently have, a large Apache Blue Turquoise stone. Apache Blue has a deep blue color with dark spider webbing and is very beautiful. Gary has made jewelry with Apache Blue Turquoise but, of course, has never paid the price that Yasu does for this stone. The piece that the Otteson's show is $100 per carat and weighs 302 carats for a total of over $30,000 for one large piece. $100 per carat is an enormous price reserved for only the very best of the best turquoise in the world. After a moment of consideration, Yasu accepts the offer. You can understand why the Otteson family was very concerned with making Yasu happy.
All in all, the first episode of Turquoise Fever was really interesting. Having met the Otteson's before, it was fun for us to see how they go about mining the turquoise that we purchase for our jewelry. They focused some attention on Royston Turquoise, which Gary really loves using in his jewelry. We are excited to see where they take this show in coming episodes and I may discuss it more in a future post. If you would like to watch the show it airs on INSP on Wednesday nights at 8 pm CST. You can learn more about it from their website here, Turquoise Fever on INSP
If you have watched the show, be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts!
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