The arid and austere landscape making up so much of the state of Arizona is host to some of the most sought after gem minerals anywhere. Historically, their discovery and harvest was actually a bi-product of the mining efforts in that state.
Copper mining has been a robust industry in Arizona since the late 1800s, with silver and gold, zinc and manganese mining being another part of their production.
An early 20th century publication, “Gems and Precious Stones of Arizona” by Frank L. Culin, Jr, published in 1916 offers a window into the rich symbiosis found in the natural metal mining and the treasure trove of gemstone minerals native to Arizona. “The best known gems found in Arizona are the turquoise, garnet, peridot, chrysocolla, azyr-malachite, malachite, agate, chalcedony, amethystine quartz, diamond (meteoric) dioptose and topaz,” wrote Culin.
The azyrmalachite (or azur-malachite) Culin referenced in his bulletin is a copper and malachite mineral formed in copper rich veins, and is still found in deposits there.
Arizona celebrates its statehood centennial this year (1912-2012) and it still is being explored by gem lovers who know what to look for and where to scout for these natural treasures.
Renowned gem carver and jewelry designer Helen Serras-Herman is also an Arizona resident. It’s only natural that she should draw inspiration from this celebratory season in her home state by designing homage to Arizona’s mineral bounty.
A striking neck piece in her Copper Trails - The Centennial Collection is composed of Arizona’s natural gems. The pendant features chrysocolla in quartz, azurite, chrome pyrope, ‘anthill’ garnet, along with Mexican fire opal in a 14K yellow gold and sterling silver setting, with a detachable strand of 18mm Arizona azur-malachite beads, and cornelian.