Drama in them thar hills

Philip Chambless, left, and Mike Ryan II

Miners, stonecutters, jewelry makers and dealers recount their experience with the vibrant sky blue stone in Turquoise in America Part Two: 1910–1990, by Mike Ryan II and Philip Chambless (Callais Press, 2020, 371 pages, $60).

“My earliest recollection of a turquoise dealer was Lawrence Godber, who my dad dealt with,” says jewelry designer Frank Patania Jr. “I think Lawrence either owned or had a franchise, to sell Number 8 turquoise. He also owned the Burnham Dry Creek claims at that time. At any rate, he had access to turquoise. … I remember standing there, watching my dad and Lawrence dicker over the prices.”

The personal anecdotes bring a variety of authentic voices to a thorough history that Ryan says will appeal to “anybody who has some sort of love for or affiliation with turquoise.”

Turquoise in America Part One: The Great American Turquoise Rush 1890-1910 was first published in 2016 and has been reissued in a new volume that matches the design and format of Part Two. “In Part One, we relate a period of time in the history of turquoise that most people were not aware of,” says Ryan, a retired financial advisor-turned-turquoise collector. “This period of time predates the Indian jewelry tourist market. We recount the story of how the East Coast investors came and tried to establish a pricing cartel where they could control all aspects of the turquoise trade.”

In the introduction to Part Two, Ryan writes that the history of turquoise presents “a myriad of complexities including personality, politics, economics, and culture as we seek to understand the motivation and the behavior of the movers and shakers of the time.” The new volume explores the developing tourist market and focuses on the introduction of the railroad in the West and the Fred Harvey Company, a hospitality organization that established an Indian Department in 1901 and played a key role in the production and sale of Indian curios. “They really became very important in matching Indian jewelry with the tourist market,” Ryan says. The book also goes into detail about miners and mining claims throughout the Western states, as well as the growth of the Chinese turquoise market.

Chambless and Ryan sign copies of Turquoise in America, Parts One and Two, at 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20, at the Eldorado Hotel (309 W. San Francisco St., 505-988-4455, eldoradohotel.com); 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21, at Hotel Chimayo (125 Washington Ave. 505-988-4900, hotelchimayo.com); and 2-4 p.m. Saturday at Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi (113 Washington Ave., 505-988-3030, rosewoodhotels.com/en/inn-of-the-anasazi-santa-fe). Admission to the signings is free. turquoiseinamerica.com

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