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Parts of this story written by and credited to
Have you ever seen Orvil Jack turquoise? It's not something
that you'll forget, especially the vivid green stones that have
become its trademark color. Turquoise Jewelry collectors who are
fortunate enough to have pieces made from Orvil Jack turquoise
usually won't part with them. I've been in love with this turquoise
for awhile now, and tried to learn about the man it is named for,
and his turquoise mine, but with little success. Luckily, Carol
Weidman, a jewelry artisan who uses the turquoise in her designs,
caught my error when I called it "Orville" Jack on a
photo caption. She put me in touch with Grace Wintle, Mr. Jack's
daughter, who patiently answered my questions about her father
and their Turquoise mine.
Back to 1956... Orvil Jack and his
wife, Bessie, moved their family to Nevada in 1956. Orvil
chose a turquoise mining site and they staked a few Turquoise
claims in Lander County, naming their turquoise mine Blue
Ridge. Grace shares this early childhood memory of summertime
turquoise mining, "Mining was such an adventure...
after my father would make a pass with the dozer, I would
run over the newly exposed dirt and look for pieces of turquoise.
I was probably more trouble than help, but what fun I had!"
It's more difficult for smaller mining operations to continue
today, due to the expenses associated with strict environmental
regulations, mining laws and bonding requirements. Grace
feels they are very fortunate to be able to continue to
work their family's American Turquoise mine and produce
this wonderful lime green turquoise.
How It's Accomplished... Turquoise
miners begin the mining process by using a large bulldozer
to remove the top dirt, called overburden. The miner watches
very closely for the first sign of turquoise, and once a
turquoise vein or pocket is located, switches to smaller
equipment that provides more precise dirt removal. After
the turquoise vein is exposed, air hammers are used to drill
around the sides of it, bringing the vein more into the
open. Finally, the miners use hand picks and shovels to
carefully extract the turquoise - and as Grace says, the
rest is "good old fashioned hard work." The miner
takes the turquoise to another spot to clean, refine, and
sort it. During the cleaning process, a saw can be used
to cut the turquoise away from its host rock.
Orvil's Favorites... Vivid lime green
turquoise comes to mind when we hear the term Orvil Jack,
but Grace says her father's favorite turquoise was always
the beautiful blue spider-web variety, like the stone used
in a bolo tie owned by her father. In fact, she says that
"Growing up, I remember we rarely came across a lime
green turquoise piece, and when we did, we were told to
throw it down ... it just wasn't good enough to keep."
He had a change of heart about green turquoise later in
life. In about 1983, in one of the last places he dug for
turquoise, Orvil discovered the beautiful lime green turquoise
stones. Something about them must have impressed him, because
he continued to mine the area. He sold only a small amount
of this "new" color, keeping the majority of the
lime green turquoise himself. Sadly, Orvil Jack passed away
in 1986. A few years later, the family heard from Bob Hall
and Lee Louden, talented bead-makers who were looking for
the "fantastic green turquoise" from the Blue
Ridge Mine. They bought the high grade, rough stones that
were available, then returned the following year to help
the family mine. Grace credits both men for much of the
mine's success in the early 1990's with lime green turquoise.
It's All Natural... The Blue Ridge Mine produces blue
turquoise, too, and occasionally the Wintle's find rare,
lemon yellow stones. Grace says that Orvil Jack was a
staunch believer in selling only natural, untreated turquoise.
He would never have considered treating any of his turquoise,
and they maintain that belief, guaranteeing artisans a
totally natural product. Grace, her husband Jay, and their
sons work the mine and sell rough turquoise to a group
of jewelry artists, people they know personally and whose
work they respect. They have a close relationship with
their clientele, and try to accommodate their needs before
accepting orders from others. Orvil Jack Turquoise is
a name that will be known forever to everyone who appreciates
turquoise. The man and the mine have made an impact on
the turquoise world, playing a huge role in the increased
appreciation of green turquoise variations. What a wonderful
Look at the awesome neon colored Vein of Lime Green
Turquoise in the picture to the right side.
you have a collection of Orvil Jack Turquoise, Early Western Americana, American
Turquoise, Gemstones, Lapidary or Smithing Tools or Mining Tools we
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