The Sleeping Beauty mine is located near Globe, Arizona. Its turquoise is noted for its solid, light blue color with no matrix. Sleeping Beauty turquoise is the favorite of the Zuni Pueblo silversmiths for use in petite point, needlepoint, and inlay jewelry because of its natural hardness (5-6) and consistent color. This mine is one of the largest in North America and is still operating.
Driving into Miami, Arizona, the evidence of copper mining is everywhere. Large hills line the roadway made entirely from tailings, the dirt that's left over after the all the copper and minerals are extracted. Old mines and antique mining equipment line the roads, on display for the motorists forced to slow down to 25 mph for the town of Miami. The signs still say Miami-Globe but Miami has become almost a ghost town compared to Globe. Globe has long been a major stop along the US60 heading out from Phoenix to the eastern part of Arizona because of the copper mining. The copper mining is still big here, and BHP Copper dominates the landscape. They don't mine the Turquoise. This is left to the Sleeping Beauty Mine, who runs a little store with Native American jewelry and other southwestern goods. Here they also sell the natural Turquoise they collect from Sleeping Beauty Mountain. The store is on the right side of the road as you travel East away from Miami. It comes right after a curve in the road and is set up against the steep rocks on that side. The Turquoise display inside the store is modest, but they offer a descent selection of material here in its varied forms and sizes. The stones are offered to the public in small quantities and smaller sizes. Turquoise nuggets are offered in their completely natural form, tumbled and polished, or cut and set as cabochons with backing, ready for jewelry. The rare, larger specimens, quantities and chunks are usually offered to buyers and resellers through a waiting list system as they become available. The huge worldwide demand for Sleeping Beauty Turquoise makes it difficult for the mine to keep up and the Turquoise is often pre-sold before it is even mined. Jeweler's and artists compete to buy up as much of the quality material as they can while it is available.
Sleeping Beauty Turquoise has become a standard for southwest Native American jewelry. The bright and even sky-blues, the hard glassy polish, and the lumpy nugget-like textures are recognized around the world as what Turquoise should look like. Sometimes nugget style Sleeping Beauty Turquoise will have black in the nooks and creases, in between the higher areas, like the cabs shown in the pictures on the right. This does happen naturally, but is sometimes applied when finishing and polishing the stone. The appearance is often achieved by applying a dark substance onto the stone before working down the final polish. When the stone or cabochon is polished, the black remains only in the lower creases and crags. The dark substance can be anything from polishing wax and dirt, to India Ink. It does not change the "natural" status of the stone at all and cabs with this polish can be bought from the Sleeping Beauty Mine as natural Turquoise. This tradition started decades ago and is recreating the appearance of old antique Indian jewelry owned for years by Native Americans. The crags of this old Turquoise would have collected dirt and oils over the years while the higher areas became polished with wear, bringing out the texture of the nugget stone. This process gives a nugget style cabochon more depth and character, enhancing the qualities of the natural nugget formations.