While at the Tucson gem show, my friends and I took a detour to Bisbee, Arizona known for its famous copper and turquoise mines. The day was fun yet educational. First, we took the commercial tour of the now-closed famous Copper Queen Mine. The Copper Queen Mine was claimed in 1877 and was the original and largest copper claim at the time. The tour was a $13.00 one-hour informative mini-train ride into a tunnel of the mine with a few stops to see equipment etc. Our guide was a former copper miner with some interesting insight about what life was like as a copper miner. If you haven’t done this tour, I would recommend it.
After the Queen Mine tour, we headed down the mountain to take a gander at the large open-pit copper mine owned by Phelps Dodge Mining Company. I have to admit, being a mountain lover from Colorado, my first look at the open-pit mine made me sad to see the Mule Mountain area dug up for mining purposes. But I also have to admit, there is a certain intrigue and uniqueness to the layers and colors of this open pit mine.
The lower portion of this mine is called the Lavender Pit, named after Harrison Lavender, a manager at the Copper Queen who insisted open-pit mining would increase the copper yield. In 1950, the Lavender Pit was opened for mining. Twenty-four years later and nearly 1,000 feet deeper, the Lavender Pit mining operations ceased in 1974.
Among the byproducts of this 300-acre Lavender Pit open-pit copper mine was gold, silver and the famous Bisbee blue turquoise. Bisbee Blue turquoise is considered by some to be among the finest turquoise in the world. I will write more about that in my next post.
Author: Michelle M. Rahm is a GIA-trained Graduate Gemologist and is President of Colorado’s Mile High Chapter of the GIA Alumni Association. She has been selling gemstones and jewelry online since 1997. Visit her websites JewelryImpressions.com and OurCustomWeddingRings.com