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World Famous Cerrillos Turquoise

"The locality is still frequented by Indians and the cave is blackened by the smoke of their campfires and is partly sheltered at the opening by a pile of cedar boughs. A bed of green cedar was also found inside and a great heap of ashes where the fire is generally made. They appear to work among the ancient debris which in some places is turned up and covered with pits or holes. Around some of these pits fragments of the mineral were found in their seams and crust on the rock. It is probably Turquoise." (W.P. Blake, 1858)

The Little Chalchihuitl Turquoise Mine

Thirty-eight years ago I was walking in a New Mexico snow storm and was taking the long way home around Grand Central Mountain in the Cerrillos Mining District. I came across a vein of brilliant green stone and decided to stop and work off some of the vein. I worked with a hammer and screw driver and took out about 2 lbs of rough natural turquoise. I covered it up and headed for home. I worked that 2-lbs up and it kept us fed through the winter. Still dreaming of the green color turquoise I had found that day, I decided to file for a mining claim with the Bureau of Land Management on that same spot I found thirty eight years ago. Today myself, my family and many of my friends have all helped me in working the vein. We have been getting great green natural turquoise stones which I make into cabachons and set in sterling silver. We sell the jewelry in our Cerrillos gift shop. The green color comes from the iron content in the soil where the turquoise is mined. We love the color and hope you do too! - Todd & Pat Brown

Natural Cerrillos Turquoise
Todd and Patricia Brown - Cerrillos, NM

Cerrillos Turquoise
Mining Museum

Todd and Patricia Brown - Cerrillos, NM

Handmade Cerrillos Turquoise Jewelry

Todd and Patricia Brown - Cerrillos, NM

Visit our

Cerrillos Turquoise Site

 for more info on our mining claim - link opens a new tab

A mine shifts and moves around as you work to remove the color. We work the vein up or down and often chase the vein deeper into the earth. Side or stringer veins will also take us in different directions.  When working with loose material you have to be willing to adapt to the pattern of the natural earth - many plans of ours have shifted as we follow the route of the turquoise vein.

Our Cerrillos turquoise mine work is all cut and relieves work to gather the precious stone. Myself, friends and family have spent many hours under the warm New Mexican sun to gather Cerrillos Turquoise the past few years. When we collect a few pounds of rough stone, we then cut and shape the turquoise at the Casa Grande Trading Post in Cerrillos. Most of the action happens in our small lapidary shop located on the property. Many hours are needed to cut the stones into shape. Many more hours are needed to set the stones in silver for the jewelry we make by hand and sell in our shop. We love to do this work and hope you will enjoy the insider view also. 

Please contact us if you are interested in any of our products - Todd  Brown

View our Mining Videos  or Visit our Cerrillos Turquoise Website


What's in a Name: 

*** Article excerpt from Amigos de Cerrillos Hills State Park *** 

In most European languages the bright blue or blue-green stone is called "Turkish" because at the time of its introduction to Europe it appeared to have originated from the country of Turkey. In fact, just like the large bird we now call a turkey, those early specimens came from lands beyond the country of Turkey, but passed through that country on their way to Europe. 'Turkish' in the lingua franca (Frankish or French tongue) of the day was "turquois" or "turquoise". 

As early as 1652, Thomas Nicols, an English writer, referred to "the beauty of a Turky stone". In ancient Greek it was borea, after the deep blue color of the northern sky; in Latin, turchus or turchius. In Spanish it is known as turquesa and in German, takis. In Japanese it is (by extension) turkodama. Those earliest blue Turky stones in Europe were probably in fact mined near Nishapur in Persia. 

Turquoise, called mafkat by the ancient Egyptians, was obtained from the oldest known mines in the world, which are on the southwest edge of the Sinai Peninsula. As recently (!) as 3,000 years ago these mines were superceded by other sources. 

In the New World it was called chalchihuitl or xiuitl ['xiu'=blue], which are Nahua words. Nahuatl is the language of the Aztecs and related tribes of central Mexico. "Chalchihutil" was used for both jade and turquoise. For Native Meso-Americans 'chalchihuitl' was green jade in the tropical south where there was no natural turquoise, and green or bluish turquoise in the more arid north. 

In response to a question about the root components of "chalchihuitl", Dr. John F. Schwaller of the University of Minnesota, Morris, has provided this explanation: The Nahuatl word for emerald (and turquoise and jade and any other precious green stone) is chalchihuitl. It cannot be broken down any further. It looks as though it might be made up of two parts: chal + chihuitl, but it isn't. It is an independent morpheme. All of our early sources are uniform in describing it as a word for green stone or emerald. Chalchihuitl is a very flexible term, as noted. It can really be used for any precious green stone and thus became associated with turquoise and jade, although there is a real range of colors, hardness, etc. among those three. Metaphorically is also has connotation of preciousness. It appears frequently as "my precious green stone, my beloved."

The Nauhua colonial name for the Turquoise Hill on the north side of the Cerrillos was Cerro Chalchiquite. In the Argentine Andes the valley of turquoises is recorded as Valle de Chalchaquies. One of the smallest, but at the same time most important, of the Cerrillos Hills is Mount Chalchihuitl, the site of numerous prehistoric turquoise mines. The early Spanish visitors to New Mexico did not value the mineral - there is no "Cerro Turquesa" - but their central-Mexico allies and fellow-travelers, primarily Nahuatl-speaking Tlascalans, esteemed turquoise above all other stones. Hence, we have inherited through the Spanish records the Tlascalan name for this 'turquoise hill'. 


On January 20, 1978, Mt. Chalchihuitl was enrolled into the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties. 

There is a second Chalchihutl in New Mexico, yet another source of turquoise, in C­ebola County near the town of Bluewater. 

*** Article excerpt from Amigos de Cerrillos Hills State Park *** 

Please visit the Cerrillos Hills website for more in-depth articles, events and information on the Cerrillos Hills State Park.

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