Known as a rock-solid leader throughout the world, George Washington has been immortalized by thousands of monuments and tributes. In at least one instance, nature itself has carved his legacy in stone. Weighing in at an impressive 6,888 carats, the George Washington turquoise stone was mined in Kingman, Arizona in 1974, but the familiar silhouette was purely a fluke when it was cut and polished. According to the Turquoise Museum, this is now the most photographed and celebrated piece of turquoise in the world.
The Turquoise Museum, where the stone is housed, was started by the Lowry family in 1993 in a small strip mall just outside Old Town Albuquerque. Today, the museum occupies an enormous mansion in the downtown area and has impressive displays of turquoise from around the world. But pride of place is given to the Washington Stone which greets visitors in the entry hall.
Called “Turkey stone” because it was traded to Europe through Turkish territories, turquoise is a copper-aluminum mineral used for millennia by myriad cultures. But the Southwestern U.S. became famous for its turquoise as railroads and the tourism industry made their way west introducing the world to Native American jewelry.
After viewing the Washington Stone, museum visitors can explore hundreds of examples of the finest Southwest jewelry and artifacts and learn about some 85 different turquoise mines in the U.S. Every display in the museum offers alluring nuggets of information and taps into rich veins of stories gleaned by five generations of the Lowry family.
One of the most important goals of the museum is to educate the public on how to properly evaluate, discuss, and buy turquoise, especially since it is notoriously easy to manufacture fake turquoise that can fool even the best experts. Several rooms even offer hands-on activities suitable for all ages. So if you are feeling a bit patriotic while in Albuquerque, take a lode off at the Turquoise Museum. Its wonders will hit you like a bolt from the blue.
Know Before You Go
To visit the Turquoise Museum, be sure to book tickets in advance online.