In the 1970s, when the #8 Turquoise Mine in Eureka County, Nevada was closing, Jeanette Dale was soldering circuit boards at the Fairchild Electronics Plant south of Farmington, New Mexico.
The mine, located north of Carlin, Nevada, has produced some of the most notable turquoise ever found. It was first mined in the 1920s and went through several hands before ending up with T.G. And J.W. Edgar. The brothers were looking for copper when they discovered a unique spider web turquoise with a light blue to green coloration. In the 1950s, they found one nugget that weighed 150 pounds!
The stone was very popular, and the mine produced large quantities of the unusual stone. The brothers are reported to have found over 1,600 pounds during the time they were mining. The last person to mine the #8 was Dowell Ward.
In 1976 the mine was sold to a company that was interested in gold and, because of chemical leaching and other processes associated with gold mining, any turquoise in the deposits were basically lost.
At about the same time the mine was shutting down the turquoise operation, Fairchild Electronics was closing its plant on the Navajo Reservation. Jeanette Dale was without a job. Her mother, Juanita, an accomplished silversmith, encouraged her to take up the craft as her brothers had done.
“I took the first piece I made to Gallup and sold it,” said Jeanette. “I thought it was a pretty good deal. The trader told me to never make anything perfect so that it could be identified as handmade. I still do that.”
For 45 years, Jeanette has made some of the nicest silver and gold traditional Navajo jewelry that has come off the reservation. She loves turquoise and strives to find the finest natural stones to work with, but also works in coral, gold ore, or anything else she thinks is interesting.
What she doesn’t do is to exhibit at shows like the Santa Fe Indian Market nor does she do gallery shows. Traders, including us, have entered her work at the Gallup Ceremonial and she has won numerous awards, but she really is not interested in being the center of attention at her own booth or at a gallery opening.
What does excite her is finding quality stones to work with. She lives about half-way between Two Grey Hills and Shiprock and doesn’t hesitate to get in her car and drive to Albuquerque or Gallup to find stones for a project. She is one of those exceptional artists whose work is so good that when she is finished with a piece, she can call any one of a dozen stores or galleries and they will buy it, sight unseen.
I can’t remember when I first met Jeanette, but it has been long enough that I can’t remember not working with her. Over the years, she has made some fabulous pieces for our customers. And when we find a special stone, she gets the call.
So, when the Kilough brothers from Aztec walked in the gallery last spring with a small collection of #8 Turquoise that they had cut, it had Jeanette’s name written all over it. They did a masterful job of shaping the stones to create the basis for a beautiful necklace and earring set.
This is the first time that we have had such a nice selection of this rare turquoise to create something this special.
Jeanette drove up and collected the stones. It took her several months to finish the piece, which I believe was because she just kept the stones on her workbench to admire!
It is an exceptional piece and something any collector of fine stones or great silversmithing will appreciate! I hope you like it as much as we do!