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Mahnaz Collection Blog

Mahnaz Collection is a New York based fine vintage jewelry collection

Our Muse for December

Mahnaz Ispahani

December’s birthstone is turquoise.
 
Few women are as emblematic of the stylish possibilities of turquoise as Millicent Rogers. Millicent spent only six years, 1946-1953, in Taos, New Mexico, and yet she understood deeply the compelling beauty and spirituality of the Southwest--and its turquoise jewelry.

She put on her squaw dress over her Charles James lingerie, or a squaw skirt with a James blouse tucked in, and she placed her own jeweler's tools on a table in the bedroom of her Taos home, Turtle Walk. And she collected, as she had always done, but this time it was Southwestern Indian jewelry. (James even visited her once in Taos.) 
 
The collection she amassed, which now forms the core of the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, is an especially fine one because, even as her health declined, Millicent made the effort to travel long distances with Indian guides into Hopi, Zuni and Navajo lands, stopping almost at every trading post and roadside stand to buy a squash blossom necklace, a ketoh, a pot or a textile.
 
Millicent died so very young, at fifty-one, and asked to be buried not in Southampton or at one of her other estates, but in Taos. As she had in the chic drawing rooms of the East Coast, the ski slopes of Austria, in Venice, Paris and elsewhere, so she left an indelible image on the community of Taos. Her funeral was attended by the literati of Taos and a large number of her Native American friends.
 
In the Millicent Rogers museum, which I first visited several years ago, Millicent’s exceptional legacy is on full display for those who would wish to learn about Southwestern jewelry. It houses a stellar collection of more than 3,000 pieces that reflect her intellectual curiosity as well as her impeccable eye for design. It encompasses Zuni and Navajo silver and turquoise, Hopi silverwork and Pueblo stone and clam jewelry from the late nineteenth century through the early twentieth century.

Turquoise itself has been mined for several thousand years. Iran, one of my ancestral homes, is the home of the finest robin’s egg blue turquoise seen in the fine jewels of Cartier, Chaumet and Van Cleef and Arpels. 

Some Native American tribes of the American Southwest have known it for centuries, first as beads and much later, in silver jewelry. In the twentieth century, turquoise mines could be found in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada. Most of these mines are now closed. Lander Blue turquoise, from a hat mine in Nevada, is thought to be the most valuable and rare today, while dark blue bisbee turquoise, from Arizona, is another valuable specimen.

My friend, the mine owner and dealer Gene Waddell, who knows his turquoise, gave me an extraordinary introduction to the once productive Lone Mountain mines owned by his family. Sadly, today, so much of the turquoise we see is fake.
 
MAHNAZ COLLECTION carries a wide range of fine quality turquoise jewelry made by named artists and also unheralded ones. Our collection includes pieces by mid century greats such as Charles Loloma and Preston Monongye and also exceptional contemporary jewelry by artist jewelers like Jesse Monongye, SONWAI, Edison Cummings and others.
 
Some of these jewels are currently on our website. Please write to us at mahnaz@mahnazcollection.com if you would like to see more images or make an appointment.
 
I wish you Happy Holidays and a very festive New Year.
 
Mahnaz