MADRID, N.M. (KRQE) – The history of mining for turquoise runs deep in New Mexico. One miner in Madrid is keeping her family’s business alive.
“Sometimes, you’ll get magic pockets where you find one, and then you’ll find another, and another,” said Trading Bird Gallery Owner Riana Newman Peaker.
Turquoise mines are hidden in the Cerrillos Hills near Madrid. They are considered the oldest mines in North America.
Newman Peaker mentioned, “It’s always good to look on the surface before we start digging and screening and raking because we may have turned up something in our last visit here.”
Peaker’s father, Waylan Peaker, started mining for turquoise in the area in 1988. He opened a business and was famous for his jewelry designs. Newman Peaker took over his legacy in 2002 and continues the tradition of mining turquoise for jewelry.
“It’s so relaxing. It can be hard work, but it’s really meditative,” said Newman Peaker. “It’s fun to connect with the land and with nature and supply turquoise that we’ve collected to locals and out to the world.”
She purchased mining claims in order to mine the area. During warmer months, she drives out to the hills only miles away from her shop on Madrid’s main street. Her crew uses noninvasive techniques. They dig with shovels, then hand sift to find the colorful stones in the dirt.
“It’s something you kind of have to work for, and that’s why it’s even more satisfying once you find it,” said Bailey Hagen, an employee at Trading Bird Gallery.
Colors of the turquoise found in the hills can range from white, light blue, and dark green. Once found, the stones are cut, polished, and made into a piece by Newman Peaker and other artists across the state.
Newman Peaker hopes to start taking tours out to the mines to teach tourists about the history and importance of the area.