Just west of the hubbub of Old Town, this museum inside a small strip mall focuses on the beauty, mythology, and physical properties of turquoise, a semiprecious but adored gemstone that many people associate with the color of New Mexico's skies. A guided 90-minute tour begins by entering via a simulated mine shaft (albeit a shallow, low-tech one), and leads to one-of-a-kind showpieces and examples from more than 65 mines on four continents. Displays show how turquoise
forms, the importance of individual mines, and highlight its uses by Native Americans in prehistoric times. At the education center you can learn to distinguish the real McCoy from plastic. The museum's proprietors are a multigenerational family of longtime traders, and know whereof they speak; if you retain nothing else, do remember that only turquoise specified as "natural" is the desirable, unadulterated stuff. There is an active silversmith's shop adjacent to the display area; a small gift shop sells historic and contemporary pieces.