I had some gorgeous pics of our sapphire haul from Gem Mountain in Montana that I wanted to post along with some info about Gem Mountain, so Tynan, my oldest son, pitched in and threw together a quick little outline/report on sapphires to add. Normally I don’t accept Wikipedia as a reference source, but since it’s spring break and he was doing voluntary research, I allowed it this time. 🙂
Gem Mountain is a Montana sapphire fee dig mine open to the public. You keep whatever you collect out of the gravel that is brought to the public sifting area. The staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and extremely helpful. If you’re anywhere near the area (within a few hours), I highly recommend going out there for at least a day trip. Gem Mountain has two stores (one in downtown Philipsburg, Montana, the other on location at Gem Mountain in Montana) where you can buy jewelry, gravel for at-home sifting, and more. They have gemologists on-site to evaluate your sapphire haul.
The pictures below are raw, rough sapphires that our family mined from Gem Mountain gravel. I personally love the way they look straight out of the earth. While faceted sapphires are dazzling, there’s an amazing beauty in raw gems.Faceted stones are perfect for red carpet moments, while raw stones are perfect all of the time. Like your favorite pair of tailored-fit blue jeans!
We purchased a large lot of gravel and spent weeks sifting through it. I understand that picking through gravel with tweezers for hours at a time is not for everyone, but it’s quite possibly one of my favorite pastimes. This is not all of the stones that we picked out of the gravel; many have been turned into jewelry, and we have another bag waiting to be seen by the gemologist at Gem Mountain for heat treating and cutting the next time we head over to Montana. Can’t wait!
When we pick up our next humungous load of gravel, we’ll be offering ‘Mini Miner Kits’ from Nomad Dreamer Supplies, our jewelry supply store. They’ll include a small amount of gravel (a pint), a sifter, and tweezers. We guarantee at least one sapphire will be included. We won’t be sifting through the dirt before hand at all, simply dropping one in from our personal stash. You never know how many you’ll find! These kits will be perfect for your mini miner. Our boys love to find sapphires, but their attention span doesn’t last for more than a pint or so.
Here’s a bit more info about my favorite precious gemstone, courtesy of Tynan.
Color: Traditionally blue, but found in all colors except red (that’s ruby)
Where Found (large deposits): Thailand, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Tanzania and Australia
Where Found (small deposits): United States, Cambodia, Nigeria, Kenya and China
Note: Parts of India, Cambodia, and Myanmar (Burma) are world famous for the finest, deepest (in color), largest sapphires, however these are found in small deposits that have been either exhausted or not tapped or produced on the market
Interesting Facts: Second hardest gem stone on earth (after diamond), totally unaffected by all chemicals except extremely hot alkali metals
Sapphires are generally heat treated to deepen their color.
All major mining ventures with the goal to tap into Montana’s sapphire deposits have been economic busts, however small scale mining ventures of the unique Yogo Sapphires (found only in Montana) have been relatively successful. Yogo sapphires are very fine, found with a “corn-flower blue” color only found naturally in Yogos. Yogos are remarkably clear with a mixture of light color and a quality of clarity that makes the Yogo unique and prized among the world’s sapphires. However, Yogos are infamous for their extremely small size and a shape that makes them generally uncuttable. The largest Yogo ever found was 19 carats in size and was cut into an eight carat stone. When cut, these stones catch a high price on the market and are accepted by the international gem industry as some of the finest sapphires in the world.