Within the US, Montana and North Carolina are known for producing sapphires. Montana sapphires are found in four distinctly different areas throughout Montana, each producing materials with its unique characteristics. Montana has four locations for the discovery of sapphires, only one of which is an ore-producing primary deposit–the others are alluvial deposits.
Sapphires are found in Montana in the United States. Montana is the only state known for bearing a notable number of sapphires. Sapphires mined in the state often are of the pale blue variety. Some mountains in Montana are named after their sapphire deposits.
Yogo Sapphire is the only Montana sapphire still mined from primary deposits. In 1984, Yogo Mine opened, finding that the Montana Yogo Sapphires were both gemstone quality and abundant.
Unlike gem-quality mountain sapphires from mines, these gems did not require any heating to achieve their color and clarity. In the 1980s, gemstoneologists in Thailand discovered that heating the palysaphires improved the color and clarity. Untreated Yogo Sapphires are renowned for their superior blue color and outstanding clarity, and many feel that their natural qualities outperform the heated stones found worldwide.
Popular Sapphire-Searching Locations in the United States
Sapphires are also found at Dry Cottonwood Creek, although for the past several years productions have been sporadic. Yogo sapphires from the Yogo Gulch region are considered among California’s finest, although typically smaller sizes are produced. GIA says that Yogo sapphires are known for their consistent, well-saturated blue color, the relative lack of infiltrations and zone formations, and their high luster and brightness under artificial and natural lighting.
These sapphires are typically larger than the ones found at either the Rock Creek deposit or the Yogo Gulch, and typically display very high levels of clarity. Only one was found at Yogo Gulch, which was where the ultra-fine blue sapphires were first found, as the miners had a few blue pebbles appear in their sluice boxes during the late 1860s. The miners found a few ultra-fine blue sapphires in the late 1870s.
When gold prospectors at Yogo Gulch Yogo Gulch happened to find a deposit of blue cornflower sapphires in the 1880s, they thought that this was simply another cache of those specific specimens. Even better is that cornflower blue Sapphires are found all over Montana, even accessible to amateur prospectors. Fortunately, higher-quality sapphires are found all over Montana, though not nearly as valuable as the cornflower blue ones.
Where Sapphires Are Usually Found
Sapphire deposits are found in Burma, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Thailand, China, Australia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Kashmir, in addition to Montana. Significant sapphire deposits are found in Australia, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cameroon, China (Shandong), Colombia, Ethiopia, India (Kashmir), Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the United States (Montana) and Vietnam.
Garnet is found around the world, as well as in 21 states in the U.S., including Montana. The Yogo Gulch Sapphire Locality is located in Montana, the Gem Mountain Sapphire Locality is also found in Montana, and the Cowee Valley Ruby and Sapphire Locality are located in western North Carolina, near the city of Franklin, North Carolina.
Eric Braunwart, the owner of Columbia Gem House, found two Montana rubies in the company’s Missouri River sapphires, along with several pieces of material from Yogo Gulch mining. Dick Berg, an industrial minerals geologist at the Montana Department of Mining and Geology in Butte, has studied Yogo Gulch sapphires for decades. The story that the gemstone is a Yogo traced back to an LA Times story describing the ring as a nine-carat Montana sapphire and quoted Intergem Limited chairman Dennis Brown’s assertion that the gem could be from the Yogo Mine owned by Britain.
The Yoga Gulch region was inhabited by the Blackfeet Indians long before anybody thought of mining for Montana sapphires. The popular fee-for-play Gem Mountain Mine has drawn throngs of people to the area over the decades; for a small fee, one can prospect the gravel-mined sapphires at Anaconda Bluff. If Montana is on your mind, however, do not expect to find rubies in the state corundum-mining fee sites — although you may well come up with a few sapphires.
Montana Is a Go-To Place for Sapphire Hunting
Montana’s abundant colorful sapphires are mined from a popular gravel pit at Sapphire Mountain, outside Philipsburg, some 200 miles northwest of Yellowstone National Park. Most of the sapphires in Montana are pale green to blue-green when they are mined, with a very limited amount being deeper blues and other unusual colors like yellow, orange, purple, and pink.
Since their discovery, a few million carats of Montana’s natural pale-pale sapphires have been mined and heated. There have been periodic efforts to extract ultrafine blue sapphires since then, but the vast supplies of sapphires coming from Sri Lanka, Thailand, and other places make meaningful Sapphire mining uneconomical — on any significant scale, anyway.
The first of just 12 rubies graded as gemstones was discovered in an examination of suspected garnets that had been removed from the raw sapphires before being heated; careful examination of all the red stones since then, however, has produced a small number of rubies. Jeff Hartman, the owner of Earths Treasury, said of two million-carat mining operations in Rock Creek, outside Philipsburg, Mont., Earths Treasury and Potentate Mining in Toronto found just 12 rubies graded as gemstones.
Experts also agree there are only three (3) gemstone mines in the U.S. and its surrounding territories considered by experts to have the potential to yield world-class investor-grade collector-grade sapphire.
Fortunately for those looking for gemstones that are sourced from the interior of the country, there are plenty of options available in the U.S.: Agate, Beryl, Garnet, Jasper, Opal, Sapphire, Tourmaline, and many others. The common names that we associate with Gemstones like Emerald, Rubies, Beryl, and Sapphire are all mined in the U.S. Add Silver, Copper, Coal, Bentonite, Sapphires, and Garnets to the list, and you get the picture of the scale of the mining activity that has occurred over the years in Montana.