Sapphires can be found around the world, but most fine blue sapphires are mined in Sri Lanka. There are still some places nearby where you may be able to find sapphires — but you will find sapphires of outstanding quality in just one small region.
Sapphires are minded most heavily in western Africa and those countries that border the Indian Ocean. These include Australia, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, and many others. Sapphires in the United States are mined in Montana.
Even better is the fact that Cornflower Blue sapphires are found all over Montana, even accessible to recreational prospectors. Although, that is not the end of the story since Blue Sapphires can be found all over Montana, Australia, Brazil, and Thailand, just to name a few places.
Fortunately, quality sapphires are found all over Montana, though they are not nearly as precious as the blue sapphires from Cornflower. A handful of Gem-quality Sapphires and Rubies were also found around Franklin, NC.
Sapphire Miners Around the World
In the United States, sapphire miners have headed to Montana, which has yielded several fine gems. As in other diamond deposits, the majority of stones are smaller and included, but a few beautiful gems have been found here. You can find these stones, as well as several others, in many of the places where gemstones are found in the U.S. Many gems are sourced from Asia, with stones found in the mines of Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Afghanistan, and others.
Sapphires of outstanding quality are found higher up the mountains, at sites that have recently been hit by landslides, traders say. Sapphires of outstanding quality were mined over years, just looking through debris from a landslide and turning over top rocks.
The original Lamprophyre Lava Dike, which was a source of extremely fine blue sapphires, was located and later mined from 1899 to about 1920, but the output was small and the stones mostly small. There has been an occasional attempt to mine Yogo Sapphires since then, but large supplies of sapphires from Sri Lanka, Thailand, and other places made it economically inadvisable to extract meaningful quantities–at least at a large scale.
This kept the mines in El Dorado Bar operating for much of the Second World War until synthetic sapphires were introduced in the mid-1940s. The 1970s also saw the rise in heavy-machine-driven mining, leading to a minor mining boom in Queensland sapphire fields. Production of sapphires in Eastern Australia was limited until the adoption of mechanized mining in the late 1950s.
Sapphire was discovered in southern Madagascar in the late 1990s, and the country became a major high-quality producer of sapphires worldwide in just a few years. Within the U.S., Montana and North Carolina are known for producing sapphires. Sapphires are known to occur in Montana for more than 150 years, and they have been actively mined there for over 100 years. Around 1879-1882, it was known that exceptional-quality sapphires were being found in Kashmir.
How People Approach Sapphire Mining
Very best and largest sapphires were found early on when discoveries were made. Occasionally, a few places have found a sapphire, but most of the time, no results came from further searching. As a result, sapphires could be found when miners lowered mines into old streambeds or the curves of existing streambeds.
When mining, sapphires are usually found in barrel-shaped forms because of how they are formed. These are known as Montana sapphires and Yogo sapphires, and they are a bit lighter in color with blue hues. Most Montana sapphires are pale green to blue-green when they are mined, with a very small amount being deeper blues and other unusual colors like yellow, orange, purple, and pink.
There are several different colors of sapphires, including pink, yellow, and the most popular, blue. Different combinations of minerals may lead to a variety of colors of sapphire. For transformation, sapphires are also available in various color saturations, and they may also come in combinations and hues such as oranges and pinks. What is different is the color, with specific locations producing sapphires of certain colors, like the common blue gems coming from Southeast Asia.
Kashmiri sapphires are particularly valued for their velvety blue, as well as the orange-pink hues of Padparadscha (named for the lotus flower). Fancy sapphires are frequently found at these idyllic locations of mines, and come in various colors from pale pinks and violets, to oranges, greens, and yellows.
Corporations and the Sapphire Industry
Yogo Sapphires–valued for their clarity, deep blue colors, and high values–are commercially mined near Lewistown. In NSW, sapphires and rubies are mined in the NSW area, around Inverell and Glen Innes, and to the northwest of Goulburn, near Oberon. The popular fee-for-service dig at Gem Hill has attracted many people to the region over decades; for a small fee, you can filter for sapphires in gravel dug up from Anaconda Bluff. The mining on these pictures is done by a small guild of small traders all working together and sharing in the sales of sapphires and rubies found.
A new corporation has found un-alluvial deposits in the slopes which were not mined before, and their marketing information indicates there are larger amounts of sapphires in these deposits than the strictly-alluvial deposits that have been mined so far.
The Kashmir Sapphire deposits are distinguished by a brighter, brighter shade of blue, combined with a mystery, almost slumbering quality, described by some gem enthusiasts as Blue Velvet. Traditionally, metamorphic deposits of sapphires and rubies were found in Sri Lanka, Mogok, and Kashmir, and recently, in Mozambique, Tanzania, and particularly Madagascar.
Sapphire deposits may be found in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Thailand, China, Australia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Kashmir, and Montana. Geographically, sapphire deposits are found on the boundary line where Indian subcontinents extend to Asian landmasses.
Valuable sapphires are still found in deposits in Sri Lanka in sand and gravel left over from the old rivers. Since their discovery, a few million carats of Montana’s natural pale-pale sapphires have been mined and heated. 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.