RockHoundBlog

Graveyard Point Plume Agate

Filed under: Rare Rocks!,Rockhound Travel,Rockhound stories — Gary September 29, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

Philip has submitted an article to Rockhoundblog about Graveyard Point Plume Agate.   http://rarerocksandgems.com/

Grave Point Agate

It was a beautiful June rock hounding day in the Owyhees. Gene Stewart, his son, his son’s friend and I thought we’d go out to the Graveyard Point area and see what Gene Mueller, Jake Jacobitz and Thom Lane were digging up at Gene Mueller’s Regency Rose claim. Thom Lane was out in these parts for a few days before, spotting at the mine for Mueller. He came into town and stayed a few days at my house to get cleaned up and relax, before heading out with us. Gene Mueller is, of course, famous for his rock shop, The Gem Shop, in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. He is also a miner of various rocks, including Morrisonite, Laguna and Agua Nueva Mexican agates. Thom Lane is a well known dealer in the agate world and long time friend of Gene and Jake. Thom dug Morrisonite with Jake and Gene in the last years that the Christine Marie Morrisonite mine was producing. In later years, he dug Mexican agates for three years with Gene. Jake Jacobitz, best known for “Jake’s Place” Morrisonite Claim, and well known to all Northwest miners as, “Crazy Jake”. Diving out to the Graveyard point area is relatively easy in dry times, but all week it has been raining cats and dogs. This makes the dusty, powered-sugar, consistency roads, greasy slick. However, the past two days, the rain has stopped, just enough for the sun to dry up the roads a little bit.Jake Jacobitz driving his truck, heading to camp with a load of diesel.

Graveyard Point

Gene Muller's big Cat

Gene Stewart (Right) and Jake Jacobitz catching up

Gene Stewart (Right) and Jake Jacobitz catching up

Heading up the dirt road to the claim, we see Gene’s huge Cat sitting idle.  It’s large bucket, for gouging the hill for agate, empty. We get out of my Suburban and there to greet us is Jake. Gene Stewart and Jake go way back and two friends meeting after many years, always makes for a cheerful reunion. Gene and Jake share a few funny stories and catch up on who’s still around and who’s not.  This was my fist time meeting Jake, after years hearing some pretty wild stories about him and visualizing what he looks like. I was pleasantly surprised, that I was not too far off, as to what I expected. Very likable, easy to talk with, and very willing to share his insights, places he’s dug before and what’s still out there.  Jake has a slight accent, I can’t quite place…Minnesota? Wisconsin? I’ll have to ask Thom later about it. Kinda gives him a down to earth persona, a little more color to “the miner” character I envisioned.

Angel Wing

Heading over to the big pit and looking down into it, I see Gene Mueller digging in a large hole in the side of the pit, almost like a small cave. Gene stands in the hole surrounded by Angel Wing and veins of agate. Angel Wing is formed basically, like how stalactites form in a cave, by thousands of years of ground water seeping through, then dripping off the ceiling and walls, leaving minerals behind to accumulate. In this case, the cave is a large vug hole in the ground. The Angel Wing can be removed in plates, because the surrounding host rock is softer. Therefore, carefully using a chisel and hammer, the delicate plates can be extracted successfully.

Looking for pink plume agency rose

I jump down into the pit with Jake and we head over to the hole. I greet and shake hands with Gene Mueller. He begins to elaborate on what he’s doing, and how he’s going to get most of the Angel Wing and the gem plume out. Sitting on the edge of the hole, Jake and I inspect the seams Gene pecks out and throws up to us. Jake looks at one and says, “Hey, here’s some plumes,” and then gives the seam a long lick to wet it. I look at him and raise my eye brow. “Geez, Jake! Looks like you’re eating a damn ice cream cone. Is that how you test to see if it’s good plume or not, by how it tastes?” He laughs and says, “ya, don’t ya know that? I thought all you smart young fellers knew that”. After an hour or so of pulling out seams of agate and wing, Gene begins to dig again. This time on the other side of the pit, with his Big Cat excavator, looking for that elusive pink plume, he calls, “Regency Rose”.

Coming up out of the pit, Gene Stewart and I decide to go over to his old Graveyard Point Plume Agate claim, which he had back in the 70’s which is about 200 yards away. Walking up the road from Mueller’s camp, we detour off and then down along a path for about 100 yards.  We find a shallow hole, where the claim used to be, now filled in with silt from runoff. Gene stands on the top edge of what used to be a deep hole. I can see in Gene’s eyes, he’s deep in thought, probably bringing up some old memories of when he and Tom Caldwell dugs tons of plume out of that hole. Bringing him back, I ask, “Where was that old truck you where telling me about?” Gene told me a story of when he and Tom Caldwell were blasting one day. Seems Tom put a little too much powder in and blew a huge 100 pound seam straight up in the air.  It landed right on top of Gene’s truck cab roof. The roof was so caved in, that you had to lean out the window to drive! Gene still laughs about it. It was so funny at the time, that he decided to drive the truck home with the boulder still on the roof. Gene smiles and chuckles…“I tell ya.  I got a lot of funny looks and people laughing at us, all the way home!”
Heading back to camp, we see everyone sitting around the camper, under the canopy, taking it easy. For me, this is a great chance to prod stories out of these guys. I start with Thom. He tells me the detailed story of how he once owned the great Morrisonite collection that Gene Mueller is currently selling for the current anonymous owner. He went on to say that Betty Warrington was the original owner.   Then, Jake pipes up and tells some long tales, that I can’t really relate here to the whole world, but they are pretty, “thought provoking”. Well, it’s getting late and at the end of this mining day.  Only a few sacks of Regency were filled, in addition to several sacks of standard gem Graveyard-type plume. Gene Mueller said it was a good productive mining day.

Graveyard_plume

Graveyard_plume

Heading back to camp, we see everyone sitting around the camper, under the canopy, taking it easy. For me, this is a great chance to prod stories out of these guys. I start with Thom. He tells me the detailed story of how he once owned the great Morrisonite collection that Gene Mueller is currently selling for the current anonymous owner. He went on to say that Betty Warrington was the original owner.   Then, Jake pipes up and tells some long tales, that I can’t really relate here to the whole world, but they are pretty, “thought provoking”. Well, it’s getting late and at the end of this mining day.  Only a few sacks of Regency were filled, in addition to several sacks of standard gem Graveyard-type plume. Gene Mueller said it was a good productive mining day.

While heading back on the winding dirt road towards town, I see a huge mud hole filled with water right in the middle of the road.  It’s about double the size of my Suburban. The road veers around it, but I stop about 50 yards from it, looking straight ahead.  I start thinking. Everyone in the truck is talking and then realizes that I have stopped driving. Thom Lane is sitting in the passenger seat, looking back towards Gene Stewart, talking.  He then stops, looks around and asks me, “Are we stopping for something?” I look over at him and give him a devious smile…”Looks deep,” I say out loud. Then Gene Stewart says smiling, “Oh shit, don’t even think about it!” Then everyone catches on.  I say, “What would Jake do??”  Thom then says, “Ahh crap!”  I gun it! I hear wale’s and cheers, as we bounce up and down , side to side, on the rough road, heading towards the large water hole. It would have been a great classic scene in a movie…A bunch of old farts, bouncing up and down in a truck, laughing and screaming heading for a mud hole.  Plunging the truck fast into the hole, I feel that it is deep. A large fan of water on both sides, towers over the truck.  As the wheels start to spin, the speed keeps us going forward, up and out of the long, deep hole. Everyone is laughing and whooping it up like teenagers, as we drive down the road, leaving a cloud of dust far behind us…
Decades….decades past on.

On a porch, the old man sits in a chair rocking slowly…frail and purpled veined hands lightly grip the arm rests, as he rocks…The sun is setting… the old eyes glint in the reddish hue of last light…looking long and far out into the distant. He sees the shadowed mountains of the Owyhees…memories…memories of friends long gone…ghosts of voices in his mind…Someone is laughing… His leathery wrinkled face starts to glow and a faint smile folds the deep wrinkles around his eyes. A small hand touches the top of his hand…”Grandpa? What are you thinking about?” He looks down into bright eyes of a child. The old man hears a voice behind him, in the house…”Honey, what’s grandpa Phil doing?” “Oh”, the child says. “He’s thinking about digging up the Graveyard.”  “He’s what?!” The old man gives a light chuckle at the very young child’s response…He looks back at the mountains, which are now only outlines in front of billowy plumes of towering clouds  against the Sun’s faint light, in the new night sky…

Philip-

\

Moose Lake Agate and Geological Center and Rock Dump

Filed under: Rockhound Travel,Rockhound stories,Video — Gary September 26, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

Be sure to stop in the Agate and Geological Interpretive Center when you visit Moose Lake State Park. The 4,500 square foot building, located at the entrance to the park, opened in 2003 and includes a multi-purpose classroom, nature store gift shop, park offices, a resource workroom, restrooms, and an exhibition hall that showcases Minnesota’s gemstone, the Lake Superior Agate. Interpretive displays focus on rocks, minerals and geology of Minnesota.

Hours:

Memorial Day through Labor Day: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Office closed Wednesday and Sundays Oct-April. If you call ahead to the park, special arrangements may be made to make sure the building is open for your visit.

Year-round Camping

Camping is available at this park year-round! Self-registration information for camping is located on the park bulletin board/kiosk just past the front doorway to the park office/visitor center.

Hours

Best time to contact the park: September-April Office hours will vary, Park office phone message answering system out of order, Please call to talk to park staff as available. September office hours variable 9a.m.-3p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., seven days a week and until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Office closed Wednesday and Sundays Oct-April

Contact

4252 County Road 137
Moose Lake, MN 55767

tel: 218-485-5420

Getting There

Located 1/4 miles east of I-35 at the Moose Lake exit #214. The park entrance is off County Road 137. Take the Moose Lake exit off I-35. Then go east on County Road 137 until you see the park signs about 1/2 mile down the road.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 2010. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Web Site (online). Accessed 2010-9-26 at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/sitetools/copyright.html

Moose Lake Agate Days Rock Dump

Moose_Lake_Agate_Days

Moose_Lake_Agate_Days

Carlton County Gem and Mineral Club
and the Moose Lake Chamber of Commerce present…
Moose Lake Agate Days

Minnesota’s Moose Lake High School Gymnasium and Parking Lot

Agate Stampede  (Saturday only) (350 Pounds of Agates & $ 300.00 Dollars in quarters)
Sunday 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

And there you have it! A great days event! Moose Lake, Minnesota is the Agate capitol of the world. Stop by and check this one out! This event is usually held on the 3rd Saturday in July.

Other sites to check out…

http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/education/geo…

http://www.topix.com/forum/state/mn/TLSU…

http://www.superiortrails.com/duluth-aga…

http://www.superiortrails.com/rock-hound…

http://www.minnesotabound.com/visit/Moos…

http://mnbeaches.org/beaches/lksuperior/…

http://www.keweenawtraveler.com/agates.h…

http://www.agates-r-us.com/news.html

Fire Agate Mining Adventure at Deer Creek Arizona

Submitted by Jessica Dow…

Please visit her website as well:

http://www.differentseasonsjewelry.com/

This year Mark and I added a bit more excitement to our annual trip to the Tucson gem show with a pre-show detour to the Deer Creek fire agate mine. The mine owner extended a personal invitation to the mine’s “Deer Creek Fire Agate Invitational” that we couldn’t pass up. We stayed at the mine overnight with one of America’s most experienced pio­neers of the gemstone industry, mine owner David Penney, his family, and his mining Partner, Sarah Heather Scholz.

Deer Creek mine owner Dave Penny and S. Heather Scholz

Deer Creek mine owner Dave Penny and S. Heather Scholz

We were able to rent the machine they call the “Gem-A-Nator” for an hourly rate. This is a thrilling experience! The Gem-A-Nator sorts and wets the rough before it comes down a belt where you can grab the chunks of rough fire agate. One of the professional miners will be scooping fresh material into the Gem-A-Nator using a backhoe. The miners take material straight from the best areas of the mine and pour it into the Gem-A-Nator. This is material that has not been touched or picked through, giving a rare chance at getting the best material the mine has to offer.

Mark on the Gem-A-Nator

Mark on the Gem-A-Nator

Sarah and Mark have great eyes for spotting the higher quality rough as it comes down the belt…they had the front spots on the Gem-A-Nator.

Sarah and Mark have great eyes for spotting the higher quality rough as it comes down the belt…they had the front spots on the Gem-A-Nator.

Dave Penny getting another scoop of rough for the Gem-A-Nator

Dave Penny getting another scoop of rough for the Gem-A-Nator

We also were able to explore the mine a bit with Dave and Sarah. We collected rough directly from the base of a small mountain with a wall of exposed fire agate nodules… some were loose enough to grab up and a few had to be removed from the rock with a small pick.

A couple of fire agate nodules Mark found at the base of a mountain at the Deer Creek mine

A couple of fire agate nodules Mark found at the base of a mountain at the Deer Creek mine

Mark could have stayed at the mine for days exploring and hunting for fire agate on the mountain.

Mark could have stayed at the mine for days exploring and hunting for fire agate on the mountain.

Dave Penny, Sarah, Wendell and Mark with a bucket of hand-picked fire agate.

Dave Penny, Sarah, Wendell and Mark with a bucket of hand-picked fire agate.

Our trip to the mine was the highlight of our trip to Arizona… it exceeded our expectations on many levels. We left the mine with over a hundred pounds of rough fire agate in various grades. We’ll easily be able to sell and profit from selling a small portion of our mine run. Our highest grade material will be carved into gems for our custom gold jewelry designs. We’re already planning for another trip to the mine next year!
These are a few examples of the exceptionally beautiful fire agate rough we got from our Gem-A-Nator run~

Fire_agate1

Fire agate

Fire Agate

Fire Agate

Dave Penny and S. Heather shared both their time and knowledge generously with us during our stay. We mined fire agate during the day and had very comfortable accommodations at night.
Were able to rent a fully equipped RV at the mine with internet access, a full size bed, a shower, refridgerator, coffee maker and more. Sarah also offers her delicious home-cooked meals… yummy! She had a small menu to choose from with steak, lamb, various seafood dishes and a vegetarian dinner as well. We had a great night while we were there….Dave built us a fire with wonderful smelling local mesquite wood and we sat comfortably under the stars while Sarah grilled our steaks. Sarah and Dave brewed us fresh coffee in the morning and fed us a huge breakfast to power us up for the day of mining. The mine is nestled in a remote location with a gorgeous view. I sat, drank my coffee and enjoyed the Arizona sunrise:)

I was a bit apprehensive about my ability to be comfortable during our trip to the mine… I am currently 7 months pregnant and thought the rough conditions would be difficult in my condition. They made me completely comfortable and I enjoyed every minute of my time at the mine. Dave and Sarah are very genuine, honest people…. I can’t say enough about how impressed we were with them on both a personal and professional level.

A very pregnant Jessica, Mark, Dave and S. Heather in front of the Gem-A-Nator This unique experience is being offered exclusively to professional jewelry and lapidary artisans.
Reservation time for this adventure is limited due to the personal attention given to each artist.
Normally many of the people who visit the mine are personally invited or are referred by friends/colleagues of the mine owner. This is a great opportunity to gem collectors, lapidary artisans and professional jewelers wanting top grade fire agate for jewelry designs! Space is limited and filling up fast… for serious inquiries about visiting the mine and rates for mining/accommodations write to Dave Penny and S. Heather Scholz at ep7@xmission.com.

Wendell Thatcher helping us during our time on the Gem-A-Nator

Wendell Thatcher helping us during our time on the Gem-A-Nator

We’d like to thank our friend Wendell Thatcher for personally referring us to the mine owner. Wendell is a dedicated and experienced rockhound and a very talented fire agate carver. Many of the hand carved fire agate gems in our personal collection were purchased through Wendell.

Fire agate jewelry by Jessica Dow and Mark Anderson of Different Seasons Jewelry and Lapidary.

Fire agate jewelry by Jessica Dow and Mark Anderson of Different Seasons Jewelry and Lapidary.

Fire agate pendant collaboration by Mark Anderson and Casey Swanson.

Fire agate pendant collaboration by Mark Anderson and Casey Swanson.

Topaz Mountain, Utah

Filed under: Rockhound Travel,Video — Gary September 8, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

Rockhounding UTAH…

Topaz Mountain is the Southern most portion of Thomas Range. It is characterized by light gray to white rhyolite. The south eastern most point is Topaz Mountain Amphitheater (also know as Topaz Valley or the cove). This is the main and easiest accessible collecting area of the range. Topaz Valley was set aside by the B.L.M. Department of the Interior as a rockhound area. Despite the rumors of it being completely picked over, with hard work and a lot of patience you are often rewarded with some fine clear or sherry colored topaz.

The topaz of topaz mountain fades to colorless when exposed to heat and radiation (the Sun). So, to find the prized sherry colored topaz you have to resort to hard labor. I suggest for the casual collector to bring a 1/4″ screen, rock hammer, and screwdriver. Screen any dirt in washes and around any vegetation. You could easily screen hundreds of clear topaz and some sherry in a days work. Also find any clear topaz on the surface and pry them out with a screwdriver or rock hammer.

If your an avid collector that likes to break up rock and get down to business, I suggest that you bring the following: a heavy hammer (3 lbs +), rock hammer, large chisels (3/4″+),screwdriver, and rock bag.. Attack the mountain by finding soft spots in the rock and hoping to find any cavities. Be aware of signs that may help you. Such as Vegetation in Rhyolite, fracture seams, or open cavities are all good signs you are in a promising area. Be sure to follow the fracture seam, usually sparked off by brownish colored altered hematite. Plugs and frothy rock (both very mineralized Rhyolite) are very good signs your in a cavity. If you follow the signs and be very patient you should be rewarded with many fine sherry colored topaz, and other beautiful minerals.

UTAH U-Dig Fossils

Filed under: Rockhound Travel,Video,rockhounding maps — Gary August 29, 2010 @ 10:41 am
Utah Fossils

Utah Fossils

UTAH
U-Dig Fossils

U-DIG Fossils offers the best Trilobite
collecting in the world.

No trilobite quarry can match the quality
of U-DIG Fossils’ trilobite layers!

U-Dig Fossils was featured
on the Travel Channel show
The Best Places to Find Cash & Treasures
in April 2008

We’re looking forward to the 2010 season,
opening on Friday March 26th

What is a trilobite?

A trilobite is form of invertebrate marine life that lived more than 500 million years ago, but are now extinct. These hard-shelled prehistoric critters roamed the sea floor and coral reefs in search of food. Because of their great diversity and often perfect preservation in fine-grained rock, they are one of the most popular fossils among collectors.

Are the fossils easy to collect?

The fossils are found in a limestone shale. This shale splits easily into flat sheets, revealing the trilobite fossils. Fossilized trilobites lay nearly flat along the splitting planes of the shale. U-DIG Fossils can provide a hammer or you can bring your own. If you desire to remove your own fresh rock, larger tools are available. There’s little need to do this, though. Fresh chunks of fossil-bearing rock are regularly extracted and exposed from the bedrock with heavy equipment by the U-DIG staff.

How many fossils will I find?

The average visitor finds ten to twenty trilobites in a four-hour period. If you’re having trouble, friendly U-DIG personnel roam the Quarry area and would be glad to show you the richest veins of fossil-bearing rock. They can show you how to split the rock to find trilobites, and can identify what you find.

What does U-DIG provide?

Unlimited trilobites! U-DIG Fossils provides you with forty acres of the best trilobite collecting in the world. We expose fresh rock with an excavator on a regular basis. We can also provide hammers to split the shale, buckets to hold your collection and to carry your fossils to your vehicle in the parking area, digging instructions, assistance in finding and identifying fossils. We also provide toilet facilities.

Best of all, we always provide experienced, friendly staff. Gene Boardman or Bevan Hardy will assist you at the quarry.

When can I visit the U-DIG quarry?
The U-DIG Fossils quarry opens on Friday March 26, 2010.
Business hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The quarry is closed on Sundays.
However, the quarry is open on other holidays during the season. In fact, they can be our busiest days!
Please arrive at the quarry before 4 p.m., though. The quarry will close early if no one is present at 4 p.m.  Please do not attempt to enter the quarry when it is closed.

How do I get to the quarry?

The U-DIG Fossils Quarry is located approximately 52 miles west of Delta, Utah, near Antelope Springs. It is approximately 90 miles from Provo to Delta. It is approximately 130 miles from Salt Lake City to Delta.

Once in Delta, first travel 32 miles west on Highway 6 / 50. At the Long Ridge Reservoir sign between mile markers 56-57, turn right. There is a U-DIG Fossils sign at this intersection. Then travel 20 miles down a well-maintained gravel road to reach the U-DIG Quarry. Any type of vehicle can travel this gravel road. (To see this route in Google Maps, click here.)

Fossil_Map

Fossil_Map

Can we drive an RV to the quarry?

Yes, you can! When you arrive at the quarry, smaller RVs can turn into the Quarry and park in a small parking area to the left, before the “Open” sign. You will then need to walk about 300 yards over to the office for assistance. Larger RVs will need to pull over to the side of he main road just below the “Welcome to U-DIG” sign. Do not pull into the Quarry. Leave your RV there and walk to the Quarry office, about 500 yards. When you are ready to leave, you can continue up the main gravel road, about 1/8 mile, to another connecting road. You can turn around at this location. Examine the Google Maps Satellite view for an overview.

U-DIG Fossils is a family-run business. We’re anxious for you to have a unique and rewarding experience in our quarry. Please call or e-mail if you have any questions. We’d be glad to help. Here’s our office address. (Please note, this is not the location of the Quarry. See above for directions to the Quarry.)

U-DIG Fossils
P.O. Box 1113
350 East 300 South
Delta, Utah 84624
(435) 864-3638
(435) 864-4294 FAX
E-mail udig@xmission.com

Messel Fossil Pit

Filed under: Great Finds-specimens,NEW- fossils,Rockhound Travel,Video — Gary August 25, 2010 @ 11:04 am

The Messel Pit (German: Grube Messel) is a disused quarry near the village of Messel, (Landkreis Darmstadt-Dieburg, Hesse) about 35 km southeast of Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Bituminous shale was mined there. Because of its plethora of fossils, it has significant geological and scientific importance. After almost becoming a landfill, strong local resistance eventually stopped these plans, and the Messel Pit was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site on 9 December 1995. Significant scientific discoveries are still being made, and the site has become an increasing tourism site as well.

Messel_map

Messel_map

History

Brown coal, and later oil shale was actively mined from 1859. The pit first became known for its wealth of fossils around 1900, but serious scientific excavation only started around the 1970s, when falling oil prices made the quarry uneconomical. Commercial oil shale mining ceased in 1971, and a cement factory built in the quarry failed the following year. The land was slotted for use as a landfill, but the plans came to nought, and the Hessian state bought the site in 1991 to secure scientific access. In the few years between the end of mining and 1974, when the state started preparing the site for garbage disposal, amateur collectors were allowed to collect fossils. The amateurs developed the “transfer technique” that enabled them to preserve the fine details of small fossils, the method still employed in preserving the fossils today.

Due to the extraordinary fossils, the pit was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, the only place to be placed on the list exclusively due to fossils.

Many of the known specimens from the site have come from amateur collectors, and in 1996, an amnesty on previously collected fossils was put in effect, in the hope of getting privately owned collections back into public ownership and available to science.

Depositional characteristics

The current surface of the Messel pit is roughly 60 m below the local land and is about 0.7 km² in area. The oil-shale bed originally extended to a depth of 190 m.[4] 47 million years ago in the Eocene when the Messel deposits formed, the area was 10° further south than it is now. The period was very close to the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, and the climate and ecology of the site were very different. A large series of lakes, surrounded by lush sub-tropical forests supported an incredible diversity of life. The Messel lake bed was probably a center point for drainage from nearby rivers and creeks.

A fossil of the primitive mammal Kopidodon, showing outline of fur

The pit deposits were formed during the Eocene Epoch of the Paleogene Period about 47 million years ago, based on dating of basalt fragments underlying fossilbearing strata. Oil shale, formed by the slow anoxic deposition of mud and dead vegetation on the lake bed, is the primary rock at the site. Its sediments extend 130 m downward and lie atop an older sandstone foundation. The fossils within the shale show a remarkable clarity and preservation due to the unique depositional characteristics of the lake. The upper stratifications of the lake most certainly supported a variety of organisms, but the bottom was subject to little disturbance by current, spawning a very anoxic environment. This prevented many epifaunal and infaunal species from inhabiting this niche, and thus bioturbation was kept at a minimum. Overturn of the lake layers (caused by seasonal variations) lowered oxygen content near the surface and led to a periodic “die-off” of aquatic species. Combined with a relatively low rate of deposition (0.1 mm/yr), this provided a prime environment for the preservation of fauna and flora.

Fossils

The Messel Pit provides the best preserved evidence of Geiseltalian flora and fauna so far discovered. Most other sites are lucky to contain partial skeletons, but Messel boasts extensive preservation of structural integrity, even going so far as to preserve the fur, feathers, and “skin shadows” of some species. Unusual preservation has sparked some closely-reasoned interpretations. The symptomatic “dumb-bell”-shaped bite marks on either side of the leaf vein on a fossilised leaf have been identified as the death-grip of a carpenter ant terminally parasitized by a fungus that, apparently then as today, comandeered its behavior, in order to release its spores from a favourable location; it is the earliest concrete sample of fungal behavioural manipulation.

The diversity of species is no less astonishing (thanks in part, perhaps, to the hypothesized periodic gas releases). A brief summary of some of the fossils found at the site follows:

  • Early primate fossil with anthropoid (i.e. non-lemuroid) characteristics (discovery made public May 2009), (see Darwinius masillae)
  • Over 10,000 fossilized fish of numerous species
  • Thousands of aquatic and terrestrial insects, some with distinct coloration still preserved
  • A plethora of small mammals including pygmy horses, large mice, primates, ground dwellers (hedgehogs, marsupials, pangolins), aardvark relatives, and bats.
  • Large numbers of birds, particularly predatory species.
  • Crocodiles, frogs, turtles, salamanders, and other reptiles or amphibians
  • Remains of over 30 distinct plant species, including palm leaves, fruits, pollen, wood, walnuts, and grapevines

Access

Exhibits from the pit may be seen in the Messel town museum, the Museum of Hessen in Darmstadt (5 km from Messel) and also the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt (some 30 km from Messel). Casual visitors can park close to the pit and walk around 300 m to a viewing platform overlooking the pit. Entrance to the pit is only possible as part of a specially organized tour.

Thanks Wikipedia

Sterling Hill Mining Museum

Filed under: Coming Events,Rockhound Travel,Video,rockhounding maps — Gary August 21, 2010 @ 9:15 pm

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum

Sterling_hill_map

Sterling_hill_map

An enduring geological mystery. A world-famous mineral deposit. And, it’s all right here in New Jersey, just an hour’s drive from midtown New York!

The industrial complex that was once the Sterling Hill zinc mine is now open to the public as the Sterling Hill Mining Museum. Join us for underground mine tours, fantastic displays of “glow-in-the-dark” fluorescent minerals, extensive outdoor displays of mining machinery, and exhibit halls packed with things you’ve probably never seen before!

Sterling_Hill_mine

Sterling_Hill_mine

Calendar of Events

August 29, 2010

Mineral collecting at Sterling Hill (daytime only)

Where: Sterling Hill
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Description: Collecting allowed on Mine Run dump and in the Fill quarry, Passaic pit, and “Saddle” area Open to the public.
Fees: $5 admission; plus $1.50 for each pound of material taken
Age Requirements: 7-years and up for Mine Run dump; 13 and up elsewhere
Contact:   973-209-7212

September 11, 2010

Fossil Discovery Center

Where: Sterling Hill Mining Museum, Ogdensburg, NJ
Time: 10:00a.m.-12:30p.m.
Description:

SHMM will have a paleontologist available for young people (of all ages) to go fossil hunting. The Fossil Discovery Center is still in a pilot stage, but is based on SHMM’s successful Rock Discovery Center. The “digs” will begin at 10:00 and take place every half hour thereafter; each dig will last a little less than 30 minutes.

Participation is limited to 25 people per session on a first-come, first-serve basis. Each fossil collector will get 6 fossils with a general ID chart.

(Groups of 15 people or more can make an appointment at the Museum Shop to participate in the FDC for other weekends or weekdays, pending availability of SHMM personnel.) Note: 12:30 time slot not recommended for people taking the 1:00 PM mine tour. Other time slots available by appointment for groups of 10 or more.
Fees: $4.50/person
Age Requirements: All Ages – recommended for students in grades 2 -12
Contact:   973-209-7212

September 25, 2010-September 26, 2010

Franklin Gem and Mineral Show and Outdoor Swap and Sell

Where: Franklin School – Franklin, NJ
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Description:

This show is held the last full weekend in September and features both indoor and outdoor mineral, fossil, and gem dealers.

September 25 (Saturday)

54th Annual Franklin Sterling Gem and Mineral Show and Outdoor Swap/Sel
Franklin Middle School, Buckwheat Rd. at Washington St., Franklin, N.J.
9AM – 6PM (indoors); 7:30AM – 6PM (outdoor swap and sell).

Annual Show Banquet and Auction
Franklin Firehouse, Buckwheat Rd. at Parker St., Franklin, NJ.
Banquet begins 6:30PM; tickets $18.

Sterling Hill Garage Sale
Sterling Hill Mining Museum, Christiansen Pavilion, 10AM – 3PM.

September 26 (Sunday)

54th Annual Franklin Sterling Gem and Mineral Show and Outdoor Swap/Sell
Franklin Middle School, Buckwheat Rd. at Washington St., Franklin, NJ
10 AM – 5PM (indoors); 9AM – 5PM (outdoor swap and sell).

Sterling Hill Garage Sale
Sterling Hill Mining Museum, Christiansen Pavilion, 10AM – 3PM.

Mineral collecting at StHMM (daytime only)
Collecting allowed on Mine Run dump and in the Fill quarry, Passaic pit, and “Saddle” area. Open to the public.

Hours 9AM – 3PM. Fees: $5 admission plus $1.50 for each pound of material taken.
Fees: Open to the Public
Age Requirements: Seven years and up for Mine Run dump; 13 and up elsewhere.

Sterling_Hill

Sterling_Hill

Who would think that one of the most famous mines in the world lies right here in the Highlands of New Jersey, just an hour’s drive from midtown New York City?

The Sterling Hill zinc mine is world-class by any standard, and not just because of what was mined here: history was made here, too, lots of it. So too was much money. Moreover, much mining law was forged here, and over the span of two and one-half centuries, this mine and its twin in nearby Franklin dominated the lives of thousands of New Jersey residents. The economic, social, and scientific significance of our local zinc mines was felt not only in Sussex County, but in all of New Jersey and even far beyond.

Consider just these 14 facts:

  1. Sterling Hill is one of the oldest mines in the United States and was first worked sometime before 1739, more than 265 years ago.
  2. Sterling Hill produced more than 11 million tons of zinc ore. The ore was fabulously rich, averaging more than 20% zinc, and occurred in thick seams that were worked to a depth of more than 2,550 ft below the surface through tunnels totaling more than 35 miles in length.
  3. Sterling Hill is one of the world’s premiere mineral localities. Together with the nearby Franklin orebody, 2.5 miles to the north, more than 350 different mineral species have been found here — a world record for such a small area. More than two dozen of these have been found nowhere else on Earth. To view the mineral list click here.
  4. fluorescent minerals found at the mines at Sterling Hill, Ogdensburg, NJThe mine is equally famous for its fluorescent minerals. Together with nearby Franklin, almost 90 different mineral species have been documented as fluorescent (view the list here). Specimens from Franklin and Sterling Hill are widely regarded by collectors as the world’s finest.
  5. Sterling Hill constitutes a geological enigma — other than nearby Franklin, nothing else quite like it exists on Earth. The scientific literature on these deposits spans two centuries and totals more than 1,000 papers, yet scientists have yet to agree on how they formed.
  6. For more than two centuries the Franklin-Sterling Hill district attracted the attention of the most prominent scientists and naturalists of the day. One of the earliest mineralogical papers in U.S. scientific literature (1810) was devoted to zincite, one of the local ore minerals.
  7. Much U.S. mining law was forged in this area as a result of numerous courtroom battles during the 19th century, when mining was done by numerous small companies that often held conflicting titles to the mineral rights. Resolution of these conflicts established legal precedents that governed much of the mining industry nationwide from 1897 onwards.
  8. The town of Ogdensburg owes its very existence to the Sterling Hill mine. For many decades the mine provided employment to local residents and in many ways dominated their lives. Until the 1980s, most of the tax revenue of the Borough of Ogdensburg was linked either directly or indirectly to the Sterling Hill mine, the only large industrial complex in the Borough.
  9. Without the presence of the Sterling Hill mine, rail service to Ogdensburg would have been much delayed. The establishment of rail service in 1871 brought immediate and long-continuing prosperity to the Borough of Ogdensburg by transporting goods for its local merchants, delivering its mail, shuttling its residents on shopping trips and excursions, carrying its public school graduates to neighboring high schools, and providing a means of shipping the local zinc ore to the smelter in ever-increasing quantities.
  10. miner at shmmThe continual need for laborers in the mine brought wave after wave of immigrants to the area, including Russians, Hungarians, Poles, Scandinavians, Cornishmen, Mexicans, Irishmen, and others. Pick up an Ogdensburg phone book and look at the surnames, and you’ll see the legacy of those days.
  11. The wealth taken from the hills of Sussex County often had benefits elsewhere. At Princeton University, for example, one of the prime benefactors in the early 20th century was Edgar Palmer, second president of the New Jersey Zinc Company. His name lives on in Princeton in Palmer Square, Palmer Hall, and Palmer Stadium.
  12. Between Sterling Hill and Franklin, so much zinc ore had to be processed that a huge smelting and refining complex was built especially for this purpose in Pennsylvania. Why there? Because of the anthracite coal mines and the Lehigh Canal. The mines furnished the fuel necessary to smelt the ore, and the canal allowed bargeloads of coal to be transported to the smelter at low cost. Thus was born the town of Palmerton. [Think about that — a modern and still-thriving town in Pennsylvania was founded because of zinc mines in New Jersey!]
  13. The historical significance of Sterling Hill is a matter of public record. Sterling Hill was placed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places in July 1991 (ID #2621) and on the National Register of Historic Places in September 1991 (National Register Reference # 91001365).
  14. Sterling Hill mine was the last operating underground mine in New Jersey. It closed in 1986 after more than 138 years of almost continuous production.

Want to know more? Several fine publications on the history and mineralogy of the Franklin-Sterling Hill area are available; for details and ordering information click here. Two of the most important publications, together with much additional information and photographs, are available on a web site built and maintained by Herb Yeates, a museum associate.

Ruggles Mine

Filed under: Rockhound Travel,Video,field trip reports — Gary @ 9:01 pm

Ruggles Mine

The Oldest and Most Spectacular Mica, Feldspar,
Beryl, and Uranium Mine in the USA.

Open Weekends from
May 15 through June 6, 2010

Open Daily
June 12 through October 17, 2010

Admission:
Adults $25
Children (4-11) $13
Children under 4 are Free with a paid adult.

Hours:
9am-5pm except
July & August 9am-6pm
Last ticket sold 1 hour before closing

The mountains and valleys of New Hampshire are rich with mineral formations. From the southwest corner of the state near Keene to the northern Canadian border near Littleton there are fascinating deposits of a variety of minerals. One of these deposits is known as the Littleton Formation which was formed during the Devonian era approximately 300,000,000 years ago. The mining of these mineral deposits has been an important part of New Hampshire history from prehistoric eras to the present. The Ruggles Mine, in Grafton N.H., is part of the Littleton Formation and has a rich mining and geological history. It is the oldest and largest mine of its kind in the United States. Minerals such as Mica, Feldspar, Beryl, and Uranium were mined at Ruggles for 175 years.

Minerals and rocks fall into three classes of identification, metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary. All of these mineral formations are found in New Hampshire. Metamorphic rock is formed under extreme conditions of heat and pressure. Igneous rock is formed when magma or molten rock cools and solidifies. Sedimentary rock is formed when wind or water deposit sediments and the sediments become compacted. Sedimentary and igneous rock can become metamorphic under certain conditions of intense heat and pressure in the crust of the earth. Metamorphic rock can also change into another type of metamorphic rock. Heat and pressure do not change the chemical makeup of parent rocks but they do change the mineral and physical properties of those rocks.

The Littleton Formation is classified as a metamorphic rock formation that was originally sedimentary. New Hampshire was at one time completely covered by the sea. As a result, huge amounts of sediment were deposited. Hadley and Chapman describe what occurred during the prehistoric era in New Hampshire.

How Rocks were Made

In early Devonian time, sand and mud were deposited. Thousands of feet, in alternating layers, accumulated to form the Littleton formation. William Barton explains what happened during the metamorphism. For untold years the sediments slowly accumulated on the ocean bottom. The earlier layers, compressed by continually increasing weight of newer overlying sediments, were changed into the sedimentary rocks called sandstone, siltstone, and shale. Eventually these layers of rock grew to be several miles in thickness. The Great Folding and the Rise of Molten Rock; Sometime near the close of the Devonian period, about 300,000.000 years ago, a period of great crustal unrest set in. Western New Hampshire, which for a hundred million had been dominantly a region of wide spread seas, began to be uplifted, never again to be covered by marine waters. This period was marked by two major phenomena; intense compression of the earth’s crust and the rise of molten rock into the crust.
Great compress ional forces, acting horizontally in a more or less east-west direction, squeezed the rocks and forced them to buckle. Gigantic folds, both upwards and downwards, trending north and south were produced.

The accumulation of buried sedimentary rocks were heated, squeezed into great folds, and shattered. The heat and pressure involved were so great that the mineralogical character of the rocks changed entirely. The new rocks were called metamorphic and were characterized by mica schists. The schishts consisted of mica and quartz, with the shiny mica flakes having formed from the pre-existing dull clay particles Without these enormous upheavals and pressure New Hampshire would not be as mineral rich as it is today.

The Littleton formation is primarily mica schist, and surrounds the Ruggles pegmatite. Although there are many pegmatites throughout the Littleton formation, the Ruggles Mine is unique because of its enormous size. The crystal formations within the Ruggles pegmatite are larger than any other ever discovered here in New Hampshire. It is 1640 feet long and 335 feet wide, and is approximately 250 feet deep.

Pegmatites are very coarse-grained igneous rocks, that is, those in which the grains range in size from 5 millimeters to 3 centimeters. The course grain results from the presence of volatiles during the crystallization, thus permitting large crystals to grow; The Pegmatite is light colored because it consists almost entirely of light colored minerals: Plagioclase and perthite feldspars, quartz and muscovite mica.

Over one hundred and fifty minerals have been identified in the Ruggles Mine. The primary mineral of economic interest was mica. Books of mica as large as five feet in diameter have been discovered. Without human intervention, these mineral deposits would never have enriched N.H

The Discovery of Mica

Mica was first discovered in 1803 in Grafton N.H. by a man named Sam Ruggles. It is believed that his origins were English and that he was probably farming and homesteading when he discovered mica on his property. Sam Ruggles knew the value of the mica he had discovered and set forth the first and one of the largest mining operations of its kind in the United States.

For years it is believed that Sam Ruggles went to great lengths to keep the location of his mine a secret. Ruggles put his family to work extracting books of mica. Then, to prevent his neighbors from learning of his discovery, the mica was packed into wagons along with farm product sand transported by ox-team to Portsmouth, N.H. From there it was shipped to England, where it could be sold without arousing anyone’s suspicion as to its possible origin.

As the demand for mica increased, Ruggles would make special trips to Portsmouth in the dead of night, still hoping to keep the location of his mine a secret. There is speculation as to why Ruggles was so adamant about keeping his mine a secret. One possibility is that land was being claimed and not purchased in the early 1800s and there was an acre limit on how much land could be claimed each year. Ruggles may have been trying to claim enough land to cover the entire mountain top to ensure ownership of all the mica outcroppings. This illustrates the value of these resources to N.H.

In the early nineteenth century mica was in great demand for its use in many household products. Because mica is heat resistant and transparent, it was used for the windows in woodstoves and whale-oil lamps. Mica was also used in ships windows. Basically anything that is now made of glass was made of mica in the early 1800s.

By 1840 it was said that 600 to 700 pounds of mica were mined annually, valued at $1500. By 1869 production had increased tremendously, and in that year it was reported that seventy-five boxes weighing 350 pounds each had been mined, making a total of 26,000 pounds.

The production of mica continued to increase into the late 1800’s. The Ruggles Mine reported shipping 3,600 pounds in January of 1877. By the early to middle part of the twentieth century mica mining began to decline. In 1930 as little as 8,000 pounds of mica was mined annually in the United States.

Despite the decrease in production, the value of mica remained high. Clear sheets of mica were still sold at very high prices, and by the early 1930’s an estimated $12,000,000 worth of mica had been mined at the Ruggles Mine.

Later on mica was used as an electrical insulator. It does not conduct heat or electricity due to its molecular structure. Early electrical appliances, such as toasters had mica in them. Mica is still being used today in products from building materials to cosmetics. Mica is in cement blocks and asphalt roof shingles. It is also used in lipsticks and fingernail polish. Most anything that sparkles contains mica.

The Development of Ruggles Mine

The ownership of the Ruggles Mine has changed several times over the years. It is not certain who owned the mine after the death of Sam Ruggles and for much of the rest of the nineteenth century. In 1874, a man named J.W. Kelton is said to have owned and operated the mine. By this time the mica was no longer being hauled away in secret by ox-cart, but being transported out of Grafton by the railroad.

Feldspar was the second most predominant mineral to be of economic interest at Ruggles Mine. The American Minerals company began mining feldspar in 1912. Feldspar was used in the making of high grade ceramics. The Syracuse China company used feldspar in the glazes on their fine china for many years. It was also used in the enamel surfaces of early appliances such as stoves and refrigerators. Feldspar was also in the making of false teeth.

The Bon Ami Company owned and operated the Ruggles Mine between 1932 and 1959. They mined the feldspar for use their non-abrasive scouring powder and glass cleaner. The Bon Ami Company extracted approximately ten thousand tons of feldspar a year during their period of operation.

Beryl is another mineral that was mined at Ruggles Mine. Beryl is the principal ore of the metal known as beryllium. Beryllium is lighter than aluminum and stronger than steel. Today, beryllium alloys are used in atomic reactors, electrical components, and as metal on spaceships components used at NASA. At one time during the mining of Beryl, a mass of the mineral was discovered that filled three freight train cars.

During the twentieth century The Ruggles Mine was reworked several times for the scrap mica that was left behind during earlier operations. The large “books” of mica were no longer being mined, but the smaller amounts that were dumped into waste piles during earlier operations. As new uses for mica were discovered, the demand for it increased once again. It was no longer used for whale-oil lamps, as in days of Sam Ruggles, but now in wallpaper (for sheen effect), paints, roofing, molded insulation, lubricants, etc. All the better grades were used for electrical insulation. The reworking of the mine was done by the English Mica Company of New York. They set up an extensive operation that crushed, screened, and washed the rock to separate it from the mica. The recovered mica was then washed down 3,200-foot flume to a mill at the bottom of the hill.

The Mine remained active and productive for 160 years. In the early 1960’s the U.S. government discontinued subsidizing the mica industry though it’s Mica Stock Piling Program. The result was that domestic mica mining operations could no longer compete in price with the mica imported from Brazil and India. Mining operations were thus discontinued at the Ruggles Mine.

The end of mining mica and other minerals ended an important chapter in the history New Hampshire. Mining provided employment and revenue to many people during the early days of our state. It provided our ancestors with an option to farming as means of survival. The Littleton Formation and the Ruggles pegmatite are what is left of a very significant part of geologic history. The formation was a natural resource that provided income and numerous minerals used in many important products.
In 1963 the Ruggles Mine was opened to the public. For 40 years visitors have been able to come and experience a part of this geologic and mining history. When entering the mine today one can still see where the feldspar and mica of the pegmatite connects to schist of the Littleton formation. One can witness the tremendous forces of the earths folding by observing the layers of schist that stand vertically above the pegmatite. The collecting of minerals is permitted at the Ruggles Mine, one can take home pieces of this history. Exploring the enormous caverns and tunnels provides insight into an event that took place 350,000,000 years ago. A visit to Ruggles provides insight into an important part of mining and geologic history.

Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine, Virgin Valley, Nevada

Filed under: Great Finds-specimens,Rockhound Travel,field trip reports — Gary August 10, 2010 @ 3:46 am
opal_mine

opal_mine

Welcome to the Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine
Virgin Valley, Nevada

Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine is located in Northwest Nevada, approximately 135 miles from Winnemucca, Nevada, and approximately 100 miles from Lakeview, OR. The closest town is Denio, NV, which is 35 miles away. Denio Junction has reopened and food, fuel and rooms are available. We recommend that you fill up in either Lakeview or Winnemucca on your way out to the mine. All roads to the mine are blacktop, except for the last 7.5 miles, which are gravel and dirt. During wet weather, the last couple of miles is very bad, and should not be attempted, (looking for opal in wet or very overcast weather is not good anyway).

There is no overnight camping available at Rainbow Ridge. Trailers should be left at the CCC camp, which is 5 miles before you get to the mine. Denio Junction has reopened and food, fuel and rooms are available. We recommend that you fill up in either Lakeview or Winnemucca on your way out to the mine.

Opal Finds

Opal Finds

Very nice field report with lots of pictures of the area and what they found – click here!

The opals from Rainbow Ridge are casts after wood, and are some of the most beautiful opals in the world. We offer tailings digging where many different wood and opal combinations may be found. The tailings are up to eight feet deep. We turn the tailings from time to time, and are constantly adding to the tailings from the virgin ground loads. The virgin ground loads are materials taken from the bank with the loader, and are worked on a flattened area near where you park. Everything you find, regardless of value, is yours to keep. Although luck plays a part in finding opals, an “educated” eye is very helpful. First timers will be given some help in getting them started.

Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine

Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine

2010 Season Information:
Opening Date: Friday, May 28th through
Last Digging Day:
Sunday, September 19th.

Please note thet we are closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the 2010 season.

Reservations for the virgin ground loads will be accepted by phone only, NO EMAIL RESERVATIONS, begining April 15th thru the last day of the season.

Please call: (775) 941-0270 or (541) 548-4810 to make a reservation.

Virgin Ground Load Fee this season is $500.00, and will admit either one or two adults.

Tailing Fee is $70.00 per person per day, and children10-15 are still half price.

SUGGESTED ITEMS TO BRING WITH YOU:
Small pick (sharp, single hand)
Small garden rake
Small shovel or trowel
Spray bottle with water for cleaning off dirt
Buckets (5 gallon) for collecting specimens, plus an extra one for a seat
Sun block, hat, and gloves

Come visit our rock shop; we have lots of beautiful opal for sale, as well as fossils, minerals, and jewelry. We have digging tools and buckets for sale, too.

We look forward to seeing you at Rainbow Ridge.

Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine, Montana

Filed under: Rockhound Travel — Gary August 8, 2010 @ 11:55 pm
Montana_Sapphire_Mine

Montana_Sapphire_Mine

Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine

P.O Box 148, 21 Sapphire Gulch Lane Philipsburg, Montana Phone: 1-406-859-GEMS (4367)

Montana Sapphires  -
Montana is home to some of the largest sapphire deposits in the world.  Yogo gulch is perhaps the most famous and produces a spectacular natural blue and violet sapphire.  The gravel bars along the Missouri River north of Helena produce both sapphires and gold along with a very small deposit at Dry Cottonwood Creek near Deer Lodge.  The quiet giant of all the deposits is Gem Mountain.  Gem Mountain has produced four times more sapphire than all of the other deposits combined.
The exclusive Yogo Gulch sapphires are found in central Montana.  Their natural blue and violet color, incredible clarity, and scarcity, makes them one of the most expensive sapphire gemstones in the world.
The gravel bars along the Missouri River north of Helena, and a small deposit at Dry Cottonwood Creek near Deer Lodge, have produced both sapphires and gold.
Gem Mountain is the quiet giant of the Montana sapphire deposits.  Mining started around 1892.  Large scale commercial mining took place up until the late 1920′s.  The vast majority of production was screened for size and the small, uniformly shaped round stones shipped to Switzerland for use as watch bearings.   Large, and natural color, stones were faceted as finished gemstones.  A letter from the manager of the American Gem Mining Syndicate in the early 1900′s predicted a need for seven million rough sapphires based upon expected sales of one million pocket watches with the average watch having seven sapphire bearings within the internal workings.  The invention of synthetic sapphire caused large scale commercial mining to cease.  However, smaller operations continued focused upon finding the larger natural color stones which were finished as gemstones.  Sapphires have been mined at Gem Mountain for over 100 years.  Over 44 tons of rough sapphire have been produced at Gem Mountain.  By comparison, the gravel bars along the Missouri River have only produced 11 tons of rough sapphire and Yogo Gulch less than one ton.

Gem Mountain is the source for every known color of sapphire and some colors found nowhere else. Montana sapphires have been found here in blue, green, orange, yellow, pink and many other colors.

sapphires

sapphires

Heat treating inproves the color of most of the pale colored stones.  When heat treated and faceted sapphire gemstones from Gem Mountain have a brilliance and color that can rival gems from anywhere in the world.  To find your own Montana Sapphires from Gem Mountain visit our Gravel Bags page.  We look forward to seeing you at Gem Mountain some day.

Welcome to Gem Mountain Montana
The Store in Philipsburg is open 7-days a week
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with gravel to go, gemstones, jewelry and unique gifts.
The Sapphire Mine and Gravel Wash Trough is open 7days a week.
9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Gravel Bucket Sales for Washing end one hour before closing.
If you’re planning a vacation in Montana join us for a sapphire mining experience the whole family will love.  We’re Montana’s largest, oldest, and funnest Sapphire Mine, with the best facilities, equipment and fun loving, helpful staff.
Hidden in the Mountains of Montana – the mine is hard to find but worth the drive.  Located between Hamilton and Philipsburg, Montana in the aptly named Sapphire Mountains you can Discover your own Montana Treasure – a Montana Sapphire Gemstone from Gem Mountain.
As Seen on TV – Grab a bucket of sapphire gravel, belly up to the wash trough and find Montana Sapphires.  Depending how you handle your gravel and wash screen this might just be the dirtiest good clean family fun you can have.
  • Sapphire Gravel
  • Montana Sapphire Gemstones
  • Gold and Silver Sapphire Jewelry
  • Wash Screens and Gold Pans
  • Gemstone and Rockhound Supplies

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