Montana Sapphire Gemstone
You hold a pale blue-green pebble against the big Montana sky. The sunlight makes it sparkle prettily with minty hues. Less than an inch across, this rock is a genuine sapphire! Montana sapphire is an American gemstone, mined at various times for over one hundred years. Learn how to identify Montana sapphire and discover what sets it apart from other varieties of corundum as you enjoy this bauble from The Treasure State.
Montana Sapphire Stone
Enjoying a boom at the turn of the twentieth century, interest in Montana sapphire began to wane due to the rise of synthetic corundum and lack of interest in fancy sapphires. Now making a comeback, Montana sapphire is poised to become a significant player in the sapphire trade for years to come. But, how rare is Montana sapphire? Only found in North America, this unique sapphire stone possesses a range of color not typically seen in other types of sapphire gemstones.
Determining Montana Sapphire Value
Is Montana sapphire valuable? The value of colored stones is typically determined by a combination of its color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. This is no different when determining what Montana sapphire is worth. These guidelines will help you choose Montana sapphire stones for your collection.
- Montana Sapphire Color
Montana sapphires are primarily known for their attractive blue and pastel colors. Blue gems range from a medium blue hue to a teal, blue-green, or green. Green gems frequently possess a mint shade. Pastel hues often occur in Montana sapphire and are not common in world sapphire production.
- Montana Sapphire Clarity
Montana sapphire is known to possess a good clarity, and most stones appear eye-clean. When inclusions are present, they typically are needles or grains of rutile too small to see without magnification.
- Montana Sapphire Cut
These stones favor traditional shapes such as round brilliant, oval, and pear. These shapes are excellent for smaller stones, as they create the illusion of a larger jewel. However, Montana sapphire can be fashioned into any popular fancy cut or original design.
- Montana Sapphire Carat
Finished stones exist between 10 points to 0.75 carats. Before shaping and polishing, these jewels measure between 2mm and one inch in size. While larger sizes exist, these are very rare.
Montana Sapphire Treatment
Only 12-percent of mined rough occurs in fancy sapphire colors (stones that are not blue). Other stones undergo a heating process to create the same range of colors seen in the naturally occurring stone.
Thanks to heat treatment, around 80-percent of the product is suitable for the market. Most heated stones start as a pale green color. Heating finishes what nature began, and around 45-percent of heat treated stones display a pleasing range of blues. The remaining rocks are unusable for jewelry or occur in other fancy colors. These heating methods don’t use any kinds of chemicals or other additives. It’s among the most reliable and least intrusive of gemstone treatment methods.
Montana Sapphire Care
Sapphire is an easy stone to care for and doesn’t require any special attention. Heat treatments are stable and will not fade. A durable stone with excellent toughness, it also ranks nine on the Mohs scale of hardness. Montana sapphire is not likely to scratch or chip, making it a great choice for daily wear.
High heat could damage the stone’s color or clarity. Avoid harsh detergents when cleaning your stone. Avoid exposure to harsh chemicals.
The most reliable way to clean your Montana sapphire is with warm, soapy water as described in our jewelry cleaning guide.
Who Can Wear Montana Sapphire?
The pastel hues of Montana sapphire lend themselves well to spring and summer palettes, making them a great choice for whimsical jewelry styles. The light tones lend a playful vibrancy, combining well with the neutrals in your closet.
It also transitions nicely to fall and winter, providing a classy buy understated elegance in minimalistic jewelry. The smaller size of polished stones is perfect for dainty solitaire rings, unobtrusive studs, and other contemporary styles.
This gemstone is not currently well-known in the world market, making now the best time to buy. As Montana sapphire becomes familiar in Indian and Chinese gem markets, experts predict the demand to skyrocket for these unusual pastel colors. Cheap Montana sapphire jewelry won’t be around forever!
How Does Montana Sapphire Compare to Other Sapphire Stones?
These jewels occupy a space between the traditional cornflower blue of Ceylon sapphires, and the deeper tones found in other sapphire stones such as Masoala sapphire or Kanchanaburi sapphire.
Where Does Montana Sapphire Come From?
Shop LC sources our supply of Montana sapphire from the Rock Creek sapphire district of Montana. Rock Creek is also known as Gem Mountain. Located in the eastern portion of the state, Rock Creek is about 40 miles west of Butte. Two areas in Rock Creek are known sapphire-producing deposits, Eureka Gulch and Sapphire Gulch. In addition to producing colorful sapphire, the area continues to yield gold.
This deposit of gemstones was first discovered in the early 1800s, as prospectors were initially searching for gold. Montana has been producing sapphires since the 1830s. For years, the market focus was on blue gems, meaning these fancy stones were relatively unknown outside of watchmaking.
Early mining operations primarily supplied sapphires to Swiss buyers, for use in watch movements, before synthetics were commonplace. Sapphire jewels are used in watches to reduce wear and tear from friction, thanks to the durability of the stone. For just this purpose, over 65 tonnes of sapphire recovered between 1890 and the 1930s, according to the Montana Historical Society.
Old mining stories tell us about “doorknobs,” substantial sapphire rocks that miners reputedly tumbled in barrels with iron scraps to break into smaller stones for the watch trade.
Production slowed considerably once synthetic sapphires became available for watch movements. And, despite many attempts, mining never took off again until the discovery of heat treatment.
Our vendor, Potentate Mining, first began acquiring the sapphire producing property in 2011. In the 1990s, one of the partners was a geologist who informally helped asses the deposit for commercial mining. Knowing that the investment was likely to be sound, they acquired around 90-percent of the land that historically produced sapphires, the Rock Creek sapphire district.
By 2014, they had bought the majority of the gem-producing land. Between all known sapphire deposits, Potentate Mining owns about 3000 acres of property. This is the first time in nearly 120 years that a single entity is managing the majority of the gem-producing land. An analysis suggests that Montana sapphire mining will continue for generations.
How is Montana Sapphire Mined?
From a historical perspective, the original miners used hydraulic mining methods. Gravity fed hoses were used to blast away at the landscape, creating a muddy sluice. The conduit would flow downhill, to collecting in boxes for sorting.
This method is very inefficient, and heavily limited by the availability of water and the dependence of gravity. Only deposits at a lower level than the water supply could be mined. For this reason, only areas like low lying gulches could be mined. Also, heavy labor is required to move many of the large rocks that become exposed during the process. After mining, these rocks would be placed in previously mined locations as the miners worked their way downhill.
This old-fashioned operation could only mine shallowly. Potentate testing of the area shows that many of the old mining areas still hold sapphires. Besides, additional testing of regions between the gulches and hilltops show a great deal of promise. Dr. Keith Barrow, the President of Potentate Mining, sees a great deal of hope for the future, with an estimated potential of many years.
Modern mining methods are more efficient and don’t face the same constraints that the early miners had to deal with. Using mechanical means a double-decker screening plant sorts sapphire.
Earth is placed into the plant for sorting into three separate piles. Waste material, like dirt and rock, is classified into one collection. This is any material bigger than one inch. The machine is calibrated to remove gravel between one-eighth to one inch in size; the typical size of a rough sapphire from Montana. The material below one-eighth of an inch is stored for future processing.
Gem rough undergoes washing at Eureka Gulch. Due to the massive deposits of mud and clay, the material must be cleaned thoroughly. A two-step process collects the sapphire and separates the gold. The material passes through two jigs, which collect sapphires rough and gold. A sluice box collects any extra gold that might have been missed.
Mines are operated with conservation in mind. Less than five acres are actively mined at a time. A backfilling process is used in filling dig sites after rough gem material is removed. This aids in land reclamation. Digging is no deeper than one would dig the foundation of a house.
Groundwater is used in the washing process. In-between washings, it must stand for at least four hours before being used again. This allows silt settle to the bottom of the retaining pond in which wastewater is stored. Mud from the holding pond is harvested to place back into mined areas. Locals plants and grass will then be seeded to begin the process of restoring the excavated area back to its former beauty. Potentate Mining sells extra gravel to the county for use in paving roads.
Montana Sapphire Properties
What Does Montana Sapphire Mean?
Sapphire is one of the original ‘precious gemstones,’ including diamond, ruby, and emerald. For a very long time, these four gems were considered to be the most coveted, precious, and valuable stones in the world. It was a gem owned only be the elite, whether aristocrat or clergy. Even today, sapphire evokes feelings of royalty, heaven, and prestige.
Many cultures also view sapphire as a gemstone representing concepts of loyalty, devotion, and honesty. For many, it is a stone that connects us to the heavens, both literal and figurative. In modern times, this is reflected in using colored gemstone engagement rings. Sapphire perfectly captures the pledges we make in marriage.
Gem therapists and crystal healers use sapphire for mental and emotional healing. They believe that blue sapphire opens us to emotional healing and combating depression by inviting in positive energy. Blue is often considered a color of the mind, and it’s said that a sapphire sharpens intellect by focusing concentration and protecting you from emotional manipulation.
Sapphire is a gem chosen by those who wish to know themselves and explore the limits of their potential. It instills the confidence required to excel and succeed in the challenges of life.
Disclaimer: The information presented is for information purposes only, and should not replace the advice of a trained medical professional.
Is Montana Sapphire a Birthstone?
Sapphire is the modern September birthstone. Though it is only a considered a single stone, sapphire occurs in a delightful array of colors! Montana sapphire represents several of these potential choices, with its blues and greens offering an enticing choice for anyone.
Sapphire is also the traditional anniversary stone for the 5th and 45th wedding anniversaries. The 65th anniversary is referred to as the “sapphire jubilee,” in honor of Queen Elizabeth celebrating her 65th year as Queen.
Sapphire is also the state gemstone of Montana!
Montana Sapphire Facts
- Montana sapphire ranks nine on the Mohs scale of hardness.
- Montana sapphire ranges in color from blue, blue-green, teal, and green. Pastel hues are frequently seen within this gem.
- Montana sapphire occurs in the Rock Creek District of Montana.
- Montana sapphire undergoes heat treatment to create or improve color.