Gold Miners In The 1860s Threw These Blue Pebbles Away
Drawn by the promise of vast riches, people traveled great distances to search for gold in Montana. Those prospectors with gold mining experience in California constructed wooden sluice boxes to separate the gold from the river gravel. Heavier than gravel, the sapphires sank to the bottom of the gravel concentrate clogging their sluice boxes allowing the fine gold to wash away. Most of the gold miners threw away these nuisance pebbles.
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Montana Yogo Sapphire Deposit
Yogo sapphires are mined in Montana at Yogo Gulch, 12 miles southwest of Utica, 45 miles west-southwest of Lewistown and east of Great Falls. The yogo sapphire mine site resides inside Judith Basin County and was carved out from parts of western Ferguson and eastern Cascade counties. This minor change in county lines appears to have had no effect on yogo sapphire mining in the Lewistown area.
Yogo Gulch and the foothills of and including Yogo Peak, Yogo Creek, and the Yogo dike, are all in the Little Belt Mountains. The Gulch is located along the lower reaches of Yogo Creek and west of the Judith river. The west end of the Yogo dike shows up just southwest of Yogo Creek. After about 3 miles north and half mile east until you stop short of the Judith river. Yogo Creek starts just south of Yogo Peak, which is about 15 miles west of the Judith River. From there the creek flows southeast into the Middle Fork of the Judith River. The Judith River then flows northeast from the Little Belts toward Utica. Just east of the Judith River is Jake Hoovers ranch the person who discovered Yogo sapphires.
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All About The Yogo Sapphires
Yogo sapphires are a variety of corundum found only in the Yogo Gulch area, in Judith Basin county, Montana. This gemstone rich area was inhabited by the Blackfeet Indians long before anyone thought about mining Montana sapphires. Mining Yogo sapphires has been much more troublesome than other deposits because of the fact that Yogo sapphires occur within a vertical Dike. Through the years, mining efforts have been off and on and rarely profitable. The Yogo mine was recently closed again, this time due to the untimely death Mike Roberts. Luckily the Vortex mine has since re-opened and the Yogo sapphires will again be available to all those that love them. Even after years of mining and with countless Yogo sapphires sold in Europe, its estimated that at least 28 million carats of Yogos still remain in the ground. In 1969, the sapphire was co-designated along with the agate as Montanas state gemstones. Today, several sapphires are part of the Smithsonian Institutions gemstone collection including a Yogo over 10cts in size.
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Value Of A Yogo Sapphire
Color is the most important part in estimating the value of Montana sapphire. Saturation of color through the gemstone will have the next greatest effect on the value. Hue counts, the closer to a pure blue the better, but saturation is more important. Many of the gems on the market today are actually grayish. And finally tone is also an important consideration as gemstones are examined. Dark sapphires are abundant and never reach very high values. The same can be said for all dark gems, too dark and they will only be moderately valuable. Too much light and they wont stand out in any montana jewelry the yogos are set in. Inclusions can be a common problem with all colored gemstones including the Montana sapphire. Location is a huge part of the valuation of montana yogo sapphire, as these sapphires were formed differently than the rest of Montana sapphires. Putting the yogo sapphire in a catagory of its own enables this gem to command a much higher price than typical montana sapphire. The expense of sapphire mining in montana has increased which only adds to the over all cost of yogos. Specialized sapphire mining equipment and explosives just piles on more. Montana gem and Montana Gems both have yogo sapphire jewelry for sale with value based pricing. As long as the world wants to buy montana sapphire its future is guaranteed. As the public decides on the popularity of yogo sapphires demand will ultimately rule on the price.
Recognition As A Royal American Treasure
In 1978, another entrepreneur, Victor di Suvero leased the mine from Kunisaki and changed the name to Sapphire-Yogo Mines, Inc. His angle? Promotion was his specialty and he directed his attention toward marketing and advertising on a scale never before attempted. His approach was effective enough to be mentioned in JCK trade magazine in 1978. Over 100 years after being discovered, this was the first official trade recognition of Yogo sapphire!
The article sounds surprisingly modern. Di Suvero hits on points we still appreciate about Montana sapphires:
Diamond prices are much too high, di Suvero says. So were telling Americans of all ages and life styles that weve got a real alternative to diamondsone that is reasonably priced, beautiful, of lasting value and a product of their own country. We think thats an unbeatable combination of factors.JCK Magazine
Vortex Mining began operations in the hills west of the Yogo Dike in 1985 and when Intergem shut down, was the sole mining source of Yogo sapphires for years. It closed down in 2004 and was purchased in 2008 by Mike Roberts. Sadly he was killed in 2012 in a tragic mining accident, and ownership of Roberts Yogo Sapphire Company remains in the hands of his family, as of September 2016.
From 2011-2014 3,000 acres of Montana sapphire-producing land near Philipsburg was acquired by Potentate Mining, which is also mining gold.
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Montana Sapphires And Famous People
Charles M. Russell, also known as C.M. Russell, is considered with Frederic Remington to be one of the two greatest artists of the Old West. Charles moved to Montana when he was 16 and claimed to have learned most of his frontier skills from Jake Hoover. Jake was the Montana gold miner who first noticed the little blue pebbles -that turned out to be Yogo sapphires.
George Frederick Kunz, the foremost U.S. gem expert of the times and gemologist with Tiffany & Co. was among the first to recognize the beauty of the Yogo sapphire. It was on his desk that Jake Hoovers cigar box landed, filled with the little blue sapphires from Montana. Dr. Kunz was a great lover of colored gems, especially American gems. He even had a gem named after him by a fellow gemologist in 1902, Kunzite, the lilac pink variety of spodumene discovered in California.
John Pierpont J.P. Morgan the famous financier is also considered Americas foremost patron of the arts at the turn of the 20th century. Among other things, he was an avid collector of gems and a faithful Tiffanys client. He commissioned George Frederick Kunz to create several important gemstone collections. These he donated to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. 29 Yogo sapphires in the collection can be seen today in the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems. Interesting trivia: The violet pink variety of beryl discovered in Madagascar in 1910 was named Morganite, in his honor by Tiffany & Co.
Where Can I Find Montana Sapphires
Right now, Montana sapphires are found in three main places: The Missouri River near Helena, Rock Creek near Philipsburg, and Yogo Gulch.
Since 1993 Gemfix has carried Montana sapphires and was one of the first companies offering them for sale on the internet. We still have one of the best selections and widest variety of beautifully hand cut Montana sapphires because they are Andrews personal obsession! He has been collecting them for decades. The larger ones we have were mined in the 1970s and 1980s, and were obtained from private collectors, often from the original miners and their families. As with all our stones, we cut for maximum beauty, not size. Nearly all of our Montana sapphires are cut by Andrew himself.
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Loose Cut Montana Sapphire
All of the Montana Missouri River Sapphire I sell are from the famous El dorado Bar outside of Helena, Montana.
All are untreated in any way. I carefully hand select each and every sapphire I sell for the highest quality clarity and color, either cut from sapphire rough I recover, or cut stones directly from the mine owner. You will not find any junk sapphire here, only the finest available for purchase.
Every item I sell is 100% guaranteed. Approximately 90% of all of the faceted Montana Sapphires I sell are from rough crystals that I have personally found and had cut. The other 10% are purchased directly from the mine owner.
If you would like to have your gemstone purchase certified by GIA, I can offer this for $190 per sapphire, emerald, ruby or tourmaline and $150 for all other gemstones including benitoite. Please understand that this will delay shipping of your purchase by about 2 to 3 weeks. I will personally drive your stone to the GIA Headquarters in Carlsbad, CA, pick it up when it has been certified, and then ship it to you. Please contact me prior to making your purchase if you wish to purchase a certification.
All of the cut Montana Sapphire for sale, are 100% natural Montana Sapphire with absolutely no treatment of any kind.
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Discovery Of The Yogo Sapphire
In the early 1980s Intergem Limited controlled most of the Yogo sapphire mining at the time. They started marketing Yogo sapphire as the worlds only guaranteed untreated sapphire. Thus exposing a practice of the time wherein 95 percent of all the worlds sapphires were heat-treated to enhance their natural color. Although Intergem went out of business, the gemstone it mined appeared on the market throughout the 1990s. Citibank had obtained a large stock of Yogo sapphire as a result of Intergems collapse. They hoarded their stock of sapphire for nearly a decade before selling the collection to a Montana sapphire jewelry store in 1994. Mining activity today is largely confined to hobby miners in the area the Vortex yogo sapphire mine is the only major commercial mine currently in operation.
What Is A Padparadscha Sapphire
If you are looking for a truly stunning gemstone, rather than think of diamond first, you should be taking a closer look at a relatively little-known sapphire that is sure to turn heads. The Padparadscha Sapphire has its name derived from the Sinhalese word for an aquatic lotus blossom that is found in an uncommon salmon color in the wild. These stones are found on the commercial market largely from Sri Lanka, but they also have been known to be found in Madagascar, Vietnam, and Tanzania. While deriving its name from a predominantly salmon colored blossom, further research reveals that Padparadscha Sapphires often are found to be a color between pink and orange. Some of these sapphires are not strictly salmon colored but feature color striations with both pink and yellow. These are the most rare form of sapphire available and usually considered to be very beautiful. The relatively high cost of Padparadscha Sapphires is due to the rarity of natural occurrence and the fact that they are rarer than diamonds.
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Tips For Choosing The Perfect Padparadscha Sapphire
Just like with many other precious stones and gems, there are several considerations to be made when choosing the perfect stone to fit your particular need. Whether you are looking for a particular shade, size, cut, clarity, or any other variable, knowing what to look for will help you choose a stone that will become a family heirloom when you pass it along to your children and the tradition of owning a beautiful and rare gem continues. The longevity of these gemstones is due to being second only to diamonds in their hardness. It is important to note that when you are choosing between stones, the Padparadscha Sapphires clarity is a very important consideration. That is largely because these stones featuring light tones reveal what are known as inclusions and are bits of the host rock where the gemstones were found. This is important because any sort of impurity or cloudiness in the finished cut will dull a Padparadscha Sapphires light and delicate color. While high levels of inclusions will reduce the overall cost of a stone, it may detract from the overall appeal of the stone. Finding the perfect color and the perfect balance is key to choosing the right stone for your setting and budget.
Rock Solid: New Shop Specializes In Yogo Sapphires
Opening The Sapphire Shoppe in Columbia Falls hasnt been too rocky for Jan and Murry Graham at least not in any way the gem enthusiasts arent used to.
The couple has been running rock shops in the valley since the early 1990s, and their latest venture seems to be off to a strong start since its July debut.
Its been great, reported Jan, who opened her first rock shop almost 30 years ago in 1991 in Hungry Horse.
The Grahams have lived just outside Columbia Falls for almost 50 years. They got into the rock business together after they both worked in West Glacier and developed a feel for the tourists passing through on their way to Glacier National Park.
Their Hungry Horse rock shop lasted until 2018, and along the way they opened a second location in Bigfork. This year, they decided to move their business closer to home and concentrate all of their attention on a smaller shop in Columbia Falls.
Over the past few months, they constructed a new building next to St. Richard Catholic Church along U.S. 2. They opened the doors to The Sapphire Shoppe in July, and so far Jan said the shop has been bustling with a healthy mix of out-of-town tourists and loyal locals, who followed them from Bigfork to Columiba Falls.
Everybody loves a rock shop, she pointed out.
Theres a little bit of everything, Jan said. There are lots of things that people havent seen before.
Its just amazing whats out there, Jan noted.
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Specializing In Yogo Sapphires
Yogo is the rarest of all Sapphires. In the late 1880s, Yogo City was like a ghost town. The hundreds of people who had come to the town looking for gold had deserted it. Only a few people remained. Yogo City had been one of the least productive areas for gold mining in all of Montana. It was not until 1895 when Jake Hoover came to Yogo City looking for gold. Like many of the miners, he noticed the tiny blue pebbles that settled down to the bottom of the gravel bed along with the gold. But unlike others, he saved the pebbles. At the end of the season, he sent a box full of these little blue pebbles to New York for expert evaluation. The box was eventually examined by gemologist Dr. George F. Kunz who identified the pebbles as rare cornflower blue sapphires of the highest quality.
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