Romancing the Source: Montana Sapphires

This story originally published by Gemological Institute of America and written by Andrew Lucas, Tao Hsu, Shane McClure, and Kevin Schumacher

Montana’s rich history of gold and sapphire goes back to the late 1800s. A GIA field team traveled to the Rock Creek and Missouri River areas, where sapphire mining is still underway, to document the current industry and collect rough sapphire samples for our research reference sample collection. During our time in Montana we visited three mining operations, each with its own business model and its own exciting story.

They all shared some common traits, however: amazing natural beauty and a passion for both the area and sapphires.

Join us on this adventure and learn about the legacy of North American gemstones as we travel by speedboat with a mine owner down the Missouri River, witnessing historical mining sites and current operations. Then visit their mine (Spokane Bar Mine) with us, where we document the entire mining process, and feel the thrill at the end of the day when we pull rough sapphires right out of the jig. The Spokane Bar Mine usually mines for tourists, but on this day we had the entire mine to ourselves to collect samples for the GIA reference collection.