Montana Sapphires

If you’re anything like me, you’ve always wanted to own a Montana sapphire. There is something special about the American made gem. Perhaps it’s due to the rarity of large specimens or the fact that just a few states away, I have the ability to mine it myself.

Sunshine and the great outdoors are a necessary diversion from working in an office five days a week. The idea of taking a road trip to Montana, packing only my “play clothes” and digging through piles of dirt in the hot summer sun, while splashing about in the water troughs and spending hours meticulously picking through the washed gravel is my definition of a good time. Dreams are sometimes overshadowed by reality and frankly, being an adult with responsibilities is just plain overrated. As much as I would love to drive out to Montana, finding the time to take a vacation during the short summer mining season seems next to impossible.

Thanks to Gem Mountain from Philipsburg, Montana, they ship a little of Montana directly to your door, saving you a trip and most of the dirty work. Gem Mountain digs up the dirt, washes it, and concentrates it, then packages and ships. Philipsburg, Montana is one of the most active production sites for the gemstone, located in the southwestern part of the state near the Sapphire Mountains.

While it may be fun to go in person, the ability to search for sapphires in my own backyard is too great an opportunity to pass up. I placed an ordered from some sapphire gravel and within a few days was uncovering over 160+ carats of rough stones in the Seattle sunshine.

The gravel store has many different options to choose from. I chose to purchase the “Mega Jug.” As a first timer, this seemed like the best option. It contains approximately 9 pounds of mine run sapphire gravel that has been hand screened to remove the big rocks and then added with high value sapphire concentrate. In keeping with their “Lucky 7” theme, one in every seven jugs is said to contain a “cuttable sapphire over ¼” in size weighing more than three carats.” This option was $163.00 that included USPS shipping.

Last Saturday four of us got together and with the help of a hand made sieve, wash bucket, sorting table, beer, pizza, a few hours of sunshine combined with lots of excitement, we made our way through the 9 pounds of gravels. Check out what we uncovered in the video and photo gallery.


Gem Mountain has the ability to heat treat the sapphires, which is a standard industry practice that improves the color using specially designed high temperature furnaces. In addition to heating, Gem Mountain offers a cutting service which will facet the rough into finished gemstones. This process can take up to 12 weeks for heating and 9 months for cutting. I will be sending off 19 stones of various colors, totaling 32.74 carats to see what Gem Mountain recommends for heating and faceting. The largest rough is 3.25ct and the smallest is over 1.00ct. Based on size and overall quality, these select rough Montana Sapphires appeared to be the most cuttable.


Check back with me to see the final treasures.


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