Montana Sapphires: Tips for digging at the source
I love digging for rocks. Our first trip to Gem Mountain in Phillipsburg, Montana did not disappoint! The facility offers many tables and chairs for sorting, some in the sun and others in the shade. They allow dogs so our trusty Rhodesian Ridgeback came along for the fun and got to visit with other dogs while basking in the sun.
Gem Mountain has a great set up with lots of staff available to answer questions. They are also happy to give demos on the best way to wash the gravel and gather all the sapphires into one place in the sifting screen. If you're really nice, they'll even do a washing for you :-).
My husband proved to be an amazing sifter! There's a trick for sifting just so in order to get all of the sapphires piled in the middle of the tray. He has a natural knack for it, apparently.
Pack a lunch and spend the day or you can stay in the on site campsite. We dug through 7 buckets of rough and found almost 200 carats of sapphires!
Gem Mountain offers to send your best finds to have them heat treated and/ or faceted. While the process can take up to 9 months to receive your stones, the two dozen I sent off to have cut as an experiment looked fantastic! I opted for no heat treatment so my stones have very light pastel hues and sparkle like diamonds. I'm looking forward to setting them in some upcoming designs. I have been using the raw stones I did not have cut with a cast-in-place technique in various pieces in 14k gold.
I was extremely pleased with the entire experience, we will definitely be going again! Here are some links to some of the jewelry I've made from the stones:
- Raw pink Montana Sapphire Earrings
- Raw sea foam green Montana Sapphire Earrings
- Raw sea foam blue and green Montana Sapphire Bracelet
Here is a link for more information on Sapphires.
Here's the link if you're considering a road trip.