An $80,000 Sapphire? Finding Sapphires in Montana

What would you do if you found a sapphire that is worth $80,000?

If you plan a visit to Montana, make sure you make the trip to Philipsburg. There, down a dirt road and over a one-lane bridge, you will find the Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine. Billed as Montana’s oldest and largest sapphire mine, it is a must-stop if you are in the area.

Sapphire Gravel

To buy a bucket of what they call “sapphire gravel” head into the main building and pay at the register. Discounts are given if purchasing several buckets at a time.

Go back outside to the tables and the staff at Gem Mountain will provide all the tools necessary for you to find your treasure. Staff will also be on-hand and walk around providing detailed instructions on how to sift and what to look for.

Assessing your finds

Once you have sifted through your bucket(s), you can take them back into the main building. There they will separate your sapphires into cuttables, flawed-cuttables and fun-to-find.

  • Cuttables – gems that are able to to be cut/faceted/heat treated
  • Flawed-cuttables – gems that are large enough to be cut/faceted/heat treated, but display obvious flaws
  • Fun-to-find – gems too small to cut/facet

The $80,000 find!

On our visit, staff shared with us a recent letter from one of their visitors who had sent in one of their bucket-finds for cutting/faceting & heat treatment. This process takes an underdeveloped stone and transforms it. We were told you never know exactly how it will turn out. When their stone was returned they had it appraised and were shocked to find out that it was valued at more than $80,000!!! Not so much because of the size of the stone, but more because of the color. Are you ready to go to Gem Mountain and see what you will find?

Most of the gems you will find during initial sifting at Gem Mountain will have a sea-glass green color to them. There are some that come out with deeper colors (such as a cobalt blue) but the majority are the lighter green. We selected three from our finds to undergo the treatment processing and now need to wait about 10 months to find out what we have!

Bonus: Free Camping

There is a free camping area on location at Gem Mountain for customers. The campground consists of about 6-8 spots and there aren’t any hookups, but you will find a picnic table and a fire ring. If all spots are taken and you still wish to remain overnight, you may do so in the main parking lot area. No reservations are required and it is first come, first served.

If you are looking for peace and quiet this is the place. As this is a remote location, don’t expect to pick up any cellular or internet services.

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