Montana Sapphires - Past, Present, And Future - Preprint 09-029
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Jan 1, 2009
Montana sapphires were first discovered in alluvial deposits in the Helena area in 1865 and subsequently were discovered in other alluvial deposits in southwestern Montana and also in a lamprophyre dike at Yogo in central Montana. From about 1900 until the late 1930?s, when synthetic sapphire began to come into widespread industrial use, Montana sapphire mines produced large quantities mainly for watch bearings with lesser production for the gemstone market. The Yogo deposit is now mined for the gemstone market and two of the alluvial deposits are mined to produce sapphires for the fee-sieving of sapphire-bearing gravel and for the direct sale of gemstones. The generally pale-colored sapphires from the alluvial deposits in southwestern Montana are heated to enhance their colors whereas the generally blue sapphires from the Yogo deposit require no treatment. Markets for sapphires from both the alluvial deposits and the Yogo deposit are strong. In spite of reported historic production in excess of 70 tonnes, mineable resources appear to remain at most major deposits. Also abundant untested lamprophyre dikes in central Montana may host sapphires similar to those at the Yogo deposit.