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Everything You Wanted to Know About Montana Sapphires

Everything You Wanted to Know About Montana Sapphires

Montana sapphires are acknowledged across the globe as some of the highest gem-quality sapphires on the market. Coming in every color of the rainbow, these precious gemstones are a hot commodity. 

At Chinchar Maloney, you’ll discover an impressive selection of Montana sapphire handcrafted jewelry, including stunning custom engagement rings, necklaces, and earrings. Each gem is meticulously selected in its rough form and cut by hand in an organic, sculptural style. 

If you’re shopping for a Montana sapphire engagement ring or other piece of modern rustic jewelry, there are a few things you should know.

What Is a Montana Sapphire?

Montana sapphires are known for their remarkable color and brilliance. Although these unique stones have been mined for more than a century, they have become increasingly popular over the last several years. Sapphires are one of three main types of precious-colored gemstones. Known as the “Big Three,” the others include rubies and emeralds.

What makes Montana sapphires so valuable is the way that they are ethically sourced and mined. These ethical mining practices are important to many American consumers due to the increased awareness globalization has created. Montana sapphires have an easy-to-trace supply chain, are naturally fair trade, and guaranteed conflict-free.

Another thing that makes Montana sapphires unique is that they are only available in one part of the world. As the name suggests, these brilliant gemstones are mined in the state of Montana, the Treasure State. In fact, Montana is the only commercial producer of sapphires in all North America. 

Today, Montana sapphires can be found in just several places in the state, including the Yogo Gulch, the Missouri River near Helena, and the Rock Creek area, near Philipsburg. Due to the popularity of the gemstone, the sapphire was designated as an official Montana state gem in 1969, along with another beautiful stone known as the Montana agate. 

The Discovery of the Montana Sapphire

Sapphires were first discovered in Montana in 1865 as prospectors searched the upper Missouri River for gold in the gravel bars. It wasn’t until 1873 that these Missouri River sapphires were first referenced in the American Journal of Science, a publication written by Dr. Lawrence Smith.

Another name connected to the discovery of the Montana Sapphire is George Frederick Kunz. Although Kunz did not discover the gemstone, he was among the first to recognize its extraordinary beauty. As a leading gemstone expert of his time and a gemologist with Tiffany & Co., Kunz was fascinated with a sample of the Montana sapphires he received, deeming them “the finest precious gemstones ever found in the United States.”

The Special Appeal of Yogo Sapphires

When shopping for Montana sapphires, you’re likely to come across Yogo sapphires. Derived from the famous Yogo Gulch region of Montana, these dazzling gemstones have been mined on and off for more than a century. Due to their small size, they are often used as side stones rather than center stones in rings.

Today, the Yogo Gulch mine is inactive and getting your hands on one of these precious stones can be quite costly. The popularity of these stones has also risen over the years, partially due to marketing stunts. In 1984, the owner of the Yogo Gulch mining operation, Dennis Brown, spread a rumor that engagement ring worn by Princess Diana was a Yogo sapphire. However, this rumor was never confirmed. 

Creating a Beautiful Montana Sapphire

Montana sapphires are part of the corundum family, which also includes rubies. They have a hardness of nine on the Mohs scale, making them a durable option for engagement rings and other fine jewelry. 

These gemstones go through a rigorous process to prepare them for purchase. Each rough sapphire is hand-faceted using a specialized grind wheel. Faceting, also known as “cutting,” is a grinding and polishing process that helps transform rough rocks into the gorgeous gemstones you know and love.

Creating a Montana sapphire is no easy task. It takes a sharp eye, great patience, and an exceptional attention to detail to become a skilled cutter. The faceting process may also be accompanied by heat treatment. During heat treatment, the sapphire is heated to near melting point to improve its clarity and color.

Nearly all rubies and sapphires are heat-treated to achieve a beautiful appearance. The exception is Yogo sapphires which are generally not heat-treated and are left natural. However, all Montana sapphires have a remarkable sparkle that is brought out by hand-cutting and faceting along the unique growth patterns of the stone.

Other Colors of Montana Sapphire Gems

While blue is one of the most popular colors of Montana sapphires, it’s not the only one. These fancy-colored gemstones can be found in a rainbow of vibrant hues, including shades of green, orange, and pink. Like many sapphires on the market, many Montana sapphire gemstones also have a “steely” grey appearance.

Many Montana sapphires that come from the Missouri River experience a color change caused by the trace element vanadium. The color of the gemstone may change based on the lighting. For example, the gem will appear blue while in daylight conditions and transform to a deeper violet color while in incandescent lighting. 

Yogo sapphires feature a luxurious cornflower blue shade, which is its natural color and not heat-treated. These fine and untreated stones generally lack color zoning which is a common phenomenon in sapphires. As most are not more than 0.5-ct in size, collectors often seek out larger, rarer stones.

Shop Montana Sapphires at Chinchar Maloney

Looking for a Montana blue sapphire to call your own? At Chinchar Maloney, you’ll find a large selection of one-of-a-kind Montana sapphires with stunning color combinations you won’t find anywhere else. 

Whether you’re on the hunt for a Montana sapphire ring in rose gold or want a dazzling pair of Montana sapphire earrings, you’re sure to find the perfect piece of jewelry. We can even help you create a beautiful piece of custom jewelry you will love forever. Contact Chinchar Maloney today to get started!