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Home » Gemstones » Gemstone Mining in the United States » Utah Gemstones


Utah Gemstones and Gemstone Mining


Utah is a source for many beautiful and interesting gem materials.

Red Beryl



Red beryl is one of the world's rarest gemstones. It is found in a few locations in the Thomas Range and the Wah Wah Mountains of Utah. It is also found in the Black Range of New Mexico. The crystals are generally small, often too small to facet. High quality rough that is large enough to facet can produce finished stones that sell for as much as $2,000 per carat.

The host rock for red beryl is usually a rhyolitic lava flow. The mineral is thought to form after the lava has cooled into rhyolite and beryllium-rich gases move upwards through shrinkage cracks. Descending ground water carrying essential elements from above meets the gases and crystallization occurs.

Beryllium rarely occurs in large enough quantities to produce minerals and the conditions needed to produce a red color rarely occur. This coincidence of two rare events is why red beryl is found in just a few places on Earth.

Red beryl is known by a number of names. It was first named "bixbite" after Maynard Bixby who first discovered the gem. It has also been called "red emerald" which is not widely accepted because it causes confusion with the green variety of beryl known as emerald. Red beryl is the most appropriate name.


State
Gemstones
  Arizona
  Arkansas
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  Colorado
  Idaho
  Louisiana
  Maine
  Montana
  Nevada
  North Carolina
  Oregon
  Tennessee
  Utah

Topaz



The Thomas Range of western Utah is also one of the world's best sources of topaz. Cavities in the Topaz Mountain Rhyolite often contain topaz crystals with a beautiful amber color.

Topaz crystals are also found in soils and dry washes around Topaz Mountain. These crystals are usually colorless because the amber color can be lost through prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. A few specimens fade to a beautiful pink color.

Topaz is a popular gemstone around the world and especially in Utah. The Utah Legislature named topaz the state gemstone in 1969. This has increased the local popularity of topaz and has made topaz jewelry an important item in the state's tourist trade.



  Utah Topaz
Utah topaz crystal
Photograph of a beautiful topaz crystal collected from Maynard's Claim in the Thomas Range of western Utah. This crystal is approximately one inch long and rests on a piece of rhyolite. Photo by Rob Lavinsky of iRocks.com, used here under a Creative Commons License.


Variscite



Variscite is a beautiful yellow-green to deep green to blue-green material that often has interesting matrix similar to turquoise. Some people have confused it with turquoise but it is generally softer and has a lower specific gravity. It is often cut into cabochons and small sculptures. It is soft, with a hardness of only 4.5 on the Mohs Scale. That makes variscite suitable for pendants, pins, earrings and other jewelry that will not be subjected to abrasion or impact.

  Utah Variscite
Utah variscite
A teardrop-shaped cabochon cut from variscite collected near Fairfield, Utah. This specimen is about 27x16 millimeters in size and weights about 12.5 carats.

Variscite is an aluminum phosphate mineral that is found in a few locations in Utah. It is a secondary mineral found as nodules, fractures and other cavity fillings, often in igneous rock. Important Utah localities are near the communities of Lucin and Fairfield.


Picasso and Tiffany?



Two really interesting Utah gemstones have been named after a famous artist and a famous design house.

"Picasso Stone" is a marble that has brown, gray and black markings that remind people of abstract art. That is how it earned its name - it was named after Pablo Picasso, the famous artist. Picasso stone is a soft material suitable for jewelry and ornamental uses that will not be subject to abrasion. It us used to make tumbled stones, beads, cabochons and many other gem and ornamental items.

"Tiffany Stone" (also known as bertrandite) is a beautiful purple and white material that is thought to be an opalized fluorite. It is a rare material found only at one Brush-Wellman beryllium mine site. It is the world's number one ore of beryllium metal.


Dinosaur Bone



Dinosaur bone is a novelty gem that has been found in many locations in Utah. To be suitable for gem cutting the bone must be completely petrified with the cell cavities being completely infilled and the cell walls completely replaced by chalcedony. It can be found in a variety of colors that include: brown, yellow, red, green, orange and black. The most attractive specimens have a high color contrast between the material in the cavities and walls. It is a very popular gem for men's jewelry such as bolos, cuff links and rings. There are very strict rules for collecting dinosaur bone and other fossil materials. Know how they apply to any locatioin where you are looking for rocks, gems, minerals and fossils.


Wonderstone



Wonderstone is a welded-vitric tuff with a composition similar to rhyolite. It forms during explosive eruptions when molten rock material is ejected and sticks together upon landing. If it is buried by overlying ejecta while still hot it will become compacted into a solid glassy material.

The welded tuff that is known as "wonderstone" has been stained by dissolved minerals in ground waters that flow through the rock long after deposition. Iron oxides in the water stain the tuff to various shades of yellow, orange, brown, red and maroon. The stains can form concentric bands between water-conducting fractures and other patterns that lead to the name of "wonderstone". A photo of a few wonderstone specimens is in the right column.

To be useful for lapidary purposes the wonderstone must be completely vitrified without a grainy, porous texture. Quite a bit of wonderstone has a great appearance but falls short of lapidary grade because of this texture. Inspect closely when buying or collecting. It makes great cabochons and tumbled stones. Since it is made of feldspar with a Mohs hardness of about 6 it cuts quickly on the diamond or silicon carbide wheel and can be easily scratched when used in jewelry items that receive rough wear.


Agate, Jasper, Opal and More!



Many other gem materials are found in Utah. The state produces a fantastic variety of agates and jaspers and petrified woods. Facetable garnet and amethyst are also found in Utah.


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  Faceted Red Beryl
Bixbite Red Beryl
The photo above shows a faceted red beryl with a beautiful medium red color. It measures about 5.2 x 3.9 millimeters in size. From the Wah Wah Mountains of Utah. Photo by TheGemTrader.com.

  Red Beryl
red beryl
Photograph of an impressive specimen of red beryl collected from the Harris Claim in the Wah Wah Mountains of Utah. This crystal is approximately two inches long. Photo by Rob Lavinsky of iRocks.com, used here under a Creative Commons License.


  Utah Tiffany Stone
Utah Tiffany Stone
"Tiffany Stone" is an unusual material found as mineralized nodules in a beryllium tuff at the site of the Brush-Wellman beryllium mine. It is thought to be an opalized fluorite. Tiffany Stone is also known as "bertrandite" and "ice cream opal". It is a rare material found only at the Brush-Wellman location.

  Utah Picasso Stone
Utah Picasso Stone
Picasso Stone is a marble that is capable of accepting a bright polish. It was named "Picasso Stone" after the artist, Pablo Picaso, because it has an abstract appearance. It is commonly used to produce beads, tumbled stones and interesting cabochons.

  Dinosaur Bone from Utah
Dinosaur bones from Utah
Dinosaur bone is often fossilized in a way that infills the cavities and replaces the cell walls with different colors of chalcedony. Solid material without voids or fractures can be cut into extremely colorful and interesting cabochons. These two cabochons show the infilled cell cavities in a green and red color with black cell walls. These beautiful dino bone cabs are by Tom Wolfe of Wolf Lapidary.

  Wonderstone from Utah
Dinosaur bones from Utah
Wonderstone is a welded-vitric tuff that has been stained into beautiful color patterns by iron-rich ground water. When dense and without porosity it is a wonderful lapidary material. Since it has a feldspar composition it cuts quickly on a lapidary wheel and shapes quickly in a rock tumbler.

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