Gemstones, Minerals & Rocks
In 1977, I was employed as a research geologist for the Wyoming Geological Survey in Laramie after being hired by the late Dr. Daniel N. Miller, Jr, one of the most respected State Geologists in the Country and a person of integrity. He was so important to the Wyoming Geological Survey that the building on the University of Wyoming campus was renamed in his honor!
Next to nothing was known about gemstones and precious metals in Wyoming in 1977, but over the next 3 decades, I tracked down hundreds of mineral deposits & found some of the largest individual gemstones and gemstone deposits on earth: some gems I found were as large as a Smart car! These deposits were found in the wilds, along roads, highways and even adjacent to the interstate. Many of these discoveries were published in papers and books listed on wiki and Amazon.
Using geology as a guide to finding gems & gold provides a great advantage. For example, after I discovered the Palmer Canyon iolite deposit in the central Laramie Mountains, I noted this deposit also contained ruby, sapphire and kyanite. The ruby & sapphire were associated with a small outcrop of vermiculite sometimes referred to as 'glimmerite' in Russia. Glimmerite is a rock composed almost entirely of vermiculite mica and is geochemically enriched in alumina. Ruby & sapphire are aluminum-oxides; thus, under the right geological conditions with the right chemistry, pressures and temperatures, amphibolite-grade metamorphism produced alumina (silica-poor) rock that hosts ruby and sapphire. Several samples I collected of the Palmer Canyon vermiculite contained 20 to 25% corundum (ruby & sapphire), with some rubies weighing more than 12-carats after faceting. Armed with this information, I found another half-dozen ruby deposits simply by searching vermiculite deposits in Wyoming. There was already a publication in the university archives on Vermiculite Deposits of Wyoming!
Similar gems will be found in vermiculites and aluminum-rich serpentinites in Montana, Arizona, Nevada, California, Colorado, Utah, South Dakota and Idaho - so get out and start looking! See if you can find old geology reports on vermiculite in your area - vermiculite was at one time sought after for insulation. Even so, it was the iolite gemstones that I found to be so fascinating. Using the geological, mineralogical and geochemical characteristics of the iolite deposit at Palmer Canyon, I developed a model and found a couple of more deposits and provided predictions where others will likely be found. So Wyoming, which was thought to be almost devoid of gemstones, is now known as the King of Gems and the most diversified gemstone state in the US, and one of the more popular places in the country for rock hounding. And gold! I found hundreds of gold anomalies and was on the discovery team of one of the largest gold deposits ever to be found. Six other geologists and myself were responsible for putting Donlin Creek on the map in Alaska - a deposit that could have more than 180 million ounces of gold!
Donlin Creek has a drilled gold resource similar to that mined at the Homestake mine over a period of more than a century (about 43 million ounces), but also has a giant indicated resource. This one discovery made in 1988, contains more gold than mined in the entire Klondike during its entire mining history!
I also discovered the Rattlesnake Hills gold district in 1981. An entire gold district missed by everyone else. The district has gold-bearing breccias comparable to Cripple Creek, Colorado. But it also has characteristics of some of the great gold districts found in greenstone belts around the world, and who knows what else? Hidden skarns? Jasperoids? It may take many years, but one day, I believe the area will have a gold mine.
I also made significant gold discoveries in the Seminoe Mountains, South Pass, Sierra Madre and elsewhere. To make gold and gemstone discoveries requires an good understanding of geology and gold prospecting which is why I am trying to help all of my readers and supporters to understand geology and mineral deposits. I get nothing from doing this other than the satisfaction of hearing about your successes - and hopefully sell a couple of books along the way. And no, I'm not rich, I never got a ounce of gold, a diamond, etc for my discoveries, other than a salary or consulting fees. Like they say, they got the gold mine and I got the shaft.
In 1977, I became one of the few diamond geologists in North America and mapped the State Line diamondiferous kimberlite district, the Iron Mountain kimberlite district, the Sheep Rock kimberlite district and the Leucite Hills lamproite district. As a consultant, I suggested to companies to pick up properties in Colorado and Montana, both where diamonds were found. I also found several previously unknown diamond deposits and greater than 300 crypto volcanic structures and heavy mineral anomalies - any one could be a diamond deposit as nearly all are unexplored.
I found iolites, garnets, chromian diopsides, beryls, apatites, fluorites, tourmalines, specularites and other gemstones between 1977 and 2007. Nearly every year I found a new gold and or gemstone deposit when I was at the Wyoming Geological Survey at the University of Wyoming. Some were found in places I was told by others to be devoid of such minerals. What discoveries have been made in Wyoming since I left?
I finally retired from the Wyoming Geological Survey after 30 years. But I moved on - working as a consultant for various companies and VP of US Exploration for a Aussie diamond company. At least working for a diamond company, I no longer had to eat spam for dinner and live in a tent - I actually got to stay in motels and hotels!
But for those of you who would like to be gem hunters and rock hounds - learn as much as you can about geology and mineralogy. Unfortunately, there are few classes offered to assist you in this endeavor - I offered to teach classes at UW and later at CGCC in Gilbert on gold prospecting and on geology of gemstone deposits - but they didn't want them. There are gemology classes available, but I know nothing about them. So, you are on your own, but be optimistic as there are many gemstone deposits out there that no one has ever paid attention to.
In the US, there are likely undiscovered diamonds associated with kimberlite within the old cratonic rocks - such as in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, New York, Kentucky and even some rare diamond deposits in lamproites and lamprophyres in Arkansas, Kansas, and Montana. I described many of these in a book I wrote in 1998 and few people ever followed up on these reports. However, one prospector recently followed up on occurrences in Colorado and North Carolina and panned out several diamonds from both localities! While working for a Canadian diamond company, I came across some gem-bearing lamprophyre in Montana and identified an area that likely had diamond-bearing lamproites - later, another consultant found diamond in kimberlite in that same area.
Agates, quartz, and jasper deposits are found most everywhere in the US. There are sapphire and ruby deposits in North Carolina, Montana and Wyoming. Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona and Nevada have some great opal deposits. Based on geology, there are many more opal deposits to be found in the West. North Carolina has many different gemstones including emerald. And how about the turquoise and other gems in Arizona. In California, many diamonds have been found from undiscovered sources, and there are fabulous benitoite gemstones. While working for a US diamond company, I recovered many nearly flawless benitoites out of the Sacremento River. South Dakota has many gem-bearing pegmatites containing helidor, aquamarine, smoky quartz, rose quartz, and amethyst. Peridot is a beautiful gemstone. Arizona has peridot, quartz, chalcedony, amethyst and likely opal deposits. New Mexico has some great peridot deposits as does Arizona and Wyoming. Then there is topaz and red emerald in Utah. And the list goes on and on. And back to Wyoming, there are literally hundreds of deposits awaiting discovery that I know of - this is based on both geology and known minerals - and most of these I described in my recent gemstone book and even provided the reader with GPS coordinates.
So, get off the couch, and go out and find us some gemstones!