Monday, March 10, 2014

Ruby, Sapphire, Kyanite, Sillimanite and Iolite at Palmer Canyon Wyoming

Nearly flawless iolite nodule attached to mica schist from Palmer Canyon
While at the Wyoming Geological Survey on the University of Wyoming campus, I worked for a complete idiot. You know the type - likely pulled a PhD from a Crackerjack box, or had something good on his dissertation committee - take obama for instance (please). My boss was placed in position of authority, not because of IQ, but because of political affiliation.

Anyway, I was finding gemstone and gold deposits, one after another. More than anyone should have been able to do, but I had developed some good prospecting models for finding gold and gemstone deposits - and they worked.

After I discovered iolite at Palmer Canyon, I made more discoveries as well as a half-dozen ruby deposits and a couple of kyanite gemstone deposits. I was amazed by how many gemstones, diamond, and gold deposits that had been overlooked in Wyoming: I can guarantee using the exploration models I developed for these deposits, I would have found dozens (if not hundreds) more gem and gold deposits. But it was time to move on and I took early retirement.

But there are still some more gemstone deposits to find that I didn't get time to search for. As you think about rubies and sapphires - keep two rock types in mind while prospecting in Montana, Wyoming Colorado, and California - vermiculite and serpentinite!  These are very good host rocks for these gemstones. To find out more about these, I summarized the characteristics of ruby, sapphire and their host rocks in a couple of recent books.
Kyanite-ruby-vermiculite schist, Palmer Canyon, west of Wheatland, Wyoming.
A more than 18,000-carat iolite boulder of ioite. The iolite is partially altered to limonite and the boulder includes
milky quartz. Palmer Canyon, Wyoming.

Specimens of vermiculite schist filled with purple-red ruby, Palmer Canyon.
Iolite in schist, Palmer Canyon, Wyoming
Excellent iolite (more than a thousand carats) from an undisclosed Wyoming locality

Kyanite schist, West Cooney Hills, Wyoming
Beautiful iolite rough in gneiss from undisclosed locality, Wyoming

Ruby in vermiculite schist from Palmer Canyon

Monday, May 6, 2013

Recognizing Ruby and Sapphire in Nature

Several rubies in a schist from the Wind River Mountains, Wyoming. Most prospectors would misidentify these as rubies,
but if you look close, you will see distinct, parallel cleavage in one of the rubies - something that does not occur in garnet.

Best of Show - Rubies, sapphires, and iolite gemstones found in Wyoming and faceted in Sri Lanka.
When you think of ruby and sapphire, you probably think of spectacular, faceted, over-priced gems in rings and necklaces. Unfortunately, Mother Nature does not facet her gems: so the gem prospector must learn to recognize the natural, physical characteristics of this gemstone to identify the raw material in the field. The prospector must also learn where to look in the field.

I remember receiving a 25-year pin from the State of Wyoming for my service in finding several hundred $million in gemstones, gold and diamonds for the State. It was a tiny plastic pin about the size of nickel that had a tiny red ruby. After examining this valuable ruby with a microscope, it was obvious it was a synthetic ruby almost too small to weigh. The ruby was likely worth about $1.00 and and the pin another $1.00. Have no idea where it was made, but I would guess China. Why thank you Wyoming for thinking about me.

When it comes to learning how to identify minerals, there are serious flaws with most gemstone books - they are not designed for the prospector. Essentially all show spectacular faceted gems or museum quality specimens that you are unlikely to find in nature. I'm too poor to afford cut gems, so I have to find my own in the rock. So, here are some hints of where to look and what to look for.

The two photos above show the characteristic outline of corundum (the geologists term for ruby and sapphire). The upper photo is a cross-section of ruby in schist showing the characteristic hexagonal (6-sided) cross-section and the lower photo shows another corundum (pink sapphire) at an angle perpendicular to the upper photo. The mineral is still hexagonal, but now we are viewing the long axis which shows what geologists call a prism.

One of the few minerals that you might mistaken for ruby or sapphire is garnet. But don't feel bad as I've known geologists who make this mistake.

Ruby and sapphire also have atomic flaws known as parting where we can see these atomic planes in the crystals and these surfaces also provide locations for twinning of crystals. This are actual planes in the mineral that many gemologists use to break the mineral, or avoid when they cut the mineral. These are useful in identifying the mineral because they do not occur in garnet. But few people are familiar with the term 'parting', so for our purpose, we will refer to these parting planes as "Cleavage", and corundum (sapphire and ruby) have three directions of parting ('cleavage').

Here is a very nice sapphire I found in Wyoming, but the gem cutter did a very poor job of avoiding flaws. For a
 geological researcher, this is a very nice specimen as it can be used to show cleavage and show others how one should not
 cut a gemstone. This cleavage is a plane of weakness and should have been avoided. The mineral should also have not
 been cut showing the dark mineral inclusions and it needed to be polished.

Another pink sapphire that I found that shows excellent rhombohedral cleavage in the gem. Note the two intersecting
 planes that are nearly perpendicular to one another.

Beautiful pink sapphire from Wyoming. The stone is flawed with numerous intersecting cleavage (parting) planes that can
 be partially hidden by cutting the stone in a cabochon.

This was likely the largest ruby ever found on earth! And it was found in Wyoming!  It exhibits excellent color but you are
 probably wondering what I'm talking about because you likely only see green zoisite with a little bit of ruby color. When
 this ruby formed, this entire specimen was one, very large, ruby. But it became unstable at deep in the earth's crust and
 reacted with metamorphic fluids until much of the ruby was replaced by the zoisite. Imagine wearing a ruby this size in a
 necklace. The base of the ruby was cut by a diamond-bladed rock saw.  Even though this ruby was flawed, it provides us
 with a general idea of what might be found in this particular deposit at depth. If this is ever mined, one likely will recover
some very large rubies hidden beneath the surface.
Some corundum, such as this Oriental Amethyst (its not amethyst
but jewellers use this term for violet colored sapphires) will
produce twinned crystals attached to one another.

Here is a beautiful ruby that unfortunately is flawed with rhombohedral
cleavage. Even so, it makes a great gemstone. It is very rare to find a ruby
that is not flawed. Most are translucent like this one. I found this ruby south of
Encampment Wyoming.

Would you recognize these as rubies?  These rubies were found by my son Eric Hausel and they show nodular texture.
This photo shows a pink to violet sapphire prism to the left and a purple-red (pigeon's blood red) ruby in the rock to the
 right. The ruby is surrounded by what is known as a reaction rim of green zoisite.
In this photo, I'm holding rubies recovered from the Granite Mountains of Wyoming. Again, note that the rubies are
 enclosed by a reaction rim of green zoisite. This suggests that these rubies were all part of one large ruby at one time and
 part of the gem reacted with metamorphic fluids to produce the zoisite.
Another twinned Oriental Amethyst - you should be able to see that this corundum has two crystal that grew side by side.
Large, faceted red ruby from the Palmer Canyon ruby-sapphire-kyanite-iolite deposit in the Laramie Mountains. Note the
 distinct parallel cleavage planes.
Look closely at this pretty little gem sapphire from Montana. It is pitted with
rounded edges unlike a sapphire found in outcrop or in eluvium. This is because
it is a placer sapphire that was transported some distance downstream for the source
beds. Several years ago, I found some of the nicest sapphires and benitoite in a
stream in California. None were pitted which suggested that they originated from a
nearby serpentinite.
See anything interesting in this rock? Well it contains about 15 to 20% sapphire. All those light gray to light blue equigranular crystals are sapphire. Many of Wyoming's mountain ranges were subjected to favorable high pressures and temperatures in the geological past for ruby and sapphire. In places where there was sufficient aluminum and little silica, lots of rubies and sapphires crystallized. I suspect that Wyoming has many dozens of ruby and sapphire deposits that remain undiscovered.
Sapphire schist from Palmer Canyon, Wyoming. Note the abundant white to very light blue hexagonal mineral grains. These are all sapphire and this particular sample has about 10% sapphire.

Some of these gemstones will provide few hints of what they are. This 12-carat pink sapphire has an irregular shape, and is nearly flawless, But if you look closely, you will find at least one very distinct cleavage plane and also hints of rhombohedral cleavage.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Wyoming's Ruby and Sapphire Deposits

Wyoming likely has some of the larger rubies in North America. We found evidence for several ruby and sapphire deposits in a number of localities in the State, but ran into road blocks by the Director of the Wyoming Geological Survey following every major discovery. One must wonder why a political geologist would not want his staff to make mineral discoveries?

A 1.1 carat flawless ruby from Palmer Canyon

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Sapphire vermiculite schist from Palmer Canyon. This sample is formed of an estimated 40% pink sapphire and is just one of dozens of samples collected by the author that had from 20 to 50% corundum (ruby and sapphire) by volume.
CORUNDUM (Al2O3)  Characteristics & Habit. Corundum (H=9) is the second hardest naturally occurring mineral: only diamond is harder. As a result, gemstones made from corundum are durable. Raw corundum occurs as barrel-shaped hexagonal prisms with rough, rounded surfaces often exhibiting distinct parting. Because of good rhombohedral and basal parting corundum prisms often terminate at basal pinicoids & display striations due to repeated twinning.

Corundum exhibits a variety of colors including gray, grayish green, blue, pink, brown, red & purple. Some corundum is used to produce extraordinary gemstones. Ruby is the deep pigeon’s-blood red translucent to transparent variety of corundum with adamantine luster and sapphire includes all other colors.

Hexagonal (6-sided) ruby in mica schist.

It will display a striking adamantine to vitreous luster noticeable in faceted gemstones. High specific gravity (4 to 4.1) is favorable for its concentration in black sand concentrates in streams. During sampling in the central Laramie Range, we recovered tiny rubies and sapphires in several sample concentrates in that region, suggesting that several corundum deposits remain to be discovered.

Palmer Canyon ruby mounted in necklace (photo courtesy of Chuck Mabarak) & showing cleavage (right - note the distinct lines in the gemstone).

THE CORUNDUM GEMSTONES include a variety of colors including:
Red Ruby
Cornflower Blue Sapphire
Colorless Leuco-sapphire
Light bluish-green Oriental Aquamarine
Green Oriental Emerald
Yellow-Green Oriental Chrysolite
Yellow Oriental Topaz
Aurora Red Oriental Hyacinth
Violet Oriental Amethyst

Occurrence. Corundum, a high-pressure aluminum oxide, is found with silica-poor aluminum-rich metamorphic rocks in areas of metapelite. Metapelite is the key to finding many gemstones in Colorado, Montana & Wyoming as discussed in my book (in preparation) The Geology of World Gemstone Deposits. Some discussions on these rocks are found in my new book on GEMSTONES in Wyoming.

Ruby with cleavage from
undisclosed location in WY
Metapelite may contain a variety of alumino-silicate porphyroblasts such as mica, kyanite, sillimanite, andalusite, vermiculite & cordierite. The corundum itself is typically found in vermiculite schist and aluminum-rich serpentinites. Vermiculite schist is considered an alteration product of a former metapelite in which metapelite was desilicated leaving mica-rich rock known as vermiculite schist or glimmerite schist. After noting the close association of vermiculite & ruby, I discovered several more ruby deposits in Wyoming. This was also true of iolite and pelitic schist. Using geology proved to be extremely valuable.

Twinned corundum with
distinct hexagonal cross-section
Small, twinned corundum from Wyoming. Note the 6-sided crystal prism that is bounded by pinacoids (flat surfaces).

Localities. Corundum has been found at a number of places in Wyoming. Wyoming could easily develop a major ruby and sapphire industry along with many other commodities - such as diamond, gold, palladium, rare earths, iolite, labradorite, copper, zinc and silver - but its political regime with the US Forest Service have worked for more than 30 years to withdraw nearly all non-energy mineral resources from public lands - something that should be considered illegal. Over the years, we provided evidence for major and world-class mineral deposits and several companies found significant base metal deposits, only to find government interference at every level.

One interesting locality lies northwest of Jeffrey City, known as the Red Dwarf deposit (sections 13 and 24, T30N, R93W), was investigated by me several years ago. The deposit consists of corundum gneiss & schist with a 5,000 foot strike length with widths of 20 to 50 feet. The rock has 1 to 10% corundum porphyroblasts encased in zoisite-fuchsite reaction rims and considerable fuchsite and zoisite pseudomorphs after corundum. Where found, some of corundum is translucent with good color.

Large ruby-zoisite porphyroblast collected at the Red Dwarf deposit by J. David Love of the US Geological Survey. Much of this giant ruby was replaced by zoisite, but some excellent pigeon’s blood red ruby remains untouched. Prior to replacement, this specimen would have been one of the largest rubies in the world. It also suggests that large rubies remain to be found at the Red Dwarf.

The corundum may be light purplish-pink, lavender, to reddish-purple, and range from millimeter size to more than two inches across. Some gem-quality corundum was found in the past and partially replaced specimens provide evidence for rubies of five inches (or more) in length and more than 2 inches in diameter.

A nearby serpentinite discovered west of the ruby schist contains tiny (millimeter size), light-blue, translucent to opaque corundum. Locally, the serpentinite has 20 to 40% corundum.

Ruby enclosed in reaction rim found by Eric Hausel at Red
Dwarf deposit in Granite Mountains.
At another deposit known as the Abernathy deposit (section 26, T30N, R96W) near Sweetwater Station, pale-blue and white corundum is found in mica schist. The corundum is abundant and occurs as one-inch diameter nodules in the schist.

Corundum is also associated with vermiculite schist (glimmerite) west of Wheatland in Palmer Canyon. This deposit (N/2 Section 18, T24N, R70W) is associated with kyanite, cordierite, and sillimanite schist and gneiss. The corundum forms small, hexagonal, pink, red and white grains from about 0.1 to 0.3 inch across. Many grains have well-developed parting which limits the size of facetable material. Even so, significant percentages have excellent color, and are transparent to translucent (Personal field notes, 1997). Locally, the schist may contain >20% corundum. Small amounts of corundum have also been identified at the Grizzly Creek iolite (cordierite) deposit to the south and other localities to the north.

Gem-quality 8 to 12 carat pink sapphire (left) & sapphire-kyanite schist from Palmer Canyon (right).

Some corundum was identified in vermiculite schist in the Platte River Valley between the Medicine Bow and Sierra Madre Mountains. Another notable corundum locality is in the Big Sandy opening along the southern margin of the Wind River Mountains, where hundreds of corundum crystals weighing up to 90 carats have been collected from Squaw Creek by prospectors (Russ and Joe Sims, personal communication). The source of this corundum remains undiscovered. Some nearby ruby schist float was found (B.F. Frost, Personal communication) suggesting that a potentially significant ruby deposit awaits discovery.

Photos of ruby, sapphire and iolite (blue) gems and raw material from Wyoming. Note the presence of parting (cleavage in some specimens - parallel fractures) and the 6-sided characteristic of the corundum.

Find more information about dozens of rubies and sapphire localities and methods I used to find several of these deposits from my book. See you on the outcrop - the GemHunter.

Below - Raw translucent pink sapphire from Palmer Canyon. Below right -  faceted pink sapphires & blue iolites from Palmer Canyon, & Below far right - large raw ruby from the Rattlesnake Hills, Wyoming. In addition to these stones, the author was following rubies near the Big Sandy opening in the Wind River Mountains, the Rattlesnake Hills, Barlow Gap, the Sierra Madre, the central Laramie Range & the Saratoga valley.