Tuesday, December 30, 2008


A 16-carat iolite from Palmer Canyon, Wyoming.
I discovered iolite (water sapphire) at Palmer Canyon in 1995. The iolite occurred with gem-quality kyanite in mica schist & gneiss adjacent to vermiculite that had enough silica to form these gems. I couldn't believe the amount, size & beauty of the stones. The single, largest, iolite gemstone on earth was found at this time -the baseball sized Palmer Canyon Blue Star- a 1,720 ct flawless gem.

First group of iolites gems cut from
Palmer Canyon rough. The bed of
material that the iolites sit in has tiny
white fibers that unfortunately sit
in front of the iolites at the top. But
these iolites were flawless.
So I went looking in similar terrains & predicted in a book I would find iolite at Grizzly Creek to the south. In 2005, I discovered iolite at Grizzly Creek & recovered the largest iolite gem (24,150 carats) on earth (the football sized Grizzly Creek Blue Giant), but this was dwarfed by giant, VW bug-sized masses in the outcrop I left behind because I didn't have tools necessary to recover such large gems of 1 to 5 million + carats. Based on geology, I predicted several other iolite deposits would be found in central Laramie Range & Copper Mountain, but most remain unexplored. Over the years I tried to get some investors interested in forming a company to take advantage of these giant deposits - explore for more, mine them, cut the gems, design jewelry and market them, but no one wanted to take on this task, so they all essentially sit there collecting dust and eroding away.

But nothing could match the potential discovery further to the south. Some geologists had explored this region for aluminum & magnesium & during the mid 20th century and they reported one deposit that had been trenched and mapped contained 500,000 tons of cordierite (when gem-quality, cordierite is known as iolite). I began looking at this deposit & found flawless gem-quality ioilte along the edge of the deposit. All of the material reported by theses earlier geologists likely was part of the largest gemstone deposit found in history. But they were so focused on the use of the material for magnesium and aluminum, they overlooked the gem potential. Besides, in the mid-20th century, there was not much of a market for iolite gemstones.
Iolite in outcrop at Grizzly Creek, Wyoming. Note the rusty matrix to the
right of the iolite. This is limonite replacing the iolite. Iolite has considerable
iron and will 'rust' under the right conditions.
But let's look at this deposit as a potential gem deposit. It is unexplored for gems except along the one margin where everything I examined was of the highest quality gem material. The rest of this deposit needs to be examined. Why?  One ton of material contains 4.5 million carats! Multiply that by 500,000 tons and this could potentially have more than 2 trillion carats just on the surface and no one knows how deep it goes. If it is just 100 feet deep (it likely is a few thousand or more feet deep), it would dramatically increase the amount of recoverable gemstones. Iolite sells for only about $15 to $150 per carat, but if marketed like Tanzanite was marketed, one could increase the value of this (and other deposits in this region) to the most valuable mineral deposits on earth! But to develop this will take a lot of money and support.
The Palmer Canyon blue Giant sits on cover of
ICMJ Prospecting & Mining Journal. At 1,750
carats, this was the largest iolite gem reported
in the literature until I found much larger
stones at Grizzly Creek, Wyoming.

So what did I get for finding two of the largest colored gemstone deposits on earth? Well, like the song goes, the director got the mine and I got the shaft. But am I bitter? Yes!
Largest iolite in world at 24,150 carats from Grizzly Creek, Wyoming. Much larger stones were left in outcrop.


  1. Hello Soke,

    That seems like an unusual reprisal for finding what you did. Now if you had found oil......the reception may have been different(?).
    Perhaps it comes down to you found what was there, not what they were looking for. Aluminum is a "consumable", magnesium must be used in some type of manufacturing.
    I take it with my Calcium vitamin for proper absorption. &:^D
    All Iolite does is look pretty. There are some very old gem traditions to be battled against.
    Finding National Treasures like the PC Blue Star and the GC Blue Giant are all that is expected of the find. The rest is not costing anyone anything to just sit there, no one will sneak in and take it over night. Just because you mine it doesn't mean there is someone(a market)to buy it.
    All we can do as rock hounds is bring out what we can like the olde tyme prospectors did.

    In the bottom left hand photo w/ the small box...the "wedge" of inky coloured crystal is the iolite. What is the matrix to the right of the crystal? It has a green tinge to it....is this the "epidote" that I have been investigating? I would like to know what is going on so that the epidote fills in cavities left by other softer(?) stone/mineral. The water in this process would have to be acidic to dissolve a calcite based stone....kinda like vinegar and baking soda but millions of years slower. Am I guessing in the right direction? If I am....
    so what happens to the slurry of reacted acid and alkali? The moisture has to evaporate and the minerals solidify, forming a new "rock" mass. I assume the way we made salt crystals when we were kids could be a very simple example of crystal formation?

    The sky blue kyanite is very cool. It would be dramatic in a ring, except I would like to use a larger stone, 22mm x 15mm x 15mm would be lovely.

    I guess I like the chemistry and the processes that go on in forming these treasures great and small. Once I find out how it worked I will be on to other aspects of non~, precious and just minerals. There is as much to learn as there is to discover.

    ~Inga Frey~

  2. Hi Inga,
    You are correct. Marketing is very important in gemstones. It took one company and considerable effort and money to make Tanzanite what it is today. Ashton diamond company marketed former industrial brown diamonds as Champange and Cognac diamonds that everyone now wants.

    Sorry, I didn't see any green in the photograph that you were asking about? Not sure how to answer that question.

  3. HI I'm an amatuer geologist and a mom. I have a few days that I can travel by myself this coming week and I would love to indulge my hobby of gem collecting. But since I only ahve a very limited time - I don't want to "waste" time hunting and pecking with no results. I know that sounds slightly selfish. I can choose to go almost anywhere in the US for a couple days and am trying to choose based on my interest in the gemstone, relative ease of access (i'm 46 so I cant really scale to 14000 feet in Colorado anymore), and mostly the success rate for collection (not coming home empty handed). The iolite sounds very intriguing from those perspectives. Does the iolite come out of the ground looking crystaline (like quartz and tourmaline sometimes will) or does it mainly exist in matrix and require lapidary to make it look like more than just blueish stuff in a big rock. Lol hope this makes sense - Thanks, Robyn Neaville


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