Are Montana sapphires real?

   Many people are asking if Montana sapphires are real. The question is not surprising since most people are accustomed to thinking that all precious gemstones are mined just about everywhere except in the United States. They think this way because it is largely true. The United States, unlike many other countries, is not known for having an abundance of commercial gemstone deposits.

Montana Sapphire vs Lab grown  sapphire

Nevertheless, the answer to the question is yes. Montana sapphires are real sapphires. Moreover, they are real “mined” sapphires instead of real “lab-grown” sapphires. Since the sapphires are real, the question might arise, “Why have these sapphires not been mined in the past in commercial quantities”?  Mining significant quantities of alluvial sapphire deposits in Montana has always had something of an on-again, off-again history. One of the main reasons for this history is that Montana’s alluvial sapphire deposits could not be mined profitably because most of the sapphires extracted needed to be treated with heat to be marketable.  

     In this respect, Montana sapphires are no different than sapphires mined elsewhere. For example, Sri Lanka has been producing sapphires for centuries. These sapphires also needed heat treatment to improve their color and clarity, so heating techniques were developed and have been used routinely for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, neither Sri Lankan heating methods nor methods developed elsewhere were effective when applied to Sapphires mined in Montana.  Effective methods for heating Montana sapphires were first developed about twenty-five years ago, and this is the primary reason that mining sapphires on a commercial scale became viable.

Sapphire is not only blue     

The question, “Are Montana sapphires real?” has been answered in the affirmative. But we probably should not bring this discussion to a close until we are clear about what a “real” sapphire is.  Many people may have the idea that all blue gemstones are sapphires. Others may think that only blue gemstones of a particular hue are sapphires.  While some blue gems are sapphires, not all are, so both ideas referred to above are mistaken. Sapphires exhibit any number of colors. The single exception is red. It is hazardous to identify a sapphire by its color alone.

     A “real” sapphire is a mineral. The mineral’s name is corundum, consisting of two elements. The two elements are aluminum and oxygen. The corundum molecule is comprised of two atoms of aluminum and three atoms of oxygen. This molecular structure gives sapphire many of the qualities that make it an excellent gemstone choice. It is very hard and, therefore, very scratch-resistant. That means it can be expected to wear well. It also has a relatively high refractive index so that it can display good brilliance.  


Perhaps we are now ready to answer the question in a better form. Yes, sapphires mined in Montana are real sapphires because they are natural corundum identical in their molecular structure to sapphires mined everywhere else in the world.

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