Idaho is called the "Gem State" for good reason. Every corner of the state has gems and minerals that can be found. The Star Garnet is the state gemstone, and a wide variety of other beautiful minerals including opals, jasper, quartz, amethyst, petrified wood, and so much more can be found in the beautiful state of Idaho.
Amethyst in Idaho
There are many locations in Idaho where quartz crystals can be found. Crystals come in many varieties, most often clear. However some locations produce smoky quartz, rose quartz, and the highly desirable amethyst crystals.
Amethyst has been found at Pole Creek in Blaine County, Hog Creek in Washington County west of Weiser, along the North Fork of the Lost River, on the Yankee Fork near Stanley, and Challis Creek in near Custer. In Butte County, amethyst has been found at Antelope Creek and Road Creek. Amethyst has also been found on War Eagle Mountain in Owyhee County near the famous mining town of Silver City.
There are a few places known to have found sapphire in Idaho. Rhodes Creek and Orofine Creek in Clearwater County are known for Sapphire sightings.
There have also been sapphires found in Valley County along the east side of Brundage Mountain west of McCall and the Rocky Flat area near New Meadows.
In general, sapphire occurrences are limited in Idaho, but just across the continental divide in Montana there are many world-famous sapphire deposits that may be worth researching if you are serious about finding the gem.
The only known area that produces jade in Idaho is at Bitch Creek north of Tetonia in Fremont County. It is said that this jade can be quite dark and difficult to identify. It is easily confused with other minerals like jaspers and agates.
There are considerably more jade that can be found in Washington and Wyoming.
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The major producer of opals in Idaho is a privately owned mine called the Spencer Opal Mine located in eastern Idaho. It produces the pink precious and pink common opal that is very distinctive.
Different varieties of opal are also produced in Idaho which includes precious (white and pink) and the common opal. Fire opal has also been sighted in the lava beds of Squaw Butte close to Emmett.
One very popular area for opal collecting is in Owyhee County near Marsing and Givens Hot Springs. The easiest diggings to access are along Sommercamp Road. There is considerable mining activity along Squaw Creek, Ratí Nest Gulch, Opalene Gulch, and Hardtrigger Creek.
Petrified Wood in Idaho
The gem has also been located in south of Bruneau, Idaho in the Owyhee Desert. Coal Mine Basin south of Marsing is another area where petrified wood can be found.
Washington County also has a lot of petrified wood near theMann Creek, Sage Creek, and Crane Creek drainages.
Remnants of a petrified forest can been seen at Malm Gulch, approximately 10 miles south of Challis on Highway 75.
The almandite garnet type were discovered near Fernwood in Benewah County in the early 1880ís but exploration of the site did not take place until the early 1940ís. The location of the stone is on the creeks of Emerald Creek, Carpenter Creek and Meadow Creek.
Garnet in Idaho has been mined by the Emerald Creek Garnet, Ltd. It is one of the only commercial garnet mines in the United States. The company has been operating in the Carpenter and Emerald Creek basins near Fernwood since the 1930ís. The garnet type deposits found in this location are of the almandine type, and it is the hardest and most durable for industrial use.
Star Garnets are Idahoís State Gem. They are quite beautiful and highly prized gemstones found in the state.
There is a very popular garnet digging area near Saint Maries in northern Idaho managed by the U.S. Forest Service at Emerald Creek. Here people can sluice for garnets and keep what they find.
Interestingly, Star garnet from Purdue Creek in Latah County and the amount of it found here is very significant and can only be matched by the quantity produced in India.
Quality gemstones of the garnet type are also produced in the Little North Fork and North Fork areas of the Clearwater River. The colors types found in this location ranges from purplish rose-red to a special pink variety that is highly prized and beautifully decorated.
Jasper has been sighted in many areas in Idaho such as Bear Lake County in Paris Canyon near Monpelier, Blaine and Custer Counties, south of Carey along the Little Wood River, the Crane Creek Reservoir area near Midvale, and south of Homedale near the Idaho-Oregon border.
The highly prized Bruneau jasper can be found in the desert south of Bruneau. Most of the jasper is sourced from a few mines in the Bruneau Canyon. When polished into cabochons, this jasper is a beautiful tan/pinkish color that makes lovely jewelry.
Owyhee jasper is another highly collectible mineral found in Owyhee County, although most of the best sources are located in Malheur County in Oregon.