Gemological Characterization of Sapphires from Yogo Gulch, Montana

ABSTRACT Yogo Gulch in central Montana is one of the most important gem deposits in the United States. Although very little material has been recovered there in recent years, it has produced several million carats of rough sapphire over the course of its history (Voynick, 2001). These stones, known for their vibrant untreated blue color and high clarity, have always commanded a price premium, especially in sizes larger than 0.75 ct. This paper offers a thorough gemological characterization of Yogo sapphire, which may be unfamiliar to many gemologists. Fortunately, Yogo sapphires are unique and experienced gemologists can easily separate them from gem corundum of different geographic origins throughout the world, making it possible to determine the provenance of important stones from this deposit.  INTRODUCTION Over more than 120 years, mines in Yogo Gulch, Montana, have produced millions of carats of rough sapphire. Much of that has yielded very small finished stones, and faceted stones over 1 ct are highly prized (figure 1). The largest known Yogo sapphire crystal was found in 1910 and weighed 19 ct (Howard, 1962a) The shape of Yogo rough is often in the form of flat tabular crystals that offer a very low yield. Large stones over 1 ct are almost exclusively collector stones, with the provenance having a significant impact on value. While there are other significant sources of gem-quality sapphire in Montana—including Rock Creek, Missouri River, and Dry Cottonwood Creek—Yogo sapphires are unique among these and other sapphire deposits worldwide (figure 2). Virtually all of the material produced has a desirable even blue to violet or purple color, often with higher clarity than sapphires from other deposits (Yaras, 1969) (figure 3). Yogo sapphires do not require heat treatment, offering a virtual guarantee of their untreated nature. They also possess a unique trace-element chemistry and an inclusion suite that makes them easily recognizable to the experienced gemologist.

Yogo Gulch in central Montana is one of the most important gem deposits in the United States. Although very little material has been recovered there in recent years, it has produced several million carats of rough sapphire over the course of its history (Voynick, 2001). These stones, known for their vibrant untreated blue color and high clarity, have always commanded a price premium, especially in sizes larger than 0.75 ct. This paper offers a thorough gemological characterization of Yogo sapphire, which may be unfamiliar to many gemologists. Fortunately, Yogo sapphires are unique and experienced gemologists can easily separate them from gem corundum of different geographic origins throughout the world, making it possible to determine the provenance of important stones from this deposit.

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