Montana sapphires – 5 reasons to love them

Updated: Jul 18

I am not much of a rockhound. Truth be told, I am not very outdoors-y in general. But I can make exceptions when jewelry is involved! So when I found out there were actually sapphires in Montana, and we were only two states away….. Let’s just say I wanted to get my hands on some sapphires pretty badly!

Lucky for me, my husband is a rockhound. He was completely up for the trip and excited about bringing our kids along to help us scope out some good gems.

This is how we ended up on a family trip visiting the Sapphire Mountains of Montana. The good news is that we ended up with some very lovely sapphires that I plan to use for custom jewelry. The rest is all bad news – lots of driving, cranky children, and sorting gravel in the hot summer sun. Basically, the entire experience was not my cup of tea. But, like I said, if good jewelry is involved,  I’ll go the extra mile.

But enough about me! Let me tell you why you should love Montana sapphires.

1. Montana sapphires are American

I know this probably seems obvious, but I don’t know if everyone realizes how rare it is. America doesn’t have a lot of gems that are available for jewelry. There is some turquoise from the Southwest and some tourmalines from Maine. But that’s about it. Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, opals, amethysts, tanzanite, etc…. the vast majority of them are from someplace else. There is not a lot of gemstone mining that goes on in the United States.

Montana’s official nickname is “The Treasure State” and that’s because they have gold and silver, and lots and lots of sapphires. The sapphires were originally discovered by gold miners who kept getting annoyed with all these little blue pebbles they kept finding!

Montana sapphires in the rough

Montana’s sapphires became so famous that they were declared one of the state’s official gemstones in 1969. They also named places after the sapphires. Rock Creek was named since sapphires are still mined there today. And the mountains surrounding Rock Creek were named the Sapphire Mountains.

The sapphires became an American symbol. First Ladies Florence Harding and Bess Truman were given gifts of Montana sapphires. And they’re displayed over the United States in different museum collections.

2. Tiffany made them famous

Back in 1895, a guy named Jake Hoover discovered some sapphires and sent them away to Tiffany’s in New York City to see if he could get any money for them.  They made their way to George Kunz, Tiffany’s gemologist, who called them “the finest precious gemstones ever found in the United States”. Tiffany’s sent our friend Jake a check for $3,750 (over $100,000 in today’s money) along with a letter describing saying they were “sapphires of unusual quality”.