For the first time in 120 years, the mining operations in Montana have come under ONE owner. Previously the area in question had been mined for Sapphires and over 65 tons were recovered over the years, but now with the advance in technology a new mining company has resumed mining in the area, recovering both Gold and Sapphires.
The new mining company is called Potentate Mining LLC and they take their operations seriously. In 2011, Potentate Mining purchased the property to the north and then in 2014 purchased the land to the south; today the company owns approximately 3,000 acres of land in the historic mining area.
All the deposits in the area of Sapphires are secondary deposits, which means that the sapphires didn't originate there, but they ended up there after hundreds (or hundreds of thousands) of years. In this case, a mud flow from a nearby mountain contains many of the deposits; the mud flow consists of silt, boulders, organic material, and in general, a mix of debris. The geologists are hypothesizing that the sapphires originated in lava flows and volcanic rocks because of the geology of the area and the frosted surfaces of the rough.
One of the best aspects of the newer mining operators is that they are focused on environmentally friendly mining. After they finish working a plot, they cover the land with the fine material they recovered and then seed the area with local plants and grass; the solid waste they accumulate is sold to the county for paving purposes.
Sapphire rough recovered ranges in size from 2mm to 1 inch. The largest stone was approximately 30 carats. 8% to 12% of the sapphires are fancy colors (colors other than blue), while 13% to 15% are a shade of blue.
The mine owners control where the stones end up for cutting; they use only cutters based in the United States. Those cutters have designed some of their own cuts especially for the sapphires. One cutter created an oval "Helena Oval" after Montana's capital. Another used the "hearts and arrows" effect that is used in diamond cutting.
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