Minerals & Gemstones

Oregon & Washington have lots of Minerals, Gemstones, Crystals, Fossils, & Petrified Wood to be found if you know where to look for them. Visit our Field Trips page for directions to areas to discover some of the natural resources it can offer.

Oregon Sunstones

In 1987 the Oregon Sunstones became the Official State Gemstone of Oregon which are extremely rare and valuable since they can only be found in two areas in Oregon, Lake County (just north of Plush, Oregon) and in Harney County. Oregon Sunstones get their rich colors from the amount of Copper they contain with Red Suntones having the highest concentration of copper at over 200 parts per million, Green Suntones at around 100 parts per million, and Yellow Suntones at 20 parts per million.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has a Sunstone Public Collection Area (free) near to a few of the well-established commercial Oregon Sunstone mines that are open to the public for a digging fee during only part of the year (mines are closed during the winter). In Lake County just North of Plush, Oregon you will find the Dust Devil Mining, Double Eagle Mining, and the Spectrum Sunstone Mine.

The Ponderosa Mine in Harney County is 100 miles North of the Sunstone Mines found in Lake County. The Ponderosa Mine is privately held by Desert Sun Mining & Gems and is NOT available for “Fee-Digging” check out their website for lots of great information about Oregon Sunstones.

The Oregon Sunstone mines are in a somewhat remote location, check the local weather & road conditions (ODOT Tripcheck website) before you head out, and check with the Sunstone mine websites you plan to visit to verify they will be open when you get there. Makes sure your vehicle is in good working order and mechanically sound and bring a good spare tire (check your spare time air pressure before heading out) and jack since some of the roads are gravel and full of potholes and sharp rocks. Also, there have been a few rattlesnakes spotted in and around these Sunstone Mine locations so take proper precautions when searching for Sunstones.

GSOC Lecture June 2021 Dr. Emily Cahoon – Oregon Sunstones Dr. Cahoon’s research explores the timing, emplacement, and petrogenetic evolution of flood basalt lavas by integrating field methods, laboratory instruments, geochemical and thermodynamic modeling. She is particularly interested in the duration of basaltic volcanism and significance of giant plagioclase crystals, which have been documented in numerous continental flood basalt provinces. This interest has led to research on ‘sunstones’, which are large plagioclase crystals that contain macroscopic inclusions of native copper. Sunstones vary in color due to the speciation of copper, and are recognized as a gemstone by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). This research aims to characterize the geologic conditions required to form sunstones, and further our understanding of crystal growth and metal enrichment processes during flood basalt magmatism.

GIA – Field Report Gems & Gemology, Fall 2013, Vol. 49, No. 3 – Three Occurrences of Oregon Sunstone

GIA – Feature Gems & Gemology, Winter 1991, Vol. 27, No. 4 – Sunstone Labradorite from the Ponderosa Mine, Oregon

GIA – Team Documents Oregon’s Sunstone Mines October 25, 2013

GIA – A Sunstone Odyssey, Part 1: The Ponderosa

GIA – A Sunstone Odyssey, Part 2: The Dust Devil

GIA – A Sunstone Odyssey, Part 3: Sunstone Butte

GIA – Dislocation Chain in Oregon Sunstone

BLM Sunstone Collection Area (open to the public)

Opals

Opals are the birthstone for people born in the month of October and can be found in several countries around the world including in the States of Oregon & Washington. Australian Opals as seen on the Discovery Channel (Outback Opal Hunters) TV show are some of the better-known Opals and the most expensive Opals in the World.

Owyhee Blue Opal

Fire Opal

Revised 01-28-2022