Big Sky Chronicles: Spokane Sapphire Mine
The Spokane Sapphire Mine in Helena has been in operation for more than 60 years, and has been home to several sapphires worth thousands of dollars.
The gravel at the Spokane Sapphire Mine will eventually lead to the discovery of several precious sapphires and even some gold, but current owner, Cass Thompson says when the property was first purchased by his grandparents, they never intended on mining.
"They purchased this land for vacation purposes and camping purposes. They just though it was a nice piece, tract of land, and real beautiful view so they purchased it."
Thompson's mother accidentally found a sapphire when she was playing with river gravel and the stone sparked gold fever in Thompson's grandfather.
"It's all my mom's fault. It's really great. We've been a mine ever since. We've had the property for nearly 60 years now and we've been open to the public for the vast majority of that and we let people come out and try their luck."
The Spokane Sapphire Mine is a fully functioning facility where people can buy gravel processed in the area to pan for precious stones . The family's sells bags of gravel for people to sift through and in the words of Thompson "find their own fortunes". Making sure the gravel carries the stones people are looking for is a process of separation.
"The jig separates everything by weight. Sapphires are a heavy mineral so you can use their weight to manipulate them."
Thompson says selling the gravel keeps him happy, even though mining for the precious stones has the possibility of finding a fortune.
"Obviously I've seen my fair share of stones and I still got gold fever and still the sapphire fever a bit, but I don't go through any of the material for my own stones.”
Thompson says he looks forward to another 60 years of mining, fortune finding and upholding a local tradition.
Story by Kelley Smith, Beartooth NBC.
Sponsored by Big Sky Plumbing & Heating of Helena.
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